Ted Cruz currently says he will not support Donald Trump if he’s the nominee—at least, that’s the crystal-clear implication of comments he made at a recent CNN town hall.
But it wasn’t so long ago that Cruz used tax dollars to travel to New York and hit Trump up for cash.
Just a month after the government shutdown in 2013, Cruz made the well-trod trek from Washington, D.C., to New York City in search of TV cameras and campaign cash. The senator was still the conservative flavor of the month, thanks to his star-turn as the leader of the failed effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government for 16 days. Cruz was gearing up for his presidential bid, so he scheduled a sit-down with the biggest right-wing celeb of them all.
The awkward part? Tax dollars paid for it.
The senator’s November trip to Manhattan was one of several he paid for out of his senate budget, as USA Today reported last year. When in NYC, Cruz appeared on a Fox News show—a hit he used to justify using taxpayer dollars for his excursion. And he had a closed-door sit-down with Trump.
At the time, an unnamed Cruz spokeswoman told Politico that Cruz and Trump had just met for a friendly chat.
“Mr. Trump is a friend and the senator had some down time in NYC,” she said.
However, a knowledgeable source in Trump’s orbit told The Daily Beast that when the pair met, Cruz asked Trump for cash. The ask was for his leadership PAC, which meant he could use the funds to pay for travel expenses or to support like-minded candidates in other races. And at the meeting, Trump agreed to cut a check, according to our source.
Neither campaign responded to a request for comment on the nature of the meeting.
The FEC filings for Cruz’s leadership PAC showed that in January of 2014, Trump made the maximum legal contribution of $5,000 to Cruz’s PAC. And Cruz’s trip to get that money cost taxpayers more than $1,200, according to USA Today.
Cruz’s team defended the expense to the paper by pointing out that the senator had made a Fox News appearance while he was there—even though Fox has a studio just a block away from Cruz’s Senate office on Capitol Hill.
After news of the donation broke, Trump told Fox and Friends that it didn’t mean he would underwrite Cruz’s White House dreams.
“He’s a nice guy. I get along with him,” he said on April 21, 2014, explaining the gift.
But there was more to it than that, according to our source, who wasn’t authorized to talk on the record. Trump made the donation as he himself was putting together his 2016 plans. The mogul had made a significant number of donations to liberal candidates, so giving to Cruz’s PAC was a small step to counter-balancing that. In the lead-up to his presidential run, Trump also cut checks to John Boehner’s Congressional Leadership Fund and to Mitch McConnell’s super PAC and campaign. It was all part of an effort to shore up goodwill on the right and to outweigh his generous donations to Democrats. Politifact concluded last July that, thanks to the recent donations, Trump has officially given more to Republicans than to Democrats.
Until recently, Cruz had no qualms associating with Donald Trump. When Trump entered the race on June 16, 2015, Cruz’s team issued him a warm welcome (as it did for all the other Republicans who ran):
“I’m pleased to welcome Donald Trump into the race for the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States,” Cruz’s statement said. “His experience as a successful businessman and job creator will prove crucial to ensuring the eventual GOP nominee is not only well-equipped to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, but also to make America great again.”
One month later, Cruz took to the Senate floor to call the leader of his party in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a liar. But Cruz resolutely refused to criticize Trump, even as the mogul’s statements grew increasingly unhinged. Their much-ballyhooed bromance started losing its magic in mid-January of this year, according to the bromance experts at The Daily Caller.
Suggesting that all Mexicans are rapists wasn’t nearly enough to sour Cruz on Trump. And attacking a host of other women for their looks—including Carly Fiorina, Rosie O’Donnell, and Arianna Huffington—also didn’t do it. But when Trump tweeted a photo juxtaposing an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife with a glamorous shot of his own wife, Cruz finally left the Trump Train.
“I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife, who attacks my family,” he said at a CNN town hall on March 29.
Here endeth the bromance.
To think it was barely two years ago when Cruz used his Senate budget to hobnob with Trump in New York City. It was a simpler time.