Allies of Donald Trump Jr. issued a stark warning to Elise Stefanik recently: Keep friends’ kids out of your political rivalries.
Those Trump Jr. allies were recently told that Stefanik’s camp was behind an effort to plant negative stories about Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a potential Stefanik competitor in House GOP leadership. It was also relayed to them that part of the effort involved bringing up Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s son, Buckley — an aide to Banks — according to three Republicans familiar with the conversations.
Intermediaries for Trump Jr.’s camp conveyed to Stefanik backers that they believed she had crossed a line by bringing up Carlson’s child, according to two of those Republicans.
POLITICO was unable to confirm the veracity of the pro-Stefanik whisper campaign against Banks. But whether real or rumor, the pushback from allies of the former president’s eldest son could imperil the New York Republican’s hopes of elevating to a bigger party post. One year after deposing anti-Trump Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the No. 3 House Republican post, Stefanik is now considered a contender for the whip’s role in a potential GOP majority next year.
A Stefanik spokesperson denied that Trump Jr. allies had relayed any such message, calling it “another desperate attempt to falsely and anonymously smear Congresswoman Stefanik and her team.”
“No one has reached out to our team about this malicious dishonest rumor other than you,” said spokesperson Ali Black. “While others seem to be focused on attacking Congresswoman Stefanik, she is laser focused on giving 100 percent as Conference Chair and representative for NY’s 21st District.”
One Republican familiar with the conversations said the behind-the-scenes furor began when people in Trump Jr.’s circle heard about Stefanik’s team making comments to the press that targeted Banks and Buckley Carlson, who’s worked for the Republican Study Committee chair since 2019. Trump Jr. allies made their displeasure with Stefanik clear through mutual friends, according to this Republican.
A spokesperson for Banks’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
These races get cutthroat, and they’re cutthroat because they’re about the race that is going to happen immediately after the elections, but also about setting yourself or allies up for future races.
GOP strategist Doug Heye
While Trump Jr.’s allies may have offered their displeasure with Stefanik, it appears she hasn’t alienated the former president himself. Stefanik is slated to deliver a “special video address” at the former president’s rally for Cheney challenger Harriet Hageman in Casper, Wyo., this weekend and is poised to headline a rally with Trump early next mon…