11 times Donald Trump escaped justice—until now

Donald Trump is an enigma inside a riddle wrapped in 34 felony convictions, so it’s difficult to work out exactly where he goes from here. Conventional wisdom tells us the presidential campaign of a traitorous Putin sympathizer with this much legal baggage should officially be over, but this is Trump we’re talking about. The dude makes no apologies, has no shame, and continually respawns like a Grand Theft Auto character on a 24-hour killing rampage. 

And since the Republican Party is now basically the Jonestown Cult without the complimentary beverages, few GOP luminaries—including elected officials—will dare gainsay him.

Indeed, in the wake of his conviction, the party of law and order is queuing up to kiss his arse in perpetuity. And Trump himself is trying to divert attention from his own crimes by claiming that New York—and the nation as a whole—is hopelessly steeped in lawlessness because Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is only paying attention to this one case.

(Actually, the crime wave that started under Trump has now ebbed, and crime as a whole is close to a 50-year low—except among former U.S. presidents, of course. Among that admittedly narrow cohort, it’s up approximately 100%.)

Ah, but now is not the time to be complacent. Trump’s goose might look cooked, but one thing we’ve all learned over the years is that no matter how grotesque and silly he might appear at any given moment, he keeps coming back. He’s sort of like Jason Voorhees that way. Or Infrastructure Week.

Indeed, we’ve seen this movie many times, and it’s always set us up for sequels. Which means we’re not done fighting this cancer—not by a long shot.

Here are 11 times it looked like the Trump train had—or should have—officially derailed, only for some weak-kneed enabler (I’m looking at you, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell) to lift it back onto the tracks and send it on its merry way. (Note: This list is not chronological, and it’s by no means exhaustive.)

1. The “Access Hollywood” tape

For many, this was the first time it looked as though Trump was cooked for sure. You can’t gleefully admit to serial sexual assault and still be elected president, right? Right?! It’s over! Let’s spike the ball right here—on the 10-yard line. What could possibly go wrong now?

Ah, memories. As we now recall, this seismic October surprise was ultimately papered over with the infamous Jim Comey letter, and Trump was elected our 45th—and first future felon—president. 

2. His campaign launch

Many forget that Trump’s campaign stumbled right out of the gate when he infamously declared that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. The remarks were offensive (and false) enough to prompt NBC to sever ties with their star reality show host. Sadly, they weren’t quite offensive enough for Republican primary voters. Indeed, his remarks probably gave him an edge over his opponents, who were still relying on dog whistles as Trump was blithely blowing an airhorn.

3. Mocking a disabled reporter

There have been numerous instances involving Trump saying or doing something so beyond the pale, it felt like no one outside the fringiest of fringes could possibly still support him. And yet they did.

In November 2015, he cruelly mocked reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that “can impact the function and range of motion of joints and can cause muscles to atrophy.” 

It was the ugliest thing most longtime political observers had ever seen, and yet it somehow failed to dissuade millions of Republican primary voters, who proudly nominated him as the Republican presidential candidate in July of the following year.

As long as I live, I will never understand how this alone wasn’t the end of it. pic.twitter.com/2MaLkBJ2Xo

— Damien Owens (@OwensDamien) November 15, 2016

4. Disrespecting Gold Star families and John McCain

In July 2015, Trump downplayed GOP Sen. John McCain’s military service, saying, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Roughly a year later, he was disrespecting military families again (well, their lost loved ones were suckers and losers, right?). After Gold Star father Khizr Khan, whose son died in the line of duty in Iraq, spoke on Hillary Clinton’s behalf during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Trump showed once again that he has the impulse control of an Arby’s grease fire.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump first claimed that, contrary to what Khan had said in his address, Trump actually had made sacrifices for his country by employing “thousands and thousands of people.”

Then he attacked Khan’s wife, Ghazala, saying, “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."

Oh, boy! He won’t survive this one! He’s like a shark with three barrels stuck in him! It’s over! Right?

5. The Mueller probe

We all thought this investigation would enfeeble Trump beyond hope of recovery, didn’t we? And then Bill Barr happened.

After months of waiting for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to drop his report on Russian election interference, we did get some real answers about the Trump campaign’s extensive contacts with the Russians involved in ratfucking the 2016 presidential election—and we also discovered that Trump had gone out of his way to obstruct the investigation. But Barr furiously spun the report’s findings, and nothing much came of them.

Trump continued to claim his innocence, even after a later Senate investigation definitively proved collusion between Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian intelligence officer. But by that time the public had largely moved on.

6. Charlottesville

We all recall when Trump both-sidesed Nazis. Nazis! How the fuck can you both-sides Nazis?!

Well, Trump can—and he did.

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” Trump said in the wake of the violent white-ring Charlottesville protests.

Seriously, dude, these are NAZIS! World War II—and pretty much every war movie filmed in its wake—made very clear that these are the bad guys.

Ah, but Trump loves to move the Overton window, and sadly, Nazi apologia was not a bridge too far for the GOP. 

7. Extorting Ukraine/first impeachment

You’d think withholding congressionally approved military funds meant to aid a democratic ally caught in a life-or-death struggle with a hostile authoritarian regime would be enough to get you impeached and convicted. Especially if you were doing it to compel that ally into digging up dirt on your likely future opponent.

You’d think.

Well, you’d be wrong, because … Republicans.

The Government Accountability Office determined that Trump had broken the law in withholding the funds, but that wasn’t nearly enough for the law-and-order party, which continued to pretend Trump was the most brutally persecuted—and unluckiest—human in history.

8. The Helsinki Surrender Summit

If you had any doubts about Trump’s lickspittle obeisance to Russian war criminal Vladimir Putin, they were put to rest after this sorry incident.

At a joint press conference with Putin in July 2018, Trump took the dictator’s word over the findings of our own intelligence agencies (who had determined Russia interfered in our elections).

“[Putin] just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he said.

For once, Trump’s remarks actually seemed to scandalize stalwart Republicans. As The Associated Press wrote at the time, “The reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. ‘Shameful,’ ‘disgraceful,’ ‘weak,’ were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. ‘look like a pushover,’ said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.”

But, in the end, nothing really changed, as Republican spines dissolved faster than Lindsey Graham’s dignity at the Mar-a-Lago omelet bar

9. Jan. 6 and the Second Impeachment

Okay, he’s really done now, right? Right?

Violently attempting to overthrow the government is so egregious, even Graham dropped the ocher abomination. (Sadly, a little more than a month later, he came groveling back.)

Unfortunately, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while clearly upset by Trump’s outrageous attack on democracy, refused to back his conviction, preserving his eligibility for future office. And before the month was over, Rep. Kevin McCarthy—apparently assuming Trump was the ticket to a long and rewarding speakership—helped rehabilitate his image among the “fuck your feelings and our 245-year-old democracy crowd” by hurrying to Mar-a-Lago to sample every square inch of Trump boots.

Thanks, guys!

10. The E. Jean Carroll judgment

Yeah, Trump was found civilly liable for lying about sexually assaulting writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store. And, sure, he’s being forced to cough up $83 million. What of it?

Trump assured us Carroll wasn’t his type, and as we all know, Trump never lies. The fact that he later thought an old picture of her was a photo of his ex-wife Marla Maples is irrelevant, and definitely not something you should spend any time thinking about. Especially if you’re a Republican.

MAGA ‘24, baby!

11. Four—four!—felony cases ... and 4 million Republican yawns

It might seem like a cop-out to shove all of these into one catchall category, but when you really think about it, one felony charge should have been enough. And yet Republicans were able to ignore 91 with unprecedented aplomb.

Besides, two of those four felony cases were related to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and install himself as a dictator, and Republicans had already established that they don’t care about such picayune matters.

Also, who doesn’t steal box loads of highly sensitive government secrets and randomly stack them in a heavily trafficked ballroom at a country club? That’s what the U.S. is all about. If they can go after Trump for that, they can go after you for doing the same thing. Think about it. It’s just common sense.

And if it’s this easy to ignore 91 felony charges, ignoring 34 convictions should be a doddle, now shouldn’t it? 

Of course, both President Joe Biden and Trump have stressed that the real verdict will come on Nov. 5. And they’re not wrong.

As we’ve clearly seen, we voters are the only ones who can put an end to this feral fuckery. No doubt y’all are happy about this verdict—I know I am—but there’s “happy” and then there’s “cosmically orgasmic.” We haven’t attained the latter yet—and we won’t until Trump is permanently consigned to the Walmart parking lot dumpster of history.

In other words, now is no time to get cocky. We need to run through the tape all the way through November—which means our work has just started.

We can all do something to help push Biden over the goal line, whether that involves donating or getting out the vote (phone-banking, door-knocking, postcard-writing, talking to friends, etc.). But the last thing we can be is complacent. We all remember how we felt when Clinton lost in 2016—it’s far too early to let our guard down. Too much is at stake.

So by all means, celebrate over the next couple of days, but then get back in the trenches and fight like your life depends on it. Because, you know, it very well might.

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Every day brings a new prognostication that is making President Joe Biden's campaign operatives worry or freak out. Is Donald Trump running away with the election? No. Not even close.

New York is key to Democratic House, and Jeffries is in the redistricting driver’s seat

Editor's note: This file has been updated to correct Rep. George Santos's party affiliation.

Democrats are looking to pick up three, four or even five seats in New York to win back the House majority and make Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) the Speaker.  

Jeffries, the House minority leader, has longtime relationships with leaders in the New York state Senate and state Assembly and will have a major say over the state’s congressional map, New York Democratic sources say. The state is drawing a new map after a court determined a version drawn by a court-appointed special master for the 2022 midterm election was a temporary solution.

Current and former Democratic officeholders and party officials from New York who spoke to The Hill on condition of anonymity say Jeffries will wield significant influence over the redistricting process — and they note that New York stands to benefit substantially if he becomes Speaker.  

If Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) keeps his job as Senate majority leader and Jeffries gains the Speaker’s gavel, it would put two New Yorker Democrats in charge of Congress.  

“If they don’t listen to Jeffries, they’re crazy,” one Democratic official said of the upcoming redistricting process. “They’re going to want to follow Hakeem’s lead. He’s very well-respected, he’s very well-liked.” 

Among the seats New York Democrats are eyeing is the one belonging to disgraced Rep. George Santos's (R-N.Y.). Santos represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, to which they are likely to add more Democratic voters to ensure it flips.  

Retired Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is eyeing a comeback to Congress and has indicated he would run as the Democratic candidate for his old seat in the 3rd District if Santos steps down or is expelled from Congress before his term is over, New York Democratic sources say.  

If Santos stays in his job through the end of the 118th Congress, which he says he intends to do, there would be a crowded Democratic primary race to run against him in the 2024 general election. In that case, Suozzi is expected to announce his decision about whether to run again for Congress in the fall.  

Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, The Next 50 co-founder Zak Malamed and Nassau County legislator Josh Lafazan are in the mix of candidates who would run for the seat if there isn’t a special election to replace Santos.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), announced in April that House Democrats will target five other first-term New York Republicans in addition to Santos: Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams.  

A gain of six congressional seats would be enough to flip the House to Democratic control. Republicans currently hold 222 seats while Democrats have 212. 

One of those targeted incumbents, Molinaro, told reporters last week that New York voters are getting “exhausted” by the battles over the House district boundaries. 

“However the lay of the land, you know, adjusts, I’ll roll with the punches. I do think, though, voters are getting a little bit exhausted by the multiple changes in districting and it’s just an utterly confusing situation for too many voters,” he said.  

Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about picking up three to five congressional seats in New York next year, given their party’s disappointing performance in the state last year, when Republicans picked up three seats and defeated DCCC Chairman Patrick Maloney.  

“Anything is possible. I wouldn’t take any seat off the table, personally. So we will be fighting to mobilize in all of the districts held by Republicans,” said Rep. Grace Meng, who represents New York’s 6th District in Queens.  

Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) says Democrats should be able to pick up four or five seats in the Empire State. He ranked the 3rd and 4th congressional districts on Long Island and two upstate as the best pick-up opportunities.  

He also predicted there will be “close coordination” among Democratic leaders in New York and Washington and “Jeffries will get what he wants.” 

Putting out a Democratic-friendly map is no sure thing. The New York Independent Redistricting Commission is in charge of writing the map, which must be approved with two-thirds majorities in both state chambers.  

Democrats got too greedy in the last election cycle and had their map thrown out, but party officials tell The Hill they believe the legislature can draw up a new map that will help Democrats pick up as many as five House seats while staying within the bounds of state law. 

Several Democratic officials who spoke to The Hill predicted that the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission will fail to reach an agreement and that drawing a new map will fall to the New York state legislature, where Democrats control supermajorities in both chambers.  

If that happens, they say Jeffries will wind up playing a significant role in influencing the new congressional district boundaries. 

The redistricting debate is heating up behind the scenes because New York officials are talking about moving up their 2024 primary to earlier on the calendar — April 2 instead of June 23.   

Jeffries told reporters at the U.S. Capitol last week that he just wants New York to have a “fair map” and urged the Independent Redistricting Commission to do its job.  

“All we want is fair maps to be drawn all across the country,” he told reporters. “We want a fair map in Alabama, a fair map in Louisiana, fair maps in North Carolina and Ohio, in Wisconsin, certainly fair maps in New York.”  

Jeffries kept his distance from the redistricting debate and insisted it will be up to the Independent Redistricting Commission to draw the new lines. 

“In the case of my home state, I think it’s important that the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is bipartisan in nature be given the opportunity to complete its work to try to find common ground and present a congressional map to the legislature that gives every community — urban New York, suburban New York, rural New York — an opportunity to have its voices heard in deciding in what the congressional delegation emerging from New York should look like,” he said. 

A New York appeals court ruled last month in Democrats’ favor that the state must redraw its congressional map before the 2024 presidential election. Republicans, however, have appealed that ruling to New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, putting the legal battle on hold until September.  

If the Court of Appeals rules for Republicans, then Democrats will be stuck with the same map they had in 2022.  

In the meantime, the Independent Redistricting Commission will be able to hold hearings and solicit input for a new map.  

But Democratic officials are skeptical they will come up with any proposal that can muster the necessary bipartisan support within the commission as well as approval by supermajorities in the state Senate and state House.  

“Either the Independent Redistricting Commission makes a deal or more likely gives it their best effort, fails and then the Democratic legislature steps in, which is what happened last time but they overreached and the rest is history,” said a Long Island-based Democratic party official and former officeholder.  

Jeffrey Wice, a professor at New York Law School and an expert on redistricting, said if the Independent Redistricting Commission deadlocks, Democrats in the state legislature should be able to come up with a map that meets court approval.  

“I think the legislature can draw a lawful map that complies with the criteria included in the Constitution,” he said. “It’s the legislature’s responsibility to comply with the new constitutional amendment’s rules and to produce a map that meets population equality, minority voting rights and other criteria. 

“If it does that, then they’re not going to have a problem. If they violate any of the criteria, they could end up in court all over again."  

Mychael Schnell contributed. 

--Updated at 7:41 a.m.

DeSantis backs Biden impeachment inquiry: ‘It stinks to high heavens’ 

GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supports an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, just a week after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floated the idea.

“And the inquiry into Biden, I think that they should pursue that,” he said in a Newsmax interview that aired Tuesday. “The corruption is just incredible with what's happened there.” 

McCarthy said last week that he expects the GOP-led investigations into the foreign business activities of Biden’s family to rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry. His comments prompted pushback from both sides of the aisle, with some Republicans calling a potential inquiry a distraction from other work.  

Republicans have been working to tie President Biden to the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden. Closed-door testimony Monday from former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer added fuel to those allegations, with McCarthy saying it proved President Biden “lied” when he made campaign trail statements that he had never talked to his son about his foreign business dealings.

Democrats, however, said the testimony showed the opposite — that President Biden had never been involved in those business affairs.

DeSantis in the Newsmax interview also pointed to Hunter Biden’s art sales.

“He does these paintings, someone's paying him a million dollars. You know, my six-year-old daughter does better paintings than him — I don't see people paying her a million dollars for them. So, it stinks to high heavens, and they should get answers for all of that,” he said.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee have questioned Hunter Biden’s art sales and have asked for information about an agreement with the White House to keep the buyers of the artworks confidential.

DeSantis also said he wasn't concerned about a government shutdown if it meant cutting government spending. He said spending has gotten to this point because Republicans are “so worried” about a government shutdown.

“First of all, the government doesn't actually shut down,” he said. “They take nonessential workers, and then they don't work. But why do we have nonessential workers to begin with? I think it's ridiculous.”

Cornel West bid prompts worries from progressives: ‘I just wish he wasn’t doing it’

Progressive lawmakers are voicing concerns over Cornel West’s third-party bid, worried that a figure they respect could cripple President Biden’s prospects in 2024.

West launched a Green Party campaign earlier this year to inject more leftism into the election cycle. He’s challenging both the Democratic and Republican establishments, raging against them in equal measure and raising the stakes of being a spoiler in the fall. 

Now, with the Republican nomination of former President Trump seeming more and more plausible, progressives are becoming more outspoken about their worries.

“I think he has a very long record of service and academic thought leadership,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told The Hill last week. “I think just right now, given the Electoral College, it's very difficult to square the very real threat of a Republican presidency … [with] the risk of giving up the very small margin of electoral votes needed to ensure that President Biden wins.”

Until recently, lawmakers on the left didn’t feel much need to voice any reservations they had about West. When he first announced he was running for president in early June, he did so under the grassroots People’s Party, without much fanfare. Democrats weren’t really applauding him but weren’t criticizing his bid, either; there seemed little cause for concern on Capitol Hill.

The shift happened after West changed his affiliation to the Green Party just a few weeks later. The move promoted bad recollections for Democrats of 2016, when third-party nominee Jill Stein captured enough votes that election analysts said helped contribute to Trump’s edge in certain states. 

The difference now is that West, unlike Stein, is a revered part of the progressive movement who has garnered goodwill from sitting members of Congress for his activism on behalf of working-class people. 

“I care about the quality of your life. I care about whether you have access to a job with a living wage, decent housing, women having control over their bodies, health care for all, de-escalating the destruction of the planet,” West said in his launch video this summer.

Some liberal lawmakers also personally know and like him, having crossed paths with him over the years. He worked as one of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) top surrogates in 2020. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who served as a campaign co-chairman for Sanders, has expressed kind sentiments about him despite publicly supporting Biden this cycle.

Biden has earned overwhelming support from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and no elected progressive has primaried him. Even Ocasio-Cortez, who has at times been critical of the president’s policy decisions, officially endorsed his reelection bid. And Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the left-leaning CPC, threw her support behind a Biden reelection effort even before he formally announced, despite initially backing Sanders in the Democratic primary last election.

The progressives coalescing around Biden are starting to share their concerns about the damage West’s bid may cause to the president’s reelection effort.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass), a prominent member of the CPC, credited West as a “thoughtful guy.” McGovern has had close proximity to West over the years in Massachusetts, where the philosopher and historian taught at Harvard University. 

But McGovern didn’t mince words about his third-party bid. 

“The stakes are too high this year, especially if Trump is the nominee,” he said. “I think everybody, including the most progressive elements of our country, need to protect our democracy by stopping Donald Trump and supporting Joe Biden.”

McGovern said he was worried about a scenario in which West gained enough traction to help the GOP nominee win again. 

“I worry about those things because Cornel West is a very effective speaker and can be very persuasive,” he said. “I am not here to question his motives or bash him, because I've followed him for many, many years, but I just wish he wasn't doing it.”

Moderate Democrats have been quick to paint West as a potential spoiler running a glorified vanity campaign. They’ve been the most publicly against possible challengers to Biden and third-party bids, including from their own centrist flank No Labels, a group that wants to recruit a credible third-party rival. 

Progressives, on the flip side, are often critical of the country’s two-party system and have been hesitant to outwardly dissuade West or other progressives from competing for the White House. Their wing proudly embraces intraparty primaries and outside bids when necessary to push a progressive agenda. Many believe that’s often better than the status quo, and it’s how several prominent progressive lawmakers rose to power themselves. 

One Squad member, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), is personally familiar with the power of insurgent campaigns. She was elected to the House in 2018 after ousting longtime Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano (Mass.) by running on a more liberal platform. 

While Pressley is still a staunch progressive, she’s more measured in her approach to the presidential election. Asked about West’s bid, she tiptoed around the issue but noted the popularity of his ideas.

“The CPC is the largest ideological caucus in Congress, which I think proves that, as the caucus continues to grow, their progressive ideas are popular,” Pressley said. 

“As much as they try to fringe and marginalize them, people want transformational change like universal basic income, like unionization, like reparations,” she said, careful not to criticize the platform that liberal candidates have run on each cycle. 

The anxiety around West is also illustrative of the broader concerns Democrats have about Biden. They understand that his approval rating isn’t where they’d like it to be, and that Trump still has a firm grip on the Republican Party. They also see poll after poll indicating that at least some percentage of voters want someone else as the Democratic nominee. In another sign of the frustrations surrounding Biden, moderate Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) has been eyeing a possible primary challenge against him.

Defenders of West’s candidacy, however, feel strongly that it’s important to let voters decide whom they prefer in an open election.

“To progressive lawmakers who prefer to name-call and to label him as a spoiler candidate, please take a moment to remember that votes are always earned and never given,” said Cullen Tiernan, a progressive activist based in New Hampshire who has been critical of the party’s establishment class. “Too many of these lawmakers have changed from, ‘We will push Biden left,’ to now, ‘We will endorse anything he does.’”

“As Dr. West says, ‘You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people,’ and I ask: Who are you serving by trying to eliminate voices from a democratic process?”

Cheyanne M. Daniels contributed.

Trump steps up war with Senate GOP

Former President Trump is stepping up his war with Senate Republicans by calling for primary challenges next year against GOP incumbents who do not support investigating President Biden's family finances.  

Many Senate Republicans have made clear they don’t want Trump to win their party’s nomination for president, and they’re leery about rallying to his defense given the former president’s polarizing effect on moderate Republican and swing voters. 

Senate GOP aides and strategists argue they can’t do much regarding the Biden family's business dealings because they don’t have the power to issue subpoenas as the Senate’s minority party.  

But GOP senators aren’t giving Trump much rhetorical support either — in sharp contrast from prominent House Republicans such as Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). 

Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist and former Senate leadership aide, said the Trump call will appear to a number of Senate Republicans like a way for Trump to distract people from the investigations into his own activities.

But he suggested it isn’t likely to work.

“A good number of Senate Republicans take a more measured approach usually. They don’t knee-jerk to pressure,” Bonjean said.

Trump appears to be losing patience with Republican lawmakers on the fence about impeaching Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, as the federal and state felony charges pile up against him along with his mounting legal bills.   

Trump mocked GOP senators and House members who say they have “other priorities” and would prefer to leave the investigations of Hunter Biden and the Biden family's business dealings to the House committees.  

“They sit back and they say, ‘We have other priorities, we have to look at other things.’ Any Republican that doesn’t act on Democrat fraud should be immediately primaried. Get out. Out,” he declared at a Saturday rally in Erie, Pa.  

The comments came a few days after Trump hit Senate Republicans for not taking a more aggressive approach to Biden’s personal finances.  

“With all of these horrible revelations and facts, why hasn’t Republican ‘leadership’ in the Senate spoken up and rebuked Crooked Joe Biden and the Radical Left Democrats, Fascists, and Marxists for their criminal acts against our Country, some of them against me,” he demanded in a post on Truth Social. 

Cool to launching impeachment proceedings

Republican senators are cool to the idea of launching impeachment proceedings against Biden in the House and generally have kept their distance from House GOP threats to cut funding to the Department of Justice and FBI in response to more than 30 felony counts prosecutors have brought against Trump.  

Asked last week whether he saw any merit to an impeachment inquiry into Biden, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said impeachment “ought to be rare rather than common.” 

“I’m not surprised that having been treated the way they were, House Republicans last Congress, [they] begin open up the possibility of doing it again,” he said, referring to the two impeachments of then-President Trump by a Democratic-controlled House.  

“And I think this is not good for the country to have repeated impeachment problems,” McConnell warned.  

It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the House Republican-led investigations into the Biden family and the Department of Justice’s handling of criminal allegations against Hunter Biden.  

Bonjean said “in any impeachment, there would be a trial in the Senate,” which is another reason why Republican senators want to preserve an appearance of impartiality and not rush to judgement about allegations of corruption against the sitting president.  

Republicans up for reelection next year include Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), an outspoken Trump critic, as well as Republicans who have largely stayed quiet about the president, including Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.).

None of these incumbents appear vulnerable, but GOP strategists warn that Trump’s support could result in several of them facing credible primary challenges.  

“They could. Some Senate Republicans could face primary pressure over the next year, but they have a lot of time to position themselves on the matter and see how things unfold,” Bonjean said.  

Trump tried to drum up opposition in the last election cycle to Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).  

He was more successful in stirring up support for Murkowski's Republican challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, but his efforts to recruit a primary challenge to Thune in South Dakota quickly fizzled. 

Senate Republicans believe they have a good chance to win back the Senate majority in 2024 because Democrats will have to defend 23 seats, while they only have to protect 11 GOP-held seats.  

A tough spot

Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University who served several fellowships in the Senate, said Trump’s calls for Republicans to embrace the partisan investigations of Biden’s family puts Republicans facing competitive general-election races next year in a tough spot.  

“These are people who given the political physics of their congressional districts have to play a very exquisite balancing act. The idea that they move to impeach Biden does not play well in those districts,” he said of Republican lawmakers in competitive House districts.  

Baker warned that some Senate Republicans could be in “jeopardy” in primaries next year if Trump decides to launch a full-scale assault against incumbents he views as reluctant allies.  

“Think of people like Roger Wicker, who is someone who is seen as a pretty solid guy who votes the right way but is not an extremist,” Baker said, identifying a senator who might have to watch his right flank. “There are constituencies that will respond to any demand that Trump puts out who will say, ‘I can’t support [a senator] unless he gets on the impeachment bandwagon.’ 

“But I don’t think any Republican who is up for reelection wants to have to do that,” he said.  

Baker said that Senate Republicans up for reelection don’t want to alienate the sizable share of the Republican electorate — which he estimates at about 25 percent of Republican voters — who don’t support Trump and don’t like the idea of GOP candidates embracing his scorched-earth tactics. 

One Senate Republican aide defended the Senate GOP leadership from Trump’s broadsides by pointing out that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, played a key role in publicizing an FBI 1023 form that makes reference to unsubstantiated allegations that Biden was involved in a foreign bribery scheme.  

“We’re not in the majority, and we don’t have subpoena power. You see Chuck Grassley and [Sen. Ron] Johnson [R-Wis.] pulling the levers on oversight and whistleblowers,” the aide said.  

The form, which FBI investigators use to catalogue raw, unverified claims by informants, received little attention from other Republican senators.  

A second Senate Republican strategist who requested anonymity argued that Grassley has made important contributions to the House investigations of Biden’s, even if Senate Republican leaders have generally kept their distance.  

“I can’t imagine any House Republican would say that the stuff that Grassley has uncovered in his ongoing efforts is less important than what they’re doing. But I think it’s really a matter of, House Republicans are in the majority and have subpoena power and can do a lot more that Republicans in the Senate can,” the aide said.  

Updated at 7:23 a.m. ET.

Biden campaign co-chair: Code of conduct for presidential family members ‘may be worth looking at’

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a co-chairman of President Biden’s reelection campaign, on Sunday suggested it may be worth looking at a code of conduct for family members of presidents.

NBC "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Coons if Congress should try to address creating a code of conduct for presidential family members, including sons and daughters of sitting presidents.

“That may be worth looking at, because frankly, as you referenced, Jared Kushner wasn't just a private citizen,” Coons said, referring to former President Trump’s son-in-law.

Todd responded, “So if you're outraged about Hunter Biden, you should be outraged about Jared Kushner.”

“You can’t pick and choose,” Coons said.

Coons also mentioned that the Senate has been working on trying to get the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics, similar to how members of Congress have to disclose their assets and stock holdings.

Coons comments some as Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has been in the spotlight over his legal issues. The younger Biden appeared in a Delaware court last week, where his plea deal on federal tax and gun charges was put on hold by a judge who questioned the scope of the agreement. 

Hunter Biden has faced other legal issues over a daughter he has in Arkansas. The young girl’s mother filed a paternity suit against him in May 2019, and he appeared in court this May. In June, he reached a settlement in his child support case after being ordered to sit for a deposition under oath to answer questions about his finances.

The president made his first public remarks about his 4-year-old grandchild Friday, after silence from the White House over the young girl.

White House takes the gloves off ahead of 2024

The Biden White House has tried to present itself as being above the fray of day-to-day squabbles, but increasingly, it’s jumping in, bashing the GOP and other critics at every opportunity.

The administration didn’t miss a chance this week to hammer Republicans over Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floating that the House would move towards an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. They were quick with memos and statements to criticize the GOP attacks as a “clown carousel” and the idea of pursuing impeachment as “baseless.”

And the White House issued a scathing rebuke of Fox New host Greg Gutfeld, who said that Jews captured and tortured during the Holocaust survived by having skills and being useful, calling out his comments as a “dangerous, extreme lie.” 

The new levels of punchy rhetoric preview the White House messaging strategy going into 2024, which is to fight back and call out what they consider extreme.

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrive for an event to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Washington.

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrive for an event to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Washington.

It’s a shift from their previous attitude, which was to let what they considered to be Republican chaos speak for itself.

“The cost is too expensive, both short and long term, to let them operate in a vacuum without showing that one, we know how to fight; two, that we will fight; three, we fight with facts and not with some flaming lies of information,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist.

Early in Biden’s presidency, the White House was careful not to weigh in on controversial comments from the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), hoping to avoid elevating her words and giving the far-right congresswoman more of a platform.

When McCarthy was struggling in January to get enough votes to be Speaker of the House, they sat back and watched it unfold. 

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Biden gently knocked the vote series at the time, saying, “It’s a little embarrassing it’s taking so long,” but also added, “that’s not my problem.” The White House had also insisted that Biden would not “insert himself” into the election, which ended up taking 15 ballots for McCarthy to finally clench enough votes.

But this week, when the Speaker signaled that the House could move forward with an impeachment inquiry, the White House came out with multiple statements and highlighted quotes from fellow Republicans in his conference pushing back on the idea.

It also released a memo about Republicans’ slams against the president overall, reflecting the Biden argument that the GOP is stepping up attacks on Hunter Biden and talk of impeachment because the economy is getting stronger and is now a less effective avenue for attack.

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Hunter Biden appeared in a Delaware court Wednesday, where his plea deal was put on hold by a judge who questioned the scope of the agreement. 

The White House this week touted “Bidenomics” after gross domestic product (GDP) numbers showed surprisingly strong economic growth. It rebuked GOP lawmakers for not embracing the data, pointing to Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone, who said Thursday, “There goes that recession talk, right?” 

“Even Fox Business is welcoming today’s blockbuster economic growth numbers, the latest in a long line of proof points that Bidenomics is delivering for middle class families,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a memo. “That’s because this strong growth report is objectively good news for the American people, which elected officials should support regardless of their political party.”

In the past, the White House has called out what it deemed antisemitism, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in particular has spearheaded the effort against hatred towards Jewish Americans. The rebuke of Gutfeld was particularly notable, considering it called the conservative media voice’s comments insulting to the memory of people who suffered the Holocaust.

Over the last week, Vice President Harris has gone on the attack against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a presidential candidate, over changes his administration has made regarding the way slavery is taught in his state. She quickly traveled to Jacksonville to deliver remarks over his recent moves.

And press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has turned Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) into an almost-daily punching bag, chastising him for blocking military promotions over his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

Democrats argue that it’s significant the White House is getting punchier and not relying on the Biden reelection campaign to do it for them.

“I think the reason why it's so important that it comes from the White House is because Joe Biden is a president for all people, and that White House works for all people,” Seawright said. “It helps weed out some of the foolishness, because I don't think we can afford at this moment to let false information go unchecked or go numb to bad or false information for the sake of political gain.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) speaks to reporters as he arrives to the Senate Chamber for votes on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Another Democratic strategist argued the White House has picked its spots well, seeking to highlight when Republicans are fixated on issues that don’t resonate with most moderate voters. The strategist pointed to the GOP’s fixation on Hunter Biden as an example of something that is unlikely to move many mainstream voters.

Democratic communications strategist Katie Grant Drew noted the window for moving legislation closes early in election cycles so it “makes sense” the White House is preparing for 2024.

“They know they’re going to have to defend against Republicans’ insatiable appetite for investigations and impeachments, and the best defense is a good offense,” said Drew, a principal at Monument Advocacy. “When top Republicans continue to spout controversial rhetoric and spend time on divisive issues that the vast majority of Americans don't agree with, the White House is going to use those moments to illustrate to the American people how extreme today’s Republican Party has become.”

Jim Kessler, co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way, said Biden and his team are wisely both selling their own victories and highlighting Republican dysfunction.

Ultimately, though, Kessler argued the 2024 election will be decided by broader issues such as the economy, something the White House has leaned into with its recent messaging.

“This election is going to come down to the middle. The middle ideologically, the middle of the country geographically, and the middle class,” Kessler said. “These are places where Biden’s got to win.”

Rep. Dean Phillips mulls 2024 primary challenge against Biden

Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (D) is toying with a potential 2024 primary challenge against President Biden, a development likely to bring additional scrutiny to the incumbent’s reelection campaign.  

A well-placed Democrat in the state confirmed to The Hill that Phillips is talking to various people about possibly mounting a White House challenge to Biden. 

“True in that he is talking to folks,” said the Minnesota Democrat on Friday, who hedged that Phillips hasn’t “definitively” decided to run. 

He would be the first Democratic lawmaker in either chamber of Congress to run against Biden this cycle.  

The news of his early thinking was initially reported by Politico. Phillips confirmed independently to CNN that he will meet with donors in New York City.

The idea Biden may have to face a Democratic competitor from Capitol Hill is notable. For one, Phillips is a moderate, bucking Democrats' more common concern that a progressive could primary him from the left. 

He’s also not a household name, like fellow centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose contemplation of a presidential run has been viewed with frustration by the party’s establishment. 

But a potential primary campaign from Phillips wouldn't entirely be a surprise. He’s at times been critical of Biden, even going as far as to say he shouldn’t run for a second term due in part to his age. At 54, Phillips is 26 years younger than the 80-year-old president.

A campaign spokesperson for Phillips did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden already has a handful of marginal primary challengers, including political heir Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and author Marianne Williamson. Neither has gotten enough traction to cause more than just headaches, though Democrats have recently gone after Kennedy more harshly for his inflammatory rhetoric. 

Democrats are also grappling with the unknowns that could come from philosopher Cornel West’s third-party presidential bid, which has frustrated those who see him as a potential spoiler candidate in the general election. 

A congressional challenger would add another layer of uncertainty to the race.

"Not sure what the upside is," the Minnesota Democrat said of a possible Phillips bid.

Senate GOP rallies behind Romney call for winnowing anti-Trump field

Senate Republicans are rallying behind Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) call for Republican donors to refrain from giving money to long-shot presidential candidates once it becomes clear they can’t win the GOP nomination. 

GOP lawmakers who are deeply skeptical of former President Trump’s chances of beating President Biden in next year’s general election are worried that long-shot candidates will stay in the race too long and siphon support away from more viable candidates.  

They say the party needs to start winnowing the field earlier than it did in 2016 to help ensure the most electable nominee advances to the general election. 

“I think that’s a pretty practical recommendation,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I think to have a large field is probably not going to help us win the White House back.” 

Cornyn told reporters in May that he didn’t think Trump could win the general election, adding “what’s the most important thing for me is that we have a candidate who can actually win.”  

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairwoman Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who represents the state that will host the first contest of the 2024 primary, said “if we want to win elections, we need to look toward the general election and making sure our candidates are strong and ready to go.” 

“If people can start coalescing and getting the right candidate into place, that would be very helpful,” she said.  

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who has endorsed North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s (R) presidential bid, said he’s worried about fielding a competitive candidate in next year’s general election, reflecting the widespread view within the Senate GOP conference that Trump’s polarizing effect on voters is a potential political liability.   

Asked if Trump would be the strongest candidate in the general election, Cramer said “as a primary voter, personally, I prefer picking somebody who I agree with and can win.” 

“At the end of the day, there’s no point endorsing somebody who can’t win,” he said. “I wish we just move on to something normal and tap into the talent of 340 million Americans and see what else we can come up with.” 

Romney argues that anti-Trump voters and donors waited too long in 2016 to coalesce behind a single alternative to Trump, splitting their support among several candidates and letting Trump cruise to the nomination. 

He says next year fellow Republicans need to ramp up pressure on long-shot candidates to drop out if they fail to reach the front of the pack after the first primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.  

“Republican megadonors and influencers — large and small — are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed,” Romney wrote in the Wall Street Journal Monday.  

Romney told The Hill he targeted his op-ed at major Republican donors, who in the last competitive Republican presidential primary stuck with their favored candidates for too long, splitting up the support of GOP voters who didn’t initially favor Trump.  

“A number of folks have sent me texts or emails saying, ‘Hey, well done, I agree with you,’” he said. “That was really aimed at large donors and hopefully they take that into stride. 

“Donors feel the loyalty to the candidate and the candidates want to stay in. That’s the nature of a politician, which is, ‘I’m going to fight to the end. I’m not a quitter,’” he said.  

Instead, Romney says donors need to intervene for the good of the party, telling long-shot White House hopefuls: “No, no. Put that aside. What’s the right thing for the country, and your party?” 

Nonpartisan pollsters such as David Paleologos, the director of the political research center at Suffolk University, say the biggest challenge Republican rivals face in defeating Trump in next year’s primary is that they are splitting the anti-Trump vote a dozen ways.  

Polls show Trump has a solid share of what Paleologos calls “tier one” voters who know with confidence which candidate they will back next year.  

That means any candidate who would emerge as the leading alternative to Trump has to win over a large majority of “tier two” voters who are less certain about how they will vote in the primaries. The more candidates running, the tougher it would be for any one candidate to attract enough undecided voters to defeat Trump. 

Trump is leading the rest of the Republican field by more than 30 percentage points in an average of recent national polls.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has trended steadily downward in the polls since March 30 as others including entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have gained more support. 

The field also includes Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), former Vice President Mike Pence, former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). 

Romney says GOP donors need to start pushing weak candidates out of the race if they fail to gain traction by Feb. 26, a week before Super Tuesday, when 15 states will cast ballots for president. 

The party nominating rules appear to favor Trump even more than 2016 because at least 17 states will allocate all of their delegates to the winner of its primary or caucus — giving a Trump a chance to rack up a huge lead in delegates even if he wins individual states with a plurality of the vote.  

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) thinks the Republican presidential primary field will start narrowing on its own as donor support begins to dry up for struggling candidates. 

“I think by then the field’s going to naturally … narrow down. I think a lot of people are going to be out of money well before that date,” he said of the Feb. 26 target set by Romney. “In theory it would be nice if you could have some control about all that.” 

But Thune cautioned “it’s hard to tell somebody they have to end their campaign.” 

Thune said it was “a much bigger field” in 2016 and the “dynamics were different” because Republicans were running for an “open seat” after President Barack Obama’s two terms in office. 

But he acknowledged that “a lot of the people who are in” the 2024 presidential primary “are all folks who are wanting to be the anti-Trump.” 

“If they want somebody to be the anti-Trump, then they’re probably going to have get behind somebody, drop out of the race and get behind somebody who actually has a shot,” he said. 

Vulnerable Republicans caught in bind over push to expunge Trump impeachments

The push to expunge former President Trump’s two impeachments is putting vulnerable House Republicans in a tough political spot heading into next year’s election.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is facing growing pressure from the party’s right flank to bring the resolutions to the floor, underscoring the tight grip Trump has on the party as he seeks the GOP nomination for president.

But the moves would also put moderate Republicans at risk, as many of them are running in districts where Trump is highly unpopular. In a sign of just how politically toxic the issue is, some of these Republicans have already started pushing back against the efforts to expunge the impeachments.

“They’re silly,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told The Hill last week. “When do we expunge a not guilty verdict?”

Bacon, who represents a swing district in Nebraska that voted for Biden in 2020, is one of several GOP members representing battleground districts who have voiced frustration over the efforts.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told reporters that he had questions about the purpose of the expungements given the not guilty verdicts, asking, “What is there to expunge?” Lawler’s district comfortably voted for Biden over Trump in 2020.

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) told Politico that he would “probably not” vote for a measure expunging the impeachments. His district narrowly voted for Biden in 2020 but has leaned more in favor of Democratic candidates overall in recent years.

“This is not anything vulnerable Republicans want to talk about on the campaign trail,” said Doug Heye, a national Republican strategist. “They want to focus on all of those issues that have [President] Biden’s popularity so low and not be pulled into some Trump loyalty blood oath.”

McCarthy indicated early in his Speakership that he would consider votes on expunging Trump’s impeachments, but he officially declared his support for the efforts last month.

That came just a day after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) introduced resolutions to expunge the impeachments. Greene’s resolution would annul the first impeachment from December 2019, while Stefanik’s would do the same for the second one from January 2021.

The pressure on McCarthy to move forward with the votes has only intensified recently after comments he made questioning whether Trump was the “strongest” Republican to face President Biden in the 2024 election.

Though he later clarified that he believed Trump is “Biden’s strongest opponent,” Politico reported that he promised the former president to hold the expungement votes ahead of the August recess in an effort to placate him. McCarthy has denied making any promise.

Now, the Speaker finds himself in a precarious position, squeezed between the hard-line members who support Trump and the more moderate members who strategists say don’t want to touch the issue.

Trump was impeached first over a threat that he made to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelensky launched an investigation into Biden. He was impeached the second time just over a year later for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. He was acquitted by the Senate in both cases.

GOP strategists said the issue is becoming something of a third rail for House GOP members in moderate or Democratic-leaning districts.

Heye, the Republican strategist and former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said a vote on expungement would only harm these vulnerable members in their reelection bids regardless of whether they ultimately vote for or against it.

“It’s a no-win situation for at-risk Republicans, which is why they don’t want to even have the vote over something that may not even be constitutional,” Heye said.

But he said he does not expect the vote on expungement will happen because of the divisiveness within the conference and its questionable constitutionality. 

The Constitution states that the House has the “sole power” of impeachment, and officers of the United States can be removed from office upon conviction in an impeachment trial, but it makes no mention of expunging an impeachment or removing it from the historical record.

Rina Shah, a Republican consultant who has identified herself as the first “Never Trump” delegate in 2016, said those in “MAGA world” who most solidly stand by Trump still have significant influence on McCarthy and in the House Republican Conference because of the small donations that their voters are willing to send when they are passionate about a certain issue, like defending Trump.

She said McCarthy is more focused on satisfying the hard-liners and their voters than Trump himself.

“They are the people more likely to send $5 every time they're fired up about something. So Speaker McCarthy, again, trying to walk and chew gum here doesn't have to do this but is doing it so that he can look more like a leader,” Shah said.

She said the issue facing McCarthy is that he needs the votes of the moderate members for Republicans to keep their majority. She said this situation is only one point of an ongoing balancing act for McCarthy between the moderates and hard-liners.

“That is always the conundrum he finds himself in, is how to do this in a way where he’s making members in tough districts, he’s making them happy while at the same time really sticking his neck out to lead,” Shah said.

Tom Doherty, a New York Republican strategist, said the expungement effort is intended to “throw red meat to the base,” but is not focused on protecting moderate New York Republicans like Lawler. 

“In one way, you’ve stood up to the Washington Republican establishment, which is always more conservative than New York Republicans, but on the other hand, you wind up ticking off your voters,” he said.

Despite a disappointing performance for Republicans nationally during the November midterm elections, GOP victories in House districts in states like New York and California were key to the party winning control of the House. These districts will also be among the top targets for Democrats seeking to regain the majority in the body.

Meanwhile, Democrats warned that these more hesitant Republicans could face “accountability” over their refusal to directly speak out to denounce the effort even if they ultimately vote against the resolutions.

Democratic consultant Antjuan Seawright said moderate Republicans are “hoping and praying” that the resolutions do not come to a vote because their choice will affect them either in their primary race or the general election, as has happened before.

“They should all understand that accountability happens at the ballot box … If they do stand with McCarthy and others, forget about voting, just not speaking out loudly against it in the conversation about it, I think there will be an element of accountability for them in the next election cycle,” he said.

Seawright added that he expects more of a “clown circus show” that puts moderates in tough positions as the next election approaches.

Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for House Democrats’ campaign arm, told The Hill that vulnerable Republican incumbents have avoided addressing the multiple indictments facing Trump, and most have avoided directly and publicly condemning the “preposterous” idea of expungement.

“For the few that have desperately tried to distance themselves from it, voters will see it for what it is: empty rhetoric to distract from their long records of defending Trump no matter what,” Shelton said.

GOP strategists for their part warn that expungements votes could just force those Republicans already facing tough elections to have a steeper hill to climb.

“Why would you put folks that had an uphill race to win the first time around, why would you put them in a more difficult situation going forward?” said Doherty, the New York Republican.