Trump is upset with a significant conservative organization after it reached out to Ron DeSantis.

By Allan Smith and Vaughn Hillyard; Edited by News Gate Team

Charlie Kirk speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., in 2020.
Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP file

People close to the former president say he’s been frustrated with Turning Point USA and its founder Charlie Kirk, although the Trump campaign and Kirk say there’s no rift.

Few Republican organizations have had a surge as quick as Turning Point USA.

The group, which was founded in 2012 to inspire young conservatives, has quickly expanded to become a sort of quasi-party apparatus in its own right through organization, hosting rallies with notable conservatives, and, perhaps most importantly, forging close ties with the late president Donald Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

However, following the GOP’s disappointing midterm results, the previous several months have been difficult for many right-leaning groups as well. Republicans are now debating whether the organization and its founder, Charlie Kirk, were overhyped, especially in light of top-of-the-ticket defeats for politicians it fully backed in Arizona, where its headquarters are and which it hopes to use as a testing ground.

Kirk and Turning Point may be losing the trust of their most significant ally: Trump, which is a bigger problem for them.

Trump and some of others surrounding him are dissatisfied with Kirk’s overtures to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the 2024 primary campaign heats up, according to various sources close to him who spoke to NBC News.

Trump has “been watching” Kirk’s relationship with DeSantis since Turning Point hosted rallies across the nation last summer for high-profile GOP candidates with the Florida governor as the featured speaker, according to a close Trump adviser who spoke with the former president just last week about the issue.

The adviser, who was not authorized to talk in public, said that more recently, Trump spotted Kirk beginning to align himself with DeSantis in his attempt to shake up the Republican National Committee. Kirk was outspoken in his desire to remove the current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, who was initially chosen by Trump for the position.

The adviser said, “Trump feels like he has made Charlie and Charlie’s ungrateful and [Trump’s] not been happy for a while.” “You contact him and tell him he’d be nothing without my son,” he says.

The advisor said, “I see that [Kirk] is attempting to cover all of his bases. “Aiming to form a triangle with Trump and DeSantis. Trump takes notice, even though Ron might not care.

I love President Trump and support him for 2024. All media drama is noise.


Close Kirk ally Trump Jr. refuted the idea that there was any tension.

Trump Jr. stated in a statement that “Charlie has been a better or more dedicated ally to both my father and our entire family than few people in politics have been.” “I am aware that my father values Charlie’s early support, and we all enjoy our bond with him. Nothing about that will ever change, no matter how many BS comments from unnamed people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

Other Kirk allies and a Trump spokesman also refuted claims that the alliance has soured.

According to Steven Cheung, spokesperson for the Trump campaign, “Charlie backed President Trump’s bid to be the next president of the United States, and he and Turning Point have always been tremendous allies of the president.”

Kirk concurred that everything was OK.

He declared in a statement, “I admire President Trump and support him for 2024.” “Media drama is all just noise,”

However, a second Trump supporter who spoke openly about the situation on condition of anonymity was less optimistic: The Trump universe is well aware of the developments at Turning Point.

This source claimed that “Charlie and Turning Point were very connected to Trump from the beginning.” “However, since the year 2022 began, the distance has widened. When 2022 comes to a close, TPUSA will make a concerted attempt to develop that relationship with Ron. Why? Charlie aspires to be close to the neighborhood’s newest, brightest thing.

“Like so many others,” the person added, “there would be no Charlie Kirk without Donald Trump.”

A schism between Trump and one of his chief backers could have major implications in the 2024 Republican primary, which has started to heat up with the upcoming entrance of Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Trump’s escalation of his broadsides against DeSantis

Charlie Kirk sits for an interview during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., last year.
Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Turning Point figures to be a significant player in the 2024 primaries. The organization has experienced significant growth in recent years as Kirk and its leadership have sought to expand its core mission and become a greater force in the political landscape. As NBC News reported last year, the group enjoyed a financial windfall during the pandemic, according to tax records.

Kirk’s effort to unseat McDaniel culminated with the release of an interview with DeSantis just prior to the committee vote that looked as if it could help Dhillon get over the top. In that on-camera interview, DeSantis said the RNC needed “new blood,” giving Kirk and the pro-Dhillon camp a potential last-minute boost. McDaniel ultimately won by a 111-51 vote. Meanwhile, Kirk’s activism rattled some within the RNC, particularly after he sent out an email in December to members suggesting he would seek to have them replaced if they “so boldly reject listening to the grassroots.”

“If ignored, we will have the most stunted and muted Republican Party in the history of the conservative movement, the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations,” he wrote.

One Turning Point official noted Trump specifically stayed out of the RNC fight by not endorsing either candidate, opening the door to a broader outside effort to take down McDaniel. Kirk wanted to speak with DeSantis about his platform for higher education, but the conversation naturally turned to the RNC race with its prominence in the news cycle.

“Charlie and Trump have a very close relationship,” said this person, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “I don’t think it’s fair for the president to invite people to fight it out, for Charlie to get involved, and then for anybody to have their feelings hurt by that.”

The group largely sees itself as an organization that can bridge wings of the conservative movement that might gravitate more to Trump or DeSantis. Candidates like Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., who was backed by Turning Point’s political arm in a competitive primary and did events with both Trump and DeSantis, are signs of its success. 

But as the party underwhelmed at the ballot box last fall, so too did some prominent candidates Turning Point helped elevate within the party.

Already, the organization is undergoing some changes. As The Washington Post reported Wednesday, Turning Point’s political arm is splitting with the Students for Trump group, a conservative social media powerhouse in its own right. Meanwhile, Kirk and Turning Point officials have emphasized the need to cultivate early voting among GOP voters and mimic Democratic efforts to turn out voters after the large gains Republicans hoped for in the midterms failed to materialize.

“Not only did he very early and publicly come out and endorse Trump’s 2024 campaign, anyone at all familiar with Charlie’s close relationship with the entire Trump family knows that he’s 100% on the team,” one operative close to Trump’s orbit told NBC News. “Now, primaries get nasty. Obviously, Trump vs. DeSantis is going to get nasty in the primary. But no one expects every endorser to get into the mud.”

Turning Point and its network of affiliates have worked extensively to remake the Republican Party in Arizona, its base of operations, backing candidates up and down the ballot to mixed success last cycle, as the Post reported. Chiefly, its aim was to purge center-right conservatives aligned with GOP Sen. John McCain’s brand of politics and replace those officials with Republicans more closely aligned with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. In the process, it sought to position itself as a political kingmaker in the state. 

“The state party and Turning Point were joined at the hip,” said former Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who dropped out of last year’s primary for governor. “Everything they seemed to do, they did together.”

Though successful in defeating some candidates, including former state House Speaker Rusty Bowers in a GOP state Senate primary last summer, the group’s aligned candidates suffered defeats at the top of the ticket. The most notable loss was gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, who filled her campaign with former Turning Point employees.

Bowers described Turning Point as “kind of like Trump, very nihilistic,” adding the organization will “want to be able to take credit” in the 2024 GOP presidential primary no matter who wins.

“So they’ll be kissing up with different messages to each campaign,” he said. “And they have enough broadband in the social media context that they can come at it from different sources and say the same to each candidate, so that when whoever wins, they can say ‘our guy won.’”

But with the 2024 cycle gaining steam, Kirk and Turning Point could soon be at a crossroads.

“Trump is going to make them pick,” a Republican operative said. “And that decision will come from them sooner than later.”

By Allan Smith and Vaughn Hillyard; Edited by News Gate Team

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