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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blamed the far-right House Freedom Caucus for costing Republicans control of the chamber in a private call with his donors  specifically, he said, by forcing the GOP to include an end to pre-existing condition protections in their Affordable Care Act repeal bill:

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the original House bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy’s account accurately describes the dynamics of passing the American Health Care Act, the Republican ACA alternative, in 2017: After an initial version of the bill was withdrawn due to opposition from both the Freedom Caucus and GOP moderates, Meadows and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) crafted an amendment that would give states the ability to waive protections for people with preexisting conditions.

These comments effectively reiterate a key point that Republican leaders admitted on the day after the midterm election: their attempts to repeal Obamacare are dead and buried. The party recognizes how reviled this policy is with the public, and now the only thing left is to assign blame for having the thought in the first place.

The Freedom Caucus, which took a drubbing in 2018 with the loss of members including Reps. David Brat (R-VA), Rod Blum (R-IA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC), promptly hit back, with chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) calling McCarthy’s remarks “very troublesome” and an “us-versus-them mentality.”

In fairness, the Freedom Caucus can’t take all the blame for making health care repeal toxic. While health care was indeed the key issue that swung the election, the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) was broadly hated even before Republicans inserted the “MacArthur Amendment.”

Moreover, it is not exactly like the GOP leadership was in any way reluctant to help the Freedom Caucus undermine Obamacare’s signature provision. Then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) touted the MacArthur Amendment, saying it “strengthens” the repeal bill. McCarthy himself reportedly inspired GOP House members to vote for the bill by projecting an image of George Patton, and gleefully celebrated on the White House lawn with President Donald Trump and other Republicans after the House passed the measure.

That being said, it is certainly true that the Freedom Caucus has been a thorn in the GOP’s side for years, withholding votes from key bills in order to force more draconian spending cuts to discretionary spending. McCarthy has long had bad blood with them he had been next in line to replace former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) after his 2015 resignation, but the Freedom Caucus’ refusal to back him was what ultimately led to Ryan getting the job.

If there is one silver lining for the Republican Party leadership in losing the House, it is that the Freedom Caucus no longer has the power to hold anyone hostage. For the first time since their founding in 2015, they are facing a Democratic majority that neither needs nor wants their votes for anything. And if not the entire cause, the Freedom Caucus surely bears some of the credit for this state of affairs.

IMAGE: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
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  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
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  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
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