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Political Notebook

RNC votes to leave presidential debate commission

Former US president Donald Trump tosses a hat into the crowd at a 'Save America' rally in Commerce, Georgia, on March 26.Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

The Republican National Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates, following through on threats to bar GOP presidential nominees from participating in debates sponsored by the nonprofit organization.

The RNC has accused the commission, which was repeatedly attacked by Donald Trump, of being biased in favor of Democrats. The bipartisan commission, which was established in 1987 and has hosted the debates since 1988, has rejected the charge.

In a statement Thursday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that her party is “committed to free and fair debates” but that they would be held through other platforms. She did not specify them.

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“Debates are an important part of the democratic process. … We are going to find newer, better debate platforms to ensure that future nominees are not forced to go through the biased CPD in order to make their case to the American people,” she said.

McDaniel said the commission had refused to make changes the RNC had requested, including hosting debates before early voting begins and “selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.” The latter was a reference to would-be 2020 debate host Steve Scully of C-SPAN, who was an intern for Joe Biden for one month in 1978, when Biden was a senator from Delaware. The debate Scully was scheduled to moderate wound up being canceled after Trump objected to holding it virtually because of coronavirus concerns.

Representatives for the Commission on Presidential Debates and the Democratic National Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

In January, after McDaniel sent the debates commission a letter saying the RNC had lost confidence in the organization, CPD Co-Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf said the RNC “wanted to control things we aren’t prepared to let them control.”

He also noted that the commission deals “directly” with the candidates for president and vice president who qualify for general-election debates, not their party organizations.

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“The CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues,” Fahrenkopf said in a statement then.

Trump’s repeated attacks on the commission during the 2020 election caused at least one commission member — a Republican — to break his “strict vow of silence” regarding his personal feelings about the presidential campaign. John C. Danforth wrote then that Trump’s accusations were simply wrong and contributed to the eroded trust in the democratic process. He also defended the moderators chosen by the commission as “highly professional and experienced.”

“Some have suggested that the Commission on Presidential Debates disband, and that in future campaigns the candidates simply negotiate the debate rules among themselves,” Danforth wrote then. “Good luck with that.”

Washington Post

Ex-Trump aide Miller reportedly speaking to Jan. 6 panel

WASHINGTON — Stephen Miller, who served as a top aide to former president Donald Trump, was to appear Thursday before the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Miller was a senior adviser for policy during the Trump administration and a central figure in many of the Republican’s policy decisions. He had resisted previous efforts by the committee, filing a lawsuit last month seeking to quash a committee subpoena for his phone records.

The people familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private testimony. It’s unclear whether Miller would appear in person or virtually. A spokesperson for the committee said the panel had no comment, and Miller did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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Miller is the latest in a series of sit-downs the committee has scored with those in Trump’s inner circle — signaling that lawmakers are closing in on the former president by going around him to those who were present on the day of the attack or were his confidants in the weeks leading up to it.

His scheduled testimony before the committee comes weeks after Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, also agreed to sit down with congressional investigators, months after the committee had first reached out.

Members of the panel said Kushner’s testimony in late March, which went on for more than six hours, was helpful. Ivanka Trump, who was with her father in the White House on Jan. 6, was questioned for eight hours last week as congressional investigators tried to piece together her father’s failed effort to delay the certification of the 2020 election results.

The nine-member panel subpoenaed the former Trump adviser in November along with Steve Bannon and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the chairman of the panel, said in a statement at the time that Miller had “participated in efforts to spread false information about alleged voter fraud” and to encourage state legislatures to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by appointing alternate electors.

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Thompson has also said that Miller helped prepare Trump’s remarks for a rally on the Ellipse that preceded the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and was with Trump when he spoke.

The House voted last week to hold former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt for their monthlong refusal to comply with subpoenas. The move was the third time the panel has referred people in the former president’s orbit to the Justice Department for potential prosecution for contempt. The first two referrals, sent late last year, were for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Bannon.

The contempt referral against Bannon resulted in an indictment, with a trial set to start in July. The Justice Department has been slower to decide whether to prosecute Meadows, much to the committee’s frustration.

By agreeing to testify, Miller is looking to avoid the fate of the other former advisers and members of the Trump administration. For the committee, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, the central facts of the Jan. 6 insurrection are known, but what members are hoping to do with the more than 850 interviews and over 100,000 documents is fill in the remaining gaps about the attack on the Capitol. Lawmakers say they are committed to presenting a full accounting to make sure it never happens again.

The panel is looking into every aspect of the riot, including what Trump was doing while it unfolded and any connections between the White House and the Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol building.

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Members plan to release information in the coming months as the committee begins to hold public hearings and eventually release a series of reports on the insurrection. While there have been discussions about the possibility of pursuing a criminal referral against Trump at the end of all of this, lawmakers have not made a final decision.

Associated Press

Warnock says fund-raising has set record

ATLANTA — Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock says his fund-raising has set a record as Georgia’s Senate campaign shapes up to be one of this year’s most expensive races.

Warnock reported Thursday that he raised $13.6 million in the first three months of 2022, outpacing what was already a hefty $9.8 million raised in the last three months of 2021.

The senator’s campaign said it was the most money ever raised by a US Senate candidate in the first quarter of an election year, giving Warnock $25.6 million in cash on hand.

Warnock is a heavy favorite to defeat Tamara Johnson-Shealey in the Democratic primary. Republican Herschel Walker is the front-runner among six GOP candidates in the May 24 primary. Libertarian Chase Oliver will also be on the general election ballot in November.

Walker has been raising large amounts of money as well, but has trailed Warnock thus far, collecting $5.4 million in the last three months of 2021.

Georgia will be a key battleground in these 2022 midterm elections to determine which party controls the US Senate. Republicans had long dominated statewide races until Georgia helped elect Joe Biden to the presidency and enabled Democrats to control the Senate by electing Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in a January 2021 runoff.

Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, became Georgia’s first Black US senator after winning a special election in 2020 to fill the unexpired term of Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who stepped down because of failing health. Isakson died in December.

Associated Press