Newest version of Donald Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ plays out at hush money trial with VP candidates lining up

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A parade of contestants has shown up for the new series of “The Apprentice” at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. 

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Rep. Byron Donalds all starred in this week’s episode in which contestants vie to be Donald Trump’s running mate as he endures the indignities of Manhattan DA “Fat Alvin” Bragg’s hush money trial. 

“I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully,” Trump told reporters. 

In previous episodes, they’ve gone to Mar-a-Lago to audition for the role of vice presidential candidate or appeared on television with pithy attacks on lawfare. 

Burgum shot to Number 1 favorite in bookmakers’ rankings after he appeared alongside Trump at the GOP candidate’s weekend Wildwood, NJ, rally. 

But as fans of the original NBC series starring Trump from 2004 to 2017 — billed as “The Ultimate Job Interview” — will know, the winner is not always evident halfway through a season. Sometimes it was the person you least expected or a dark horse you hadn’t noticed. 

Episodes ended with Trump eliminating one contestant from the competition with the words, “You’re fired!” 

So far, only two contestants have become eligible for the ­famous catchphrase. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem crashed and burned after boasting in her new “pick me” memoir that she shot her dog (“THat’s a tough story,” said Trump), having to retract an improbable anecdote about “staring down” North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and then canceling her book tour altogether. 

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s sin was not dropping out of the primary earlier and not endorsing Trump. 

“Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the VP slot, but I wish her well,” Trump posted on Truth Social. 

This season’s prize is extra special.

Not only does the winner get to be VP, but they will also begin running for president in just two years since Trump is limited to one final term. 

So the field is wide and competition is stiff, and Trump genuinely doesn’t seem to have made up his mind.

While he has been urged to choose a woman or a black candidate to boost his appeal to those groups, he has told friends he does not care about demographics as long as he can find the right person. 

Emerging candidate 

He’s believed to be looking for somebody who can help him get elected, raise (or donate) lots of money, ideally is from a swing state, is loyal, and can be a great president to carry on his legacy for another eight years.

He also has a showman’s eye for optics, so the perfect person has to present well. 

None fulfills all the criteria so Trump continues to take advice. 

But out of the glare of the cameras, a couple of phenomenal dark-horse contestants quietly strutted their stuff in New York this week, pressing the flesh with Republican donors: Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Both have expressed a willingness to serve in a second Trump administration. 

Of the two, Hagerty seems to be the most probable VP pick.

Pompeo is more likely to return to his successful role in the Trump administration, where he oversaw the Abraham Accords, took out the father of the roadside bomb, Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and managed to keep a lid on world conflict. 

Hagerty, 64, a successful businessman before he became Trump’s ambassador to Japan and successfully wrangled a tough trade deal, satisfies all of Trump’s criteria — except he’s from a safe red state.

Apart from that, he is the perfect “Apprentice President.” 

The son of a road-construction worker and the first male in his family to attend college, the self-made multimillionaire has a beautiful wife and four photogenic children, and would blitz the veep’s responsibilities, starting with running the transition.

He has been involved with transition teams for three Republican presidential campaigns, including Trump’s in 2016.

From his extensive business travel and ambassadorial role, he has the foreign-policy chops necessary to deal easily with world leaders and has shown tough negotiation skills in his dealing with the Japanese. 

As a business leader, first at Boston Consulting Group and then in private equity, he has the management skills to execute projects the president needs doing.

He is a courtly gentleman in control of his ego who gets along well with Trump. 

In terms of competence, you could hardly find a bigger contrast to Kamala Harris. 

Trump doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to choose a winner, but you can bet Hagerty will end up near the top of the list.

Definition of lawfare

Democrats and their pet witness at Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing into the use of lawfare as a political weapon pretended that they didn’t know what lawfare was. 

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) provided them with a timely example.

“Traditionally, in a successful political operation, you want to drain your opponent’s resources, drive up their negatives in the polls and you want to keep them from engaging with voters . . . What better way to do that than to charge your opponent with 91 counts, force them to spend millions on a legal defense and tie them up in court to keep them off the campaign trail.” Lawfare 101.

Political prisoner thanks to Hunter

It looks as if special counsel David Weiss is torturing former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov in jail, where he languishes in pretrial solitary confinement — conveniently until after the election. 

Israeli-American Smirnov was the FBI’s trusted, paid, long-term informant who told his FBI handler in 2017 that Joe and Hunter Biden had been paid $10 million in bribes by Hunter’s Ukrainian paymaster, Mykola Zlochevsky. 

Weiss, then the US attorney for Delaware who was busy slow-walking the tax and money- laundering investigation into Hunter, buried Smirnov’s report until an FBI whistleblower divulged its existence six years later.

Weiss’ response was to charge Smirnov with lying to the FBI and interfering with the 2024 election by peddling Russian “disinformation.” 

Smirnov has glaucoma, and his lawyers requested he be allowed to have urgent eye surgery.

Instead, the Santa Ana City jail confiscated his pain-relieving eye drops and scheduled surgery for the end of the month.

Bias vs. Trump? You be the judge

When former federal prosecutor Bob Costello testified before Congress Wednesday about the “lawfare” against Donald Trump, he pointed out the fishy fact that Acting Judge Juan Merchan is presiding over three Trump-related cases in Manhattan that are supposed to be randomly assigned. 

“Judge Merchan has had all of these cases and, by the way, when he finishes with the Donald Trump case, Steve Bannon is next,” Costello said.

“Out of all the judges in New York County, somehow, they keep coming up with the same judge. Coincidence? I don’t believe in them.”



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