Richard Grenell, who is expected to meet with former President Donald Trump Saturday, may consider a run for California governor if efforts to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom succeed in garnering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The subject is sure to come up when the former acting director of national intelligence and Trump ally meets with the former President at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, but the two men are expected to discuss a range of topics, the source told CNN on Saturday.
CNN previously reported that Newsom’s opponents, angry over the Democratic governor’s restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, have gathered more than 1 million of the nearly 1.5 million signatures they need by March 17 to get a recall on the ballot. The source, however, cautioned that it’s unclear at this point if recall proponents would be able to collect enough signatures by that March deadline.
Politico was the first to report on Grenell’s meeting with Trump.
Grenell spoke about the possibility of a run during his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Saturday morning.
“In my three decades in American politics, I have never seen a better case for a recall, than there is right now in California,” he said. “And of course, if a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option: You can run against them yourself.”
Under the California Constitution, the leaders of the recall must turn in 1,495,709 valid signatures by March 17, which is equivalent to 12% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
If they meet that threshold, it is unclear what month a recall election would appear on California’s ballot given the state’s complex, multi-step process to formally set the election.
The state’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Thursday that the recall effort against Newsom is likely to move forward.
Newsom was praised for his decision to lockdown California early into the Covid-19 pandemic, a move credited with slowing the spread of the virus there for a while. But the governor faced widespread outrage for breaking his own Covid-19 rules and attending a birthday party with a dozen other guests at an elite Napa County restaurant in early November.
As the fallout from that event lingered, coronavirus cases in California surged, eventually propelling the West Coast state to the nation’s top slot for the most Covid-19 cases, and the most deaths.
During Trump’s presidency, Grenell was the US Ambassador to Germany for over two years during which he also served as acting intelligence director for three brief months in 2020. He left both roles in spring 2020 but remained an ally of the Republican President.
Critics had viewed Grenell as the least experienced and most overtly political official to serve as the DNI. His brief stint as intelligence chief was controversial for his oversight of two firings of top career officials, a re-structuring of several parts of the office, and declassification of documents from the Obama administration that fueled the “Obamagate” conspiracy theory amplified by Trump and his allies.
CNN’s Maeve Reston, Cheri Mossburg, Alex Marquardt, Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.