Trump won't back down from legal war as money woes and infighting rage: Sources

JOHN SANTUCCI, KATHERINE FAULDERS and WILL STEAKIN
·5 min read

In the days since Joe Biden was projected as the president-elect, President Donald Trump has remained out of sight except for trips to his Virginia golf course. But the president is working the phones with aides and allies demanding they save his presidency, multiple sources told ABC News.

Sources close to the president describe him as "calm," and expressed some surprise that he was not more visibly angry with the result of the election, which he has still not publicly acknowledged.

At the same time, sources told ABC News the president wants every legal option exhausted, even though privately aides and members of the first family admit there is no path forward at this point.

MORE: Inside the Trump campaign as it grapples with defeat while plowing forward with legal fight

While some top aides have cautiously approached the president to tell him it may be time to come to terms with the fact that he has lost the election, sources said they don't expect Trump to publicly concede he lost this race fairly, predicting he will continue to sow division between his supporters and Biden by trumpeting a false claim that the president-elect's victory was "fraudulent" and "stolen" from Trump.

After Election Day, Trump's campaign quickly shifted its focus to fighting the results and searching for evidence of widespread voter fraud to defend the president's baseless claims that the election was being stolen from him.

But according to multiple sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, the team's post-election efforts have run into some of the same problems that plagued them down the final stretch of the campaign: money woes and mismanagement.

PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden smiles as he speaks about health care and the Affordable Care Act at the theater serving as his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 10, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden smiles as he speaks about health care and the Affordable Care Act at the theater serving as his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 10, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The campaign has filed a blitz of lawsuits in key states, but nearly all of them have been thrown out and internally some of the president's top advisers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the legal strategy and potential to impact the results of the election in a significant way, sources said.

Other aides pointed to an "abysmal" initial rollout of the campaign's legal response, which has been fronted by the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and senior Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, as an early "death knell" to the president's chances of launching a credible challenge to the election results.

In the coming days, sources said the Trump campaign plans to roll out additional lawsuits in key states and has selected its core legal team, which includes campaign manager Bill Stepien, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark and senior advisers Jason Miller and David Bossie.

MORE: 'There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration': Pompeo

The president has also already formed a leadership political action committee and has started fundraising for it through the reelection campaign's email list.

The news comes as Trump has refused to concede the election and has privately told allies that he may run for president again in 2024, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The communications director for the Trump campaign, Tim Murtaugh, said the idea of forming a PAC is nothing new.

"The president always planned to do this, win or lose," Murtaugh said in a statement. "So he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves to supporters as his motorcade arrives at the White House after golfing at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, a day after was defeated by President-elect Joe Biden. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves to supporters as his motorcade arrives at the White House after golfing at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, a day after was defeated by President-elect Joe Biden. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

To remedy the prolonged money issues impacting the team's ability to fight past Election Day, the campaign launched an aggressive fundraising operation that includes relentlessly texting and emailing to solicit donations from supporters.

The campaign has fired off over 150 emails to supporters since Election Day, sometimes maxing out at over 20 emails in a single day, at times seemingly threatening supporters for donations.

"This is your FINAL NOTICE," one email warned. "So far, you've ignored all our emails asking you to join us in DEFENDING THE ELECTION. You've ignored Team Trump, Eric, Lara, Don, the Vice President AND you've even ignored the President of the United States."

MORE: Biden calls Trump's refusal to concede 'an embarrassment'

At the White House, after the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his top deputies, sources told ABC News that Trump is considering terminating other members of his administration despite the fact they would be out of a job come a new administration. Trump's intention is to punish those he believes have been disloyal, multiple sources familiar with the deliberations said.

Meanwhile, many campaign staffers have been left in limbo regarding their employment status past the end of this week when contracts are set to expire, while they man a "voter fraud" hotline for hours a day getting bombarded with prank phone calls. Staffers have been told if they come into the office they need to answer calls or go home, sources said.

"We are spending our final days answering prank calls and don't know if we will have jobs by next week," one campaign aide said.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks to his motorcade on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 8, 2020.  (Andrew Cabalero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks to his motorcade on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 8, 2020. (Andrew Cabalero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In an effort to boost the team's spirits, the campaign on Sunday plastered the walls, kitchen and office front door of their multimillion-dollar Arlington, Virginia, headquarters with a front-page newspaper printout purporting to be from a 2000 issue of The Washington Times that read "President Gore" as a "reminder that the media doesn't select the president."

Hours later, The Washington Times tweeted that the front page was fake and they "never ran a 'President Gore' headline."

At an all-hands campaign meeting on Monday, Stepien blasted the move as "amateur," sources said.

This report was featured in the Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Trump won't back down from legal war as money woes and infighting rage: Sources originally appeared on abcnews.go.com