House Republicans line up to defend Trump, helping GOP primary

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Last week began with three House Republican committee chairs sending a letter to the Manhattan District Attorney demanding documents and testimony about his investigation into Donald Trump.

It ended with a dozen House Republicans visiting DC jail prisoners who are accused of storming the US Capitol two years ago in an effort to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump in the presidency.

Still more than 10 months before the first GOP presidential nominating contest caucuses, the House Republican conference increasingly appears to have sided with the former president — even as the 2024 race is considered a primary. open with some already declared candidates and several others preparing to enter the race.

Trump has a way of making everything about him unusual and unprecedented, but these early moves by House GOP leaders would run counter to normal patterns of keeping legislative machinations out of the presidential nomination process.

At least 40 House Republicans, or nearly one in five members of the entire conference, have already endorsed Trump’s 2024 candidacy. That list includes two members of the GOP leadership, Representatives Elise Stefanik (NY) and Richard Hudson (NC), as well as two committee chairs, Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Roger Williams (Texas).

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently told reporters he could endorse a primary candidate, which would defy decades of practice by top House and Senate leaders to stay in line. outside of presidential primaries, in part because they serve as co-presidents of party conventions.

“I could approve in the primary, but I didn’t approve,” McCarthy said March 17, prompting the follow-up question of whether he intends to.

“I could approve, but I didn’t,” he replied, slightly emphasizing “could.”

Endorsements alone are not unusual for lawmakers trying to either help their favorite candidate or win the goodwill of a presidential candidate they think could eventually win the Oval Office.

And often, a House majority, against the opposing party’s speaker, will launch administration oversight investigations that can have a clear political advantage in hurting the position of the incumbent president by exposing certain wrongdoing. These House investigations into President Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and his family’s personal financial dealings fall into this category.

But this group of House members is taking steps that could have the side effect of also bolstering support for Trump among GOP primary voters who might be considering an alternative.

On March 20, Jordan’s Judiciary Committee, along with the House Oversight and House Administration Committees, launched their investigation into Manhattan’s investigation into Trump’s payment to an adult film actress following his allegation that it was silent money.

The administration committee is conducting its own review of how the Democratic-led Jan. 6 committee conducted its investigation into Trump’s role in trying to block congressional certification of Biden’s 2020 victory and the ensuing Capitol riot — an investigation designed to undermine the select committee’s findings on Trump.

And members of the Oversight and Accountability Committee are investigating the conditions of detention of those accused of Jan. 6-related crimes, calling them “political prisoners” and “patriots” who do not deserve to be imprisoned.

This follows McCarthy’s decision to provide access to thousands of hours of security footage from January 6, 2021 to Fox News personality Tucker Carlson for a report that also attempted to downplay pro-mob behavior. Trump that day.

To be sure, some senior House Republicans would rather stick to the agenda they followed midterm in 2022—fighting inflation and crime—rather than delve into actions that could ripple through the presidential primary.

“It’s still almost a year away, so we’re focused on getting our agenda here,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said when asked last week. in the presidential primary contest. “Obviously that was my goal and just to get bills passed that really put this country back on track. This is our top priority.

In total, only two House Republicans have endorsed anyone other than Trump. Rep. Ralph Norman (SC), a staunch conservative, endorsed his state’s former Governor Nikki Haley, and Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) even though he doesn’t has not yet officially announced a presidential candidacy.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Republicans remain perplexed about the willingness of their counterparts to embark on the presidential campaign.

So far only five GOP senators have endorsed Trump, about 1 in 10, and almost everyone is staying out of the approval game and not trying to use their legislative perch to help the ex-president. .

“Stay out of it. I think we have a good, solid nominating process,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.) said in a brief interview last week.

“Absolutely neutral. Governor Chuck Grassley and I are always neutral in caucuses,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), No. would not approve.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who remains absent from the Senate to recover from a bad fall, has not endorsed any presidential candidate in the four open primaries that have taken place during his reign of more than 16 years at the top of his caucus.

McCarthy’s most recent predecessors, former speakers John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), did not endorse the three open GOP primaries for which they oversaw the caucus .

But most members of today’s House GOP have a love of Trump ingrained in their political DNA, so much so that even lawmakers who remain neutral are advancing causes that will help fortify the ex-president.

Through his leadership position on the board of directors, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) is leading the panel’s after-action review on Jan. 6 of last year. He released what he called a “flash report” on Wednesday that contradicted Democratic accusations that he conducted “reconnaissance drives” for pro-Trump activists the day before the attack.

Loudermilk, who expects no endorsement of the primary, is also examining security flaws at the Capitol and will dig deeper into other aspects of what the Jan. 6 committee considered last year. He’s adamant he’s not trying to tip the scales for Trump in next year’s primaries, even if Loudermilk’s work could help Trump’s defense.

“My investigations have nothing to do with the 2020 election, the 2024 election,” he said. “We don’t dispute that. We’re just focusing on January 5, January 6, what happened, how did these people get in, how can we fix this.

Back in the Senate, Republicans are so restrained from getting involved in the presidential race that they are unwilling to formally endorse even if they otherwise gush in public about the candidates.

“I’ve been pretty candid about thinking about the world of Tim Scott, and I still feel that way about him,” John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said of the South Carolina GOP senator who weighs in. an offer.

He paused, then just added a simple statement: “I am ready to support the party’s candidate.”


Washington

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