WASHINGTON — On the morning the House Jan. 6 committee held its second public hearing, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy was across town, echoing an instruction he has repeatedly given fellow Republicans: Ignore it.
Speaking to donors gathered at the Georgetown Four Seasons, McCarthy instead recommended Republicans talk about other issues that could help them regain the majority in both chambers of Congress, according to people familiar with the meeting, such as the soaring inflation rate and record-high gas prices — all under Democrats watch.
While most rank-and-file members in the Republican House conference have heeded his direction, another influential Republican has tuned into every hearing and has grown increasingly irate — to ‘’the point of about to scream at the TV,’’ according to a close adviser — with what he views as the lack of defense by his Capitol Hill allies.
Former president Donald Trump has said privately for months that McCarthy’s decision to pull pro-Trump Republicans from sitting on the Jan. 6 select committee was a mistake, one that has become clearer as Trump watches the hearings that are working to build the case that he should be criminally charged for conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
According to a close adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, Trump has made it clear to anyone who will listen that ‘’there’s no one to defend me’' on the dais before, during, or after the hearings. The blame is falling squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders, according to some Republican congressional aides and advisers close to the former president.
Several Trump advisers said they were particularly frustrated they had no insight into the committee’s discussions, plans, and divisions so they could better prepare for what was coming.
McCarthy’s bet to exclude the pro-Trump GOP perspective from the investigative committee could prove costly as he works to secure Trump’s support for his eventual speakership bid if the GOP regains the House majority. While most in the conference have brushed off Trump’s anger, any brash reaction from him could inflame his allies in the GOP conference who have remained noncommittal on whether they would vote for McCarthy to be the top leader — a small but significant group who could quickly jeopardize his chances.
McCarthy has acknowledged his ascension to the speakership is not assured without the support of Trump’s base. According to a person familiar with the discussions, he has approached Steve Bannon in recent months to stop him from pushing the idea of Trump being speaker.
GOP split on Greitens as some work to undercut him
Republican operatives and donors in Washington and Missouri are privately working to undercut the Senate campaign of Eric Greitens, the ex-governor who resigned in disgrace four years ago, after he released an ad that graphically dramatized hunting down members of his party.
But the opposition is split among factions backing different rivals in the Aug. 2 primary and over disagreements on who should attack Greitens or how, according to people involved in the discussions. They, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
Others are preparing to pour millions instead into an independent bid by John F. Wood, a senior investigative counsel on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. And some are concerned that intervening in the race could play into Greitens’s hands by feeding his anti-establishment posturing — or even prompting former president Donald Trump to endorse him.
Two people familiar with Trump’s reaction to the Greitens ad said the president expressed that he did not appreciate the content and believed it went too far. But Trump has not commented on the ad publicly, and he sometimes tells different advisers different things, depending on the context of the conversation.
Some Trump advisers have also been imploring him not to endorse Greitens, which could be decisive in the right-drifting state. Among those privately appalled by the ad is Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, who has lobbied Trump against making any endorsement in the Missouri Senate race and made a round of calls to allies and advisers this week to express her displeasure with the video.
With the election six weeks away, some Republicans are panicking that a Greitens primary victory could hurt the party’s footing in a must-win state to take back control of the Senate.
‘’People have been aware that Eric Greitens was an electability hazard for quite some time,’’ said John Hancock, a former state party chairman who advised the campaign of Representative Vicky Hartzler, a primary opponent of Greitens’s. ‘’I’m troubled personally that he is the one candidate in this race that could cost the GOP this seat.’’
Yet none of the Republican leadership had much desire to say anything publicly on Wednesday. RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said ‘’threats of violence have no place in our politics’' but also did not specifically condemn Greitens, saying Democrats should have expressed more concern about the recent threat to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican and the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, declined to comment through a spokesman. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said only that Republican voters should ‘’take a look’' at the ad. Trump, through a spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment.
Several people close to Senate leadership said they feared attacking Greitens for the ad would only help him, even as they groused about the notion he could be the nominee. McConnell has told allies he does not have any plans to try to defeat Greitens.
Bowers says Trump’s 2020 steps illegal but would vote for him again
Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers testified this week that President Donald Trump wanted him to take illegal, immoral, unprecedented, and unconstitutional steps to overturn the 2020 election results in his state. And Trump never provided a shred of evidence for his false claims of voter fraud.
Speaking to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Bowers described Trump’s team as “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (except “tragic,” not comic) and detailed a systematic campaign of pressure and harassment after he bucked the president.
But the lifelong Republican, who campaigned and voted for Trump, also declared this week he would cast his ballot for the former president again in 2024.
The same Associated Press interview in which he said Trump’s evidence-free attacks on the legitimacy of the election had proven “very destructive” to Americans’ trust in democracy also includes this: “‘If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,’ Bowers said. ‘Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”