The cold war between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is turning hotter—and messier—by the day. And allies trying to stay neutral are quickly finding out that, at least in the eyes of Trumpworld, you can’t be Switzerland.
Jenna Ellis, who served as a senior Trump legal adviser after the 2020 election, is the latest Republican to play both sides and get burned. She has carefully been trying to navigate the two power bases of the modern GOP, tweeting nice things about Trump and DeSantis while also trying to maintain friendships in both camps. But in Trumpworld—where loyalty seems to mean complete devotion to Trump—Ellis is getting more than a taste of the wrath of the former president’s die-hard supporters.
Six sources close to Trump spoke to The Daily Beast for this story. And while two sources who maintain regular contact with the former president said Ellis hadn’t been much of a focus, everyone noted that her warm entreaties to DeSantisland hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“It all started when she went to a DeSantis event at Doral and made it a point to post pictures of herself with his social media influencers, almost like she was trying to rub it in,” a source in Trump’s inner orbit told The Daily Beast. “Now she’s regretting her transgressions. Fuck around and find out.”
When it comes to Trump personally, two sources that regularly speak to the former president said he’s currently down on Ellis.
“He thinks she’s a terrible lawyer, he’s very down on her,” a Trump adviser told The Daily Beast. “He thinks now he has great lawyers. She wasn’t one of them.”
“Where does she go from here?” the adviser continued. “You know where she is going to go from here? Twitter.”
Notably, some Trumpworld staffers told The Daily Beast they were interested in escalating the war of words, which they recognized was getting worse and worse. (A Trump campaign spokesperson didn’t return The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story. The former president, known for sending comments to media outlets—including The Daily Beast—when stories are being prepared on those in his good graces, also didn’t share a comment on Ellis.)
With Trump’s orbit directing increasing levels of hostility at DeSantis—and DeSantis finally beginning to take his own shots—aides and allies who were once able to not take a side are now forced to do so There is a vanishing middle ground—and Ellis is the latest proof that those who are friendly with both worlds might soon be on the outs with Trump.
“If people around him are so desperate they want to try to ice me out for perceived lack of loyalty, have at it. Loyalty is a two-way street,” she told The Daily Beast. “I declined to work for the Trump 2024 Campaign and in other capacities. I’m principled, so I won’t participate in the false attacks against the best Republican governor in the country.
“I like Gov. DeSantis and I like President Trump,” Ellis continued. “But only one side is calling me a porn star and won’t denounce sexual harassment. I don’t think this strategy will ultimately help Trump.”
What Ellis was referring to are attacks by Trump-aligned consultant Alex Bruesewitz. The young MAGA flamethrower has become one of Ellis’s loudest critics, going back and forth for weeks on Twitter with Ellis. But those attacks culminated in Bruesewitz posting a meme with Stormy Daniels’ face superimposed onto Ellis’ body. “Jebba Ellis,” the meme said, “digging for gold.”
In the wake of that meme, Ellis’ employer, American Family Association, sent both Bruesewitz and Caitlyn Jenner, who also posted the since-deleted meme, a cease and desist letter.
(Jenner—an outspoken Trump supporter—declined to comment through a spokesperson when reached by The Daily Beast.)
“The meme is defamatory and actionable,” lawyer Abraham Hamilton III said in the letter to Bruesewitz, which was obtained by The Daily Beast. “It is also an unlawful use of AFR’s intellectual property.”
Ellis has subsequently argued that the meme equates to a targeted harassment campaign. “Trump 2024’s message to women like me and Erin Perrine: You’re either 100% in all the time or you deserve to be harassed,” Ellis tweeted, lumping herself in with the Trump campaign’s former communications director who recently joined a pro-DeSantis super PAC.
Other MAGAWorld allies appear to have noted the online squabbling between Ellis and Bruesewitz, too.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote that “online personal fights between Trump and DeSantis influencers needs to stop,” to which Ellis replied that the former president himself has been behind “attacks against DeSantis.”
“Tell HIM to stop, too,” Ellis tweeted at Greene.
Bruesewitz, meanwhile, has stuck to his guns, and defended his actions to The Daily Beast.
“Memeing is not harassing,” he said. “Jenna Ellis attacks people on Twitter all the time, she should get thicker shin if she wants to stand in the arena. And to be clear, I didn’t make any of the memes. She sent me a cease and desist letter for sharing a meme that was posted by numerous accounts already. What a joke.”
Ellis seems to have triggered Trumpworld for a variety of reasons. For one, those in Trump’s orbit point to her backtracking when it comes to claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, which many of Trump’s lieutenants—and the former president himself—continue to falsely push. For another, there’s just a perceived lack of “loyalty,” multiple sources said. Speaking highly of DeSantis seems to be just as bad as talking ill of Trump.
Back in 2019, Ellis came out of “nowhere” to defend Trump in a number of high-profile legal battles.
But since then, the conservative lawyer has changed her tune. She has used her platform to speak out against MAGAworld attacks on DeSantis, delighting some fans of the Florida governor and infuriating some of Trump’s most loyal supporters.
This past March, Ellis admitted in Colorado court documents that she made “misrepresentations” related to baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, including her claim that Trump “won in a landslide” and that there was a “coordinated effort” to “manipulate the ballots, to count them in secret.” She was later censured.
Seemingly from that point on, Ellis has become more vocal in speaking out against moves made by her former boss. And Trump loyalists escalated their own attacks.
In late March, the official Trump campaign’s “War Room” account took a jab at Ellis after she replied to the Trump account with a fact-check on DeSantis.
“False,” Ellis wrote in response to a tweet sent out by the Trump operation, when the account alleged that DeSantis was using taxpayer dollars to fund his book tour. “This isn’t taxpayer funded. Every head of state has a political arm, like DJT when he was a head of state. Taxpayers didn’t pay for his rallies.”
The Trump campaign Twitter account was quick to fire back with a pithy but effective counter: “Please give more legal advice.”
Ellis is by no means the first Trump loyalist eyeing a DeSantis exit. Perrine was director of press communications for Trump’s re-election bid—in addition to formerly working for now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)—and she is now firmly in DeSantis’ camp. Ditto for another former House staffer who went to work for Trump: Matt Wolking.
Wolking was the deputy communications director for Trump’s re-election campaign, and the man behind many of the Trump War Room tweets in 2020. He’s also departed to work for the same pro-DeSantis super PAC as Perrine. (Wolking’s Twitter banner photo, to this day, is a tweet from Trump wishing him a happy birthday.)
But Ellis hasn’t even gone that far. Instead, she’s just tried to praise both men. And for that, she’s learning what being on the wrong side of Trump can mean.
“She’s just been iced out by the president and his lieutenants over the perceived lack of loyalty,” one Trumpworld operative close to the former president’s campaign operation said.
Asked if Ellis had sought a job from the Trump campaign, a source close to Trump said the only work Ellis could find “is that of a DeSantis social media influencer who takes orders from a registered foreign agent,” a reference to DeSantis campaign official Christina Pushaw.
Pushaw did not respond to a request for comment via text.
“What happens to a former Trump girl who goes against Trump?” a previously mentioned Trump adviser said. “You get to go on the TV!”