Donald Trump's team denies suggestions of convention deal for endorsement

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — There was no deal in place to tie Donald Trump's endorsement in the governor's race to the results of the Michigan Republican Party convention, a spokesman for the former president said Sunday.

In recent weeks, multiple media reports have suggested that Trump would provide his endorsement to Republican gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson if Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno won the convention race for attorney general on Saturday.

The reports maintained this was, in part, because political consultant John Yob was working with both Johnson and DePerno. Trump had labeled Michigan's attorney general race one of the most important contests in the country.

Former President Donald J. Trump speaks during the Save America Rally at Michigan Stars Sport Center in Washington Township, Mich. on April 2, 2022.

"The suggestion that his endorsement can be brokered with a quid pro quo by political consultants or alleged 'power brokers' is absurd and absolutely not true," said Taylor Budowich, Trump's director of communications.

"President Trump has been watching Michigan closely and will continue to support the candidate who can win in November, and his endorsement won't be manipulated by anonymous rumors, innuendos or fake deals."

Both of Trump's endorsed candidates, DePerno and Kristina Karamo, who was running for secretary of state, won contested races at Saturday's Michigan Republican Party convention in Grand Rapids.

Meanwhile, 10 candidates are seeking the GOP's nomination for governor in the August primary. Trump's looming endorsement is expected to be a key factor in the crowded race.

The winner of the GOP primary will take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an outspoken Trump critic in November.

Johnson, a businessman from Bloomfield Hills, and Tudor Dixon, a conservative commentator and businesswoman from Norton Shores, have been among the gubernatorial candidates pushing for Trump's backing.

Yob said Sunday that anonymous sources attempting to assist former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who ran against DePerno in the attorney general race, invented the rumor about Trump's endorsement to divide DePerno supporters before the convention.

"The anonymous accusation is ridiculous and insulting to both President Trump and Perry Johnson," Yob said.

Boris Epshteyn, Trump's former special assistant, also rejected the idea of a deal for Trump's endorsement.

"Swampy tactics and deals are the exact opposite of what President Trump and the MAGA movement stand for," Epshteyn said. "Candidates and their consultants are best served running on true America first policies rather than engaging in sad, outdated political games."

Johnson traveled to Trump's Mar-a-Lago property in March for a fundraiser Trump hosted for DePerno. Dixon's campaign held its own fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in February. Trump spoke at the event, calling Dixon "somebody very special."

A third candidate in the gubernatorial race, former Detroit police Chief James Craig, traveled to meet with Trump in 2021.

cmauger@detroitnews.com