ABC News’ Huma Khan and Jennifer Wlach report:
Donald Trump’s top political adviser told ABC News he’s speaking to “high-level political operatives” to explore a third-party presidential bid on behalf of the real estate mogul, in a sign that Trump may not quite be done with the 2012 presidential race just yet.
“I can confirm that over the past two weeks I have spoken with many high-level political operatives, campaign managers, finance directors — some of whom I have spoken to in the past. Most are new people from all over the country,” said Michael Cohen, executive vice president at the Trump Organization and special counsel to the reality-TV star.
“Until the time Mr. Trump decides to either endorse a candidate or run himself, I am exploring on his behalf the possibilities of ensuring Mr. Trump appears on the ballot in all states, and to develop a team of professionals who could ensure a potential victory,” Cohen added.
Back in March, Cohen met with Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn and 18 political operatives, activists and fundraisers in Iowa, but Trump decided not to run.
Trump, 65, himself indicated this weekend that he might pursue a third-party run.
“It’s a very sad situation what’s happening to the country,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I hope I don’t have to, but I may absolutely.”
Cohen told ABC today that Trump’s preference is to endorse a Republican candidate “as he loves what it is that he’s currently doing,” but if the Republican Party doesn’t nominate someone who “The Apprentice” star believes is capable of defeating President Obama, “he may consider running as an independent for the presidency.”
“He’s both more than financially capable of funding a race and is adamant that America must become great again or forever be lost,” Cohen said.
Cohen, who co-founded the Web site “Should Trump Run,” said that he has been getting thousands of emails daily calling on Trump to reconsider and enter the race.
Trump’s contract with NBC ends after “The Apprentice” season finale in May, after which the TV star will reconsider his decision.
The real estate tycoon turned reality TV host switched his party affiliation from Republican to “unaffiliated” in December and hinted that he might reach out to Americans Elect, an online, independent presidential nominating organization.
In prior years, Trump has flirted with the idea of running for president — first in 1988, then in 1999 — but he has said this is his most serious consideration.