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Donald Trump is still the most dominant Republican in the country, but his very mixed primary record has left his air of invincibility in tatters.
As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, Trump has a 30% problem. While several of his endorsees won their races convincingly, most of them either won or lost with a less-than-middling 30-some percent of the GOP vote. They include:
- Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina (North Carolina House): Lost
- Charles Herbster (Nebraska governor): Lost
- Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia (Georgia secretary of state): Lost
- Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (Idaho governor): Lost
- Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania senator): Too close to call, recount underway
- J.D. Vance (Ohio senator): Won
But the overarching trend suggests that Trump's endorsement typically guaranteed candidates getting right around a third of the Republican primary vote or less. In other words, the "the hardcore Trump 'stolen election' contingent appears shy of a majority of the party," as Blake wrote.
Plus, primaries typically attract the most active and fervent voters, so the die hard 2020 election deniers and Trump cultists will likely make up an even smaller slice of GOP voters in a general election.
To reiterate, Trump is still the odds-on favorite to win the 2024 GOP nomination if and when he announces, and the MAGA movement is still pulsing through the GOP electorate.
But at the same time, Trump is more vulnerable now than he was heading into the Republican primaries, and everyone seems to know it.
By and large, profile-in-courage awards aren't going to any Republicans, other than maybe Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and several others who voted to impeach Trump. But some Republicans outside of Washington are testing the waters of betrayal.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been crowing about the Republican Governors Association's $5 million investment in Georgia to insulate Kemp from Trump's revenge tour.
"What we have to decide is: do we want to be the party of me or the party of us? What Donald Trump has advocated is for us to be the ‘party of me,’ that everything has to be about him and about his grievances," Christie told Politico. “Trump picked this fight."
What Christie is actually asking there is, “Do we want a party at all, or just a cult?”
Former Vice President Mike Pence—who is weighing a presidential run despite a brush with death by hanging—dared to campaign with Kemp in open defiance of Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky both campaigned for the Senate bid of Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama well after Trump cut Brooks loose when it appeared he was tanking. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu even called Trump "fucking crazy" during the annual Gridiron Club event in Washington last month.
"The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I'll say it this way: I don't think he's so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain't getting out!" Sununu said in his remarks.
All this has Trump a touch on edge, and some aides and party officials have been trying to talk him down from announcing his 2024 bid before the midterms are over, according to The Washington Post. He's constantly peppering his aides with questions about polling, his potential rivals, and who they are meeting with. He's also weighing the announcement of a so-called presidential exploratory committee to freeze the field.
The argument against an early announcement is party-based: Republicans don't want Trump to inject himself into the midterms in November any more than he already has. The argument for announcing early is Trump-based: Chase most potential challengers out of the race before they get any momentum. But Trump also has legal considerations, particularly regarding any liability for the January 6 insurrection. If Trump were officially running, it would pile one more giant headache onto an already fraught web of considerations at the Department of Justice.
Whenever Trump announces—and it seems certain that he plans to—he will clearly have competition now.
“It isn’t going to be a clear field for him. There’s a lot of people who want to go against him,” one GOP operative who recently met with Trump told the Post. “If he runs, [Mike] Pompeo, Pence and Chris Christie all will consider running against him. Who knows what [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis will do? These guys are out there working, they are hitting every donor they can find, they want to run.”
And yet, Trump still dominates the field in every poll on the topic. A recent Post/ABC poll found that 60 percent of Republicans want GOP leaders to follow Trump's lead for the party versus 34% who said they wanted the party steered in a different direction.
The same poll also found that 54 percent of Americans overall believe Trump should be charged with inciting the January 6 insurrection.
More than a week after receiving a subpoena from the House Select Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio has responded by telling investigators he will consider complying if they meet a list of his demands, including that the probe share any information it has on him that prompted the subpoena.
In a six-page letter to Committee Chair Bennie Thompson littered with accusations that the probe is unconstitutional, the Ohio Republican said he would “adequately” respond if investigators provided, in advance, “all documents, videos, or other material” they anticipate using during his possible deposition.
He has also demanded that the committee give him all other materials it has where he is specifically referenced and any legal analyses the panel has accumulated pertaining to the constitutionality of subpoenaing a fellow member of Congress.
A spokesperson for the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In related news: On Thursday, Politico was first to get its hands on a letter from at least 20 former House Republicans urging GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans subpoenaed by the select committee to comply with the requests.
Addressing the letter to McCarthy and Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Jim Jordan, and Scott Perry, the former Republican lawmakers stressed that they understood the rarity of a “congressional investigative body” issuing a subpoena to sitting lawmakers.
But, they wrote, “we also recognize that the subject of this inquiry is unprecedented in American history.”
“A full and honest accounting of the attack and its causes is critical to preventing future assaults on the rule of law and American institutions — and ensuring that we all can move forward,” the letter states.
The committee first asked Jordan to voluntarily cooperate in December, highlighting questions it had for him about his contact with former President Donald Trump before, during, or after the insurrection at the U.S Capitol.
Historically, Jordan’s public response to these questions has been wildly inconsistent. Last summer Jordan told Fox News he spoke to Trump on January 6. When asked the same question a day later by a reporter from a different outlet, Jordan initially couldn’t recall if or when he spoke to Trump on January 6.
But he ultimately bumbled through the question and said he “thought” he spoke with Trump after the attack.
Then, a month after that interview, Jordan told Politico he spoke to the former president during the attack. And last October, when testifying before the House Rules Committee, Jordan was adamant that he spoke to Trump after the attack but he also said he couldn't remember how many times he spoke to Trump that day, either.
It was only after several minutes of House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-MA) pushing Jordan to get specific that he stated he did not talk to Trump during the Capitol assault.
Last February, the committee investigating the insurrection obtained White House call records from the National Archives that showed Trump attempting to reach Jordan on the morning of January 6 from the White House residence.
Another entry following it noted the call lasted for 10 minutes.
When this news broke in February and reporters asked Jordan yet again if he remembered speaking to Trump before the insurrection, he responded: “I don’t recall.”
But he did say that he talked to Trump after delivering remarks on the House floor for roughly five minutes on January 6.
Legislators were debating objections to Biden’s electoral vote in Arizona and Jordan’s remarks began just after 1:30 PM. Jordan then spoke again from the House floor hours after the riot had subsided, this time around 10:27 PM.
"I know I talked to him after we left off the floor," Jordan told CNN in February.
Investigators also want to ask Jordan about any communication he was privy to that took place at the Willard Hotel on the eve of the attack or on Jan. 6 itself.
Trump’s legal team established a “war room” at the Willard, an upscale venue just blocks from the White House. Using a block of suites there, the president’s attorneys, advisers, and campaign strategists would meet regularly to hash out a strategy to overturn the 2020 election results.
Public reporting, witness testimony, and court records have indicated it was Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Bernie Kerik, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and others who convened there, though it is critical to note that they were far from the only Trump aides, attorneys, or insiders who frequented the room.
All told, it has been estimated that up to 30 people attended meetings at the Willard where the overturn—and “alternate elector”—strategy was discussed in detail.
Response to the January 6th Committee: pic.twitter.com/zO7nPK72QQ— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) May 25, 2022
In his response to the committee’s subpoena, Jordan argues at length that neither the subpoena nor the committee are constitutional. His argument has become a de facto position for Republicans who have faced the probe’s scrutiny.
Though Jordan claims the panel’s request is invalid because the committee does not have proper representation of Republican members appointed by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Jordan fails to note that when he had a chance to vote in favor of a wholly bipartisan committee—evenly split between Republicans and Democrats with even subpoena powers—he voted against it.
McCarthy appointed Jordan to serve on the initial bipartisan committee proposed by Democratic leaders. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rejected Jordan—and Rep. Jim Banks—and asked McCarthy to advance two new nominees to the pool of five GOP members he was permitted to appoint.
McCarthy refused to do so, negotiations ended, and the hopes of an evenly split committee were dashed.
As for the select committee itself, it was, in fact, also properly formed.
To stand up a special committee in the House, congressional rules dictate that a resolution is drafted and voted on. When lawmakers in the House drafted the resolution to form the special committee in 2021, this is exactly what happened: They wrote a resolution, imbued the committee with the power to have subpoena authority, and dictated the membership terms.
The House voted on it and a majority of lawmakers voted in favor of it.
A federal judge in California last January has dismissed similar claims about the committee’s unconstitutionality from election subversion strategist John Eastman.
“The public interest here is weighty and urgent. Congress seeks to understand the causes of a grave attack on our nation’s democracy and a near-successful attempt to subvert the will of the voters. Congressional action to ‘safeguard [a presidential] election’ is ‘essential to preserve the departments and institutions of the general government from impairment or destruction, whether threatened by force or by corruption,’” U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote earlier this year.
And just a few weeks ago, on May 2, in a different court—this one in Washington, D.C.—a federal judge handily dismissed a lawsuit by the Republican National Committee (RNC) brought against the January 6 probe to stop it from obtaining information about fundraising efforts the RNC premised on Trump’s bogus claim that he won the election.
Among allegations that the probe was engaging in a fishing expedition for sensitive party information, the RNC also argued that the select committee was invalid and its subpoena powers unenforceable.
“The subpoena’s valid legislative purpose is apparent enough to sustain it against this challenge,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly wrote.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.