House alumni of George W. Bush, exposing rifts in the network of Republican operatives and officials.
Matt Schlapp, a lobbyist and enthusiastic Trump supporter who served as political director in the Bush White House, had to be convinced to attend the reunion by a fellow “Bushie,” often a term of scorn in the Trump White House, after he expressed fears of being confronted. Another Bush administration veteran, sometimes critical of Trump and sometimes not, was accosted at the gathering by a former colleague and accused of being too pro-Trump.
Both the Never Trump and pro-Trump factions are outspoken, rarely hesitating to criticize each other despite their shared Bush roots. That was the case as approximately 2,500 of them met for a few days in Washington to reminisce about old times. “There’s been a lot of passion — and tension,” said Schlapp. His wife, Mercedes, also a Bush official, was a senior White House official until recently.
Bush, 73, and Dick Cheney, 78, his vice president, spoke at the reunion but generally steered clear of the disagreements roiling national politics. The party was held Saturday night at The Anthem, a concert venue in Washington.
“I understand the tensions,” added Ron Kaufman, a Republican insider who worked for Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush. Kaufman, who is supportive of Trump, has witnessed the evolution of the family’s political network over three decades.
Among attendees were: Peter Wehner, Bush’s head of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, who is virulently anti-Trump; Tom Bossert, who was Trump’s assistant for Homeland Security; pro-Trump Rep. Liz Cheney; anti-Trump MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace, who is no longer a Republican; and Joe Hagin, who was Bush’s deputy chief of staff for operations and then held the same job under Trump.