The session turned into an intense meeting that one onlooker likened to the “Hunger Games,” according to a report.
The meeting occurred during a fundraiser for former staffer Max Miller, who Trump recently endorsed in his bid to unseat Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in the 2020 midterm elections. Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Trump summoned the four prospects – former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, tech executive Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons – to meet with him ahead of the fundraiser dinner, Politico reported, citing sources familiar with the event. They were said to be caught off guard by the meeting request.
Representatives for Trump and the Ohio Republican Party did not immediately return a request for comment on the meeting.
The prospects took the opportunity to tout their credentials in a bid to secure Trump’s endorsement.
Timken spoke of her work aiding Trump’s re-election bid in Ohio ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Mandel asserted that he was ahead of Timken in early polling – a charge that she denied. Timken and Mandel are the only two out of the four candidates who have already entered the race.
Trump reportedly referenced that Timken initially expressed support for Gonzalez, prompting her to note that she eventually called on him to resign over his impeachment vote.
The former president repeatedly made negative references to Gonzalez during the meeting. Trump also questioned whether Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who publicly acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect during Trump’s lengthy challenge of the election results, was vulnerable to a primary.
Portman has already announced that he will not run for re-election in 2022. He is part of a small group of Senate Republicans who has directly engaged in talks with Biden on bipartisan legislation.
Trump has been outspoken since leaving the White House. He has pledged to play an active role in the 2022 midterm elections by backing candidates who espouse his “America First” agenda.