Donald Trump took to Truth Social on Saturday night to celebrate the “firing” of a key staffer working on rival Ron DeSantis’ campaign.
Phil Cox had been considered a core staffer on DeSantis’ 2022 gubernatorial re-election team and was among the campaign’s first hires.
Cox joined the team in March 2021 and served as the campaign’s top image consultant for the duration of DeSantis’ gubernatorial bid.
Most recently, he served as senior adviser to the super PAC Never Back Down which backed the governor’s bid for his 2024 run for president – but on Saturday night it emerged he was no longer with the DeSantis campaign.
Trump wasted no time in suggesting his departure was a sign of the failure of his rival’s campaign which officially launched on Wednesday.
Donald Trump (pictured back in New York on Saturday) has welcomed the ‘firing’ of a key staffer working on rival Ron DeSantis’ campaign.
Phil Cox served in a crucial role on DeSantis’ team for his 2022 gubernatorial re-election campaign, being among the first hires as a senior consultant.
Former President Trump took to Truth Social to welcome the announced departure of Cox, a key campaign staffer for his Republican rival Ron DeSantis
“Ron DeSanctimonious just fired, like in ‘The Apprentice,’ his friend and top campaign manager, Phil Cox, because his campaign is a complete disaster and 2028 is looking really bad,” Trump began.
“His campaign manager, who so ably handled the Ted Cruz campaign against me, wanted to work for me, but was turned down – a ‘money grabber’ like no other, and won’t give up until he will not have touched until the last penny. Now ‘Rob’ needs to change the theme of his campaign from NEVER BACK UP to WINNING IS NOT ALL!’ Trump wrote on Saturday evening.
A journalist for Policy suggested that Cox was “resigning” rather than being fired – although the Super PAC position was a volunteer, unpaid role.
The timing of Cox’s departure comes just days after he was spotted playing at one of Trump’s golf courses.
Cox had joined DeSantis’ team in March 2021 and served as the campaign’s top image consultant throughout his run for governor of Florida.
Trump could be seen waving at people gathered near Trump Tower
The former president was pictured entering his Trump Tower residence in Manhattan
Trump sometimes likes to talk about his apprenticeship story and his ‘You’re fired’ slogan – seen here in 2006
Cox competed in a LIV golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., alongside Trump himself.
His appearance follows news that consultancy group GP3, of which Cox is a partner, has also recently struck a deal with the Saudi-funded LIV tour.
Sources said ABC News Cox’s business relationship with the LIV Tournament had ruffled staffers close to DeSantis and likely played a role in his departure from the DeSantis fold.
“I am an unpaid, volunteer advisor to Never Back Down and proud to support Governor DeSantis,” Cox reaffirmed in a statement to ABC News on Thursday.
Cox didn’t actually play alongside Trump and hit the ties several hours after Trump’s tee time.
His departure from SuperPAC comes at the end of a week that saw the launch of the DeSantis campaign run into disastrous technological problems.
The launch was supposed to take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, but Twitter was unable to keep up with the traffic and servers crashed several times.
The event was initially delayed by half an hour, with the sound being muted frequently.
As of 6:30 p.m., the audio was still down and DeSantis had yet to say a word.
The issue has been described as a “DeSaster” and one of the most embarrassing campaign fiascos in memory.
Once things finally got going around 6:40 p.m., DeSantis brushed off the media, COVID public health mandates, and what he called the left’s “woke Olympics.”
He stepped up his hardline agenda on education and immigration – areas where he pledged to go further than Donald Trump had been able to.
“We need to end the culture of defeat that has infected the Republican Party for the past few years,” DeSantis said. “Government is not about entertainment, not about building a brand,” he said in a veiled swipe at Trump.
Cox’s departure coincided with his participation in a LIV golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia on Thursday which Trump also played.
Former President Donald Trump plays on the second green during the LIV Golf Pro-Am at Trump National Golf Club on Thursday in Sterling, Va.
In his campaign video, DeSantis said he was running to “lead our great American comeback” and held up Florida as a role model for the nation. “We proved it could be done,” DeSantis said in voiceover. “We chose facts over fear, education over indoctrination, law and order over riots and disorder.”
At his Virginia golf course the next morning, Trump was ready to pounce.
“I think he had a tough opening,” Trump said of DeSantis.
‘Wow! The launch of DeSanctus TWITTER is a DISASTER! His whole campaign will be a disaster. SHOW!’ Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform,” he wrote.
On Thursday, DeSantis sought to move past issues outlining an aggressive travel schedule as his allies insisted they remain well-funded and well-positioned for a long Republican primary fight ahead.
While DeSantis supporters privately acknowledged that the failed announcement was an unwelcome distraction, there was a general feeling — even among some Republican critics — that it would likely have limited long-term political consequences, if any.
For skeptics, the campaign confirmed Thursday evening that it had raised $8.2 million in the 24 hours since entering the race, a huge sum that far exceeded the amount raised by President Joe Biden on the same period.
Before Trump and DeSantis were the main rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, they were allies.
Before Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis were the main rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, they were allies
Trump, for now, still holds a decisive lead in the polls over DeSantis – and all the other 2024 Republican challengers
Trump gave DeSantis’ gubernatorial bid an early boost by tweeting his support even before DeSantis officially entered the race.
In his 2018 victory speech, DeSantis made sure to thank the president, saying, “I think we’ll have a great partnership.”
Although the Florida governor largely avoided confrontation with Trump, he managed to return a few blows.
As prosecutors prepared an indictment against Donald Trump in New York, DeSantis criticized the investigation but also said, “I don’t know what happens paying silent money to a porn star for get silence on some type of alleged affair.”
In an interview with Piers Morgan that aired a few days later, he laughed at a question about the nicknames Trump used for him.
“I don’t know how to spell DeSanctimonious. I don’t really know what that means, but I like it. It’s long, there are a lot of vowels. I mean, so we’ll go with that. It is very good. You can call me whatever you want, as long as you also call me a winner,’ DeSantis said.
After his campaign launch on Wednesday, DeSantis avoided referring to Trump by name, but gave him a subtle dig into Republican national election losses.
“We need to end the culture of loss that has infected the Republican Party for the past few years,” DeSantis said on Twitter Spaces.
“The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a dynamic future. We must look forward, not backward.