Editor’s Note: Stephanie Grisham is the author of “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw in the Trump White House.” During the Trump administration, Grisham served as White House press secretary and director of communications for both President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Gavin Smith is a public relations professional and political strategist. He is CEO of Gavin James Public Affairs, a public relations and marketing consulting firm in Lexington, South Carolina. During the Trump administration, he was press secretary for the Department of Labor and deputy communications director for the Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed here are their own. View more opinion on CNN.
With the House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation ongoing, former President Donald Trump is facing renewed legal troubles – this time over classified material that the FBI found in a search last week at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Days after the court-authorized search uncovered classified documents – some of which had top secret markings – the country learned that the twice-impeached 45th President is under investigation over potential concealment, removal or destruction of documents, obstruction of justice and Espionage Act violations.
Trump has claimed the investigation is politically motivated and denied any wrongdoing.
Long before Trump’s latest legal woes, we signed on to his 2016 presidential campaign. We bought into his “Make America Great Again” agenda. And yes, we joined in his criticism of his opponent in the presidential race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, over her alleged mishandling of classified information.
In our campaign work, we crisscrossed the nation with the unlikely candidate-turned-Republican presidential nominee and listened time and again as he lamented the so-called “Deep State,” campaigned on the GOP being the party of law and order and pledged to put America first. Following his defeat of Clinton, we joined the Trump administration.
Albeit on different timelines, both of us came to realize that, for our then-President, holding the most powerful office in the world was less about putting America first and more about putting Donald Trump first.
Of course, the Trump administration enjoyed some policy and political successes: historic tax and criminal justice reform, a strengthened military and a booming economy, to name a few. These came despite Trump’s obsession with himself and because of many dedicated public servants who worked within his administration.
From erratic behavior that led hundreds of ex-national security officials to support the first impeachment inquiry to flagrant inaction on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump had an unwavering commitment to himself above all else.
It is because of our familiarity with his Trump-first mindset, his chaotic behavior and promotion of blatant misinformation – all of which threaten our country’s national security – that we continue to speak out against our former boss, especially now as Americans prepare to cast their votes in midterm elections in a few months.
As two people now far removed from the cult-like atmosphere of Trump world, we find ourselves watching as its vitriol, extreme rhetoric and blatant lies continue to tear the country apart. Many in the Republican Party, as well as former colleagues who served in his administration, continue to embrace Trumpism, emboldening the former President as he wreaks havoc on our public institutions.
Whether supporting baseless conspiracy theories about stolen elections, falsely reducing the Jan. 6 insurrection to a peaceful protest or asserting that the FBI planted evidence during its search of Mar-a-Lago, this movement is steering our party in the direction of dissolution and violent extremism. It is doing the opposite of what we joined Trump’s campaign and his administration to do – serve our country.
As the midterm elections approach and we begin to stare down the 2024 presidential race, our party finds itself at a crossroads. Our GOP friends and former colleagues must choose: Are we truly the party of law and order and of putting our country first? Or will our party be reduced to being yet another Trump property?
In 2018, The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed from a “senior official” within the Trump administration. The op-ed, later revealed to be authored by Department of Homeland Security deputy chief of staff Miles Taylor, pleaded with Americans to rally behind the country and not the juvenile whims of one man.
Unfortunately, today, we find ourselves in an even more dire situation. The irrational behavior of one man has given way to a rise in extremist rhetoric and has led to lives being put in danger. The question must be asked: Will the Republican Party and our former colleagues do what’s best for America and embrace patriotism, or will Trump continue to be put above all else?
The answer to that question may affect generations to come. We have a simple message for our former colleagues and fellow Republicans: This is your moment to put America first and do your part to end this dark time in our country’s history.
We are pleading with you to join us in speaking out against our former boss – regardless of how long it’s taken us or anyone else to do so – because it’s never the wrong time to do what’s right.
Whether it be through supporting solid candidates whose campaigns are based on fundamental Republican values – not far-fetched and baseless conspiracy theories – or by using your voice to share the truth in moments when Trump and his allies spread lies, we all have a role to play in restoring principles to the Grand Ole’ Party.
We are the people who helped lead Trump to victory in 2016, and it is now our responsibility to do the right thing and put the party on a course correction before the GOP finds itself beyond repair.
By rallying together behind facts and not fiction, behind evidence and not emotion, and behind our country rather than one man, we can “Make America Great Again.”
The reality is the Republican Party’s bench is deep, and the party is still capable of making good policy. But we must first save our country – and we plead with our former colleagues and fellow Republicans to join us before it’s too late.