- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2022

Former President Donald Trump‘s digital trading cards have raised red flags about his 2024 campaign, particularly about his team.

What is unique about the latest round of criticism is that it came from three of Mr. Trump’s most devoted supporters: former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, former Trump assistant Sebastian Gorka, and former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.

The trio called for heads to roll in Mar-a-Lago over the baffling the NFT trading cards were released the same day he shared his vision for combating left-wing censorship of Americans’ speech.

“We don’t put the flare up often and we put the flare up,” Mr. Bannon told The Washington Times.

He said Mr. Trump remains the center of gravity in the Republican Party, putting him in the position of being able to define the national political conversation.

“The president is the leader of our movement. The president is the leader of the party, and the president has the ability to set the agenda — not just in the [2024 GOP presidential] primary, but against Biden, and to be in opposition to Biden today,” Mr. Bannon said. “We need that today. It is urgent.”

“It is all hands on deck, and he needs to be the lead hand on deck,” he said, making the case Mr. Trump could influence the ongoing debates over spending, immigration, and the debt ceiling.

The party is also wrestling over whether Rep. Kevin McCarthy should be elected House speaker and if Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel should keep her job.

Mr. Trump last week took to social media to tease a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT,” saying “AMERICA NEEDS A SUPERHERO.”

On Thursday, he followed up.

“MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT! My official Donald Trump Digital Trading Card collection is here!” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump then dropped a separate video in which he promised if elected in 2024 to “shatter the left-wing censorship machine” and “reclaim” the First Amendment guarantee of free speech for all Americans.

It marked his first major foray into policy since he announced he was running for president last month.

Conservative and grassroots activists celebrated the proposal.

But his vision was largely lost in the mix, overshadowed by the flurry of cynical headlines and eye rolling over his trading cards, which included pictures of him in a “Top Gun” fighter pilot suit, and flashing two thumbs up with Trump gold bars floating in the air.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Mr. Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast after watching part of the trading card rollout video with Mr. Gorka and Mr. Cortes

“You don’t have any harder [Trump backers] than Cortes, Bannon, and Seb Gorka and we are getting blown up all day on this,” he said.

Mr. Gorka said the digital cards “never should have happened.”

“It is fun, it is hyperbolic, but who wrote that pitch should be fired,” Mr. Gorka said. “We don’t have time to waste. If you want to do this kind of stuff, you can have a peon do it, OK. Get somebody who is recognized in the MAGA world to put their face to this thing and do it.”

“But the president should not be involved with this,” he said.

Mr. Cortes said the trading cards are taking attention away from the role that the FBI and DOJ played in trying to take down Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump should not be doing this kind of video,” he said. “The video shows a lack of discipline and focus, and to take on the intelligence community is going to require unbelievable steely discipline and focus.”

Mr. Cortes said Mr. Trump also bears some responsibility.

“It is his campaign, it is his operation, he has to get focused,” he said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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