Trump 2024 campaign seeks to recruit man who smeared John Kerry – reports

Ex-president eyeing Chris LaCivita, whose 2004 ‘Swift Boat’ campaign questioned Kerry’s Vietnam war record

As he prepares a possible new presidential campaign, Donald Trump is seeking to recruit an operative who was behind a group which famously questioned the Vietnam war record of the 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry, the Washington Post reported.

The operative who ran Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Chris LaCivita, worked for one Trump-aligned political action committee during the 2020 election and now runs another. He is also a consultant for Ron Johnson, a Trump-supporting Wisconsin senator fighting for re-election.

The Post cited four anonymous sources. It also reported LaCivita’s response: “Thank you for the opportunity but I don’t comment on rumours!!”

Despite deepening legal jeopardy on numerous fronts, Trump dominates polling regarding potential Republican nominees in 2024 and continues to tease a third White House run.

The Post said Trump was “telling allies he plans to run for president again” but also said many “longtime advisers do not want a role in the 2024 bid after a slate of federal investigations have ensnared many of them – and they fear a bruising battle he could lose”.

A Trump spokesperson told the Post the former president “continues to fuel the Republican party’s march towards a historic midterm election” and claimed “America is rightfully hungry and excited to know what’s next”.

In 2004 LaCivita, a former US Marine, organised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which in one of the more shameless episodes in US political history, sought to cast doubt on Kerry’s record in Vietnam, a conflict the incumbent Republican president, George W Bush, had avoided.

Swift boats were US navy riverine craft on which Kerry served, winning medals including the Silver Star. Kerry later became involved in protests against the Vietnam war, before entering politics and becoming a Massachusetts senator. After his failed tilt at the presidency, he was secretary of state under Barack Obama. He is now Joe Biden’s climate envoy.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which became Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, was supposedly non-political but was in fact financed by major Republican donors.

The group advanced its attacks on Kerry in TV ads and a book. The effort generated considerable controversy, with John McCain, a former prisoner of war then a Republican senator from Arizona, calling it “dishonest and dishonorable”.

But the group proved an effective campaign presence, leading to the term “Swiftboating” entering the American political lexicon, denoting “an untrue or unfair political attack or smear campaign”.

In one 2004 column, the New York Times examined – and thereby publicly rehashed – each claim advanced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Citing requests from “conservative readers”, the paper of record asked: “So is John Kerry a war hero or a medal-grabbing phony?”

After an extensive and critical examination of Kerry’s military career and statements about it, the Times concluded: “Mr Kerry has stretched the truth here and there, but earned his decorations.

“And the Swift Boat Veterans, contradicted by official records and virtually everyone who witnessed the incidents, are engaging in one of the ugliest smears in modern US politics.”


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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