GOP in disarray
February 5, 2021

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) doesn't really care if the Nebraska Republican Party censures him for his lack of fealty to former President Donald Trump, he said in a video Thursday evening. The state GOP's central committee will vote on a "Resolution of Censure" against Sasse at its Feb. 13 meeting, News Channel Nebraska reported earlier Thursday. His listed offenses include "stated support of the impeachment" of Trump and "defamatory public statements" against Republican senators who challenged President Biden's electoral votes.

Sasse ostensibly directed his response to the state central committee, but his video also served as a sort of manifesto for traditional Republicanism against the ascendant pro-Trump wing of the party. Few Nebraska voters "are as angry about life as some of the people on this committee," he said, adding, "Political addicts don't represent most Nebraska conservatives."

"Something has definitely changed over the last four years, but it's not me," Sasse said. "Personality cults aren't conservative. Conspiracy theories aren't conservative. Lying that an election has been stolen, it's not conservative. Acting like politics is a religion? It isn't conservative." The Jan. 6 siege happened because Trump "lied to you" and because he "riled a mob that attacked the Capitol — many chanting 'hang Pence,'" Sasse said. He continued:

Nebraskans aren't rage addicts — and that's good news. You are welcome to censure me again, but let's be clear about why this is happening: It's because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude. The party could purge Trump skeptics. But I'd like to convince you that not only is that civic cancer for the nation, it's just terrible for our party. [Sen. Ben Sasse]

Sasse would be only the latest Republican censured back home for being insufficiently pro-Trump. Peter Weber

January 11, 2021

President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had a "tense, 30-minute-plus phone call" Monday morning, during which Trump ranted about election fraud and McCarthy cut him off, saying: "Stop it. It's over. The election is over," Axios reported Monday night, citing a White House official and another source familiar with the call.

Trump also tried to deflect responsibility for his role in inciting a deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, telling McCarthy "antifa people" were responsible for the violence, Axios reports. McCarthy reportedly shot back: "It's not Antifa, it's MAGA. I know. I was there." Conservative cable news and other media has tried to pin the blame for the insurrection on leftist groups, antifa specifically, though there's clear and documented evidence the violence was perpetrated by Trump supporters, QAnon conspiracists, and far-right militia groups.

McCarthy also told his House GOP caucus on Monday that there is "indisputably" no evidence of antifa involvement in the Capitol siege, Axios reported, adding that as he tries "to navigate how to bridge the factions within the party," McCarthy "is treading carefully by telling members Trump is partially to blame for what happened without condemning him outright."

McCarthy told House Republicans on the two-hour call that Trump accepts some responsibility for the siege, too, Politico reports, citing four GOP sources on the call. Trump has not publicly taken any responsibility for the assault, even though he urged the supporters to march to the Capitol and fight for him. Emotions are "still running high in the conference," with many GOP members blaming McCarthy and his top lieutenant, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), for going along with the 120 House Republicans who continued challenging President-elect Joe Biden's win even after the riots, Politico says.

One freshman Republican, Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) said on the call she's "disappointed" that "QAnon conspiracy theorists" are not only leading the party, but also led the objections after members of Congress had to walk by a crime scene to get back to work Wednesday night, Politico reports. And Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), one of a handful of House Republicans weighing voting to impeach Trump, slammed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for tweeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calf.) location during the siege, putting all members at risk. Boebert raised hackles on the call by suggesting Capitol Police had been involved in the siege, Politico says. Peter Weber

January 4, 2021

"As the new Congress was sworn in Sunday, the Republican Party splintered badly as at least 12 senators planned to join about 140 House members to contest Joe Biden's election win," Politico reports. "The tensions are so high that individual GOP senators are now directly battling" in "open warfare against each other." While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is asking his caucus to accept President Trump's loss, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is reportedly giving his GOP colleagues the green light to object to the Electoral College results on Wednesday.

McCarthy's predecessor, former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), urged Republicans to knock it off in a rare public statement Sunday. "Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden's victory strike at the foundation of our republic," Ryan said. "It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act," and "the fact that this effort will fail does not mean it will not do significant damage to American democracy." Trump has "had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence," he added. "Joe Biden's victory is entirely legitimate."

Also on Sunday evening, all 10 living former defense secretaries signed an op-ed in The Washington Post affirming Biden's victory and warning that the military should not be dragged into Trump's effort to contest his loss. The signatories include James Mattis and Mark Esper, who served under Trump, as well as conservative stalwarts like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Cheney, who was also vice president for eight years, came up with the idea for the joint statement, said William Perry, former President Bill Clinton's defense secretary.

"American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy," the defense secretaries said. "Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the Electoral College votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived."

Chuck Hagel, a Republican who served as defense secretary under President Barack Obama, told the Post he considered whether warning about military intervention was an overreaction, but decided it was better to nip the idea, raised by some close Trump allies, in the bud. Peter Weber

December 23, 2020

"The GOP is plunging into open warfare over President-elect Joe Biden's election victory" and President Trump's "increasing embrace of conspiracy theorists as the defeated president and his most ardent allies continue to plot efforts to subvert the outcome of the Nov. 3 election," The Washington Post reports. "Advisers and allies who have called Trump to check in or wish him a merry Christmas have been encouraged to go on TV and fight for him amid complaints that others are not doing so."

Two Trump allies, veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), did go on Fox News on Tuesday, but not to back Trump's election fraud conspiracies or the most prominent figures enabling him, fringy lawyer Sidney Powell and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Trump is "intrigued" by Powell's conspiracies, one person told the Post, but others around him are telling him "it's crazy and she has no idea what she's talking about."

Flynn's suggestion to send the military to force a handful of states to redo their elections is "an idiotic idea," Rove told Fox's John Roberts. "There's no ability for any president to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1803, claiming that the issue has got to do with the hubbub around the election." Flynn is "at the bottom of the list" of people who should be advising Trump about politics, he added, and as for Powell, "what she has done to sort of throw mud on the president through her antics is unbelievable," Rove added. "The president has been so ill-served by this crowd, and she's chief among them."

Christie agreed about Flynn and told Fox News' Martha MacCallum that the push by Powell and her allies to try to overturn Biden's win "is a very, very dangerous thing." Peter Weber

May 17, 2019

The immigration blueprint President Trump unveiled Thursday "appears destined for the congressional dustbin, with no clear strategy from the White House to turn it into law and essentially no support from Democrats who control half of Capitol Hill," The Washington Post notes. But White House and GOP officials say that doesn't matter, the Post reports, because the plan is "primarily to showcase the kind of immigration that Trump and Republicans can support ahead of next year's elections."

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, spent months on the plan, "meeting privately with business groups, religious leaders, and conservatives to find common ground among Republicans on an issue that has long divided the party," The Associated Press says. "Kushner set out to create a proposal that Republicans might be able to rally around, his mission to give the president and his party a clear platform heading into the 2020 elections." So far, the Republican unity has proved elusive.

Conservative immigration hardliners complained that overall immigration levels stay the same — Ann Coulter called the plan a "rube-bait campaign document." More moderate Republicans facing tough re-election fights next year were similarly dismissive. The House and Senate GOP leaders declined to endorse it.

Even inside the White House, aides celebrated Kushner's "close hold" on the project, one senior White House official told the Post, because that means "no one else gets blamed for this." To be fair, there is no "plan," The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday night. "All reporters at the White House received from the White House was four pages of, like, elementary school graphics outlining some basics of what may be to come." Peter Weber

Editor's Note: This article contained a quote critical of Trump's policy incorrectly attributed to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.); it was his opponent, Mike Johnston, who said the proposal would accomplish nothing but "build Trump’s wall and keep families apart." We apologize for the error.

May 10, 2019

The decision by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. has ignited a GOP civil war. Allies of the Trumps and several Republican senators — specifically, those up for re-election in 2020 or close to President Trump — are attacking the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and pressuring others to do the same, The New York Times and The Washington Post report. The effort has borne some fruit.

Burr's committee, which has been discreetly investigating Russian election interference and how to prevent it for two years, issued the subpoena more than a week ago, after Trump Jr. refused to voluntarily come in for a second interview, the Post reports. But its existence wasn't public until Wednesday, a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave a speech in which he declared "case closed" on the Russia investigation, and it caught the White House off guard.

The "extraordinary pressure campaign" by Trump's allies "is forcing the party's senators to choose between their loyalty to the Intelligence Committee and to the president's family as it attempts to quash any remaining investigations of the president," the Times reports. And if Trump Jr. defies the subpoena, Burr and McConnell will have to decide whether to allow votes to hold him in contempt. Trump Jr. is "said to be 'exasperated' by the subpoena," the Post reports, and several of his confidantes tell the Times he's "unlikely to appear in person" and might "invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a written response."

The Senate Intelligence Committee is reportedly interested in asking Trump Jr. follow-up questions about the Trump Tower Moscow deal and the Trump Tower meeting he set up to get "dirt" on Hillary Clinton from the Russians. But despite the apparently coordinated outrage from Team Trump, "the subpoena appears to have been essentially routine," the Times reports. "As it completes its work, the committee is calling back key witnesses who spoke to staff members so senators can question them directly." Peter Weber

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