Pete McCloskey, GOP congressman who once challenged Nixon, dies at 96

Pete McCloskey — a pro-environment, anti-war California Republican who co-wrote the Endangered Species Act and co-founded Earth Day — has died. He was 96.

A fourth-generation Republican "in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt," he often said, McCloskey represented the 12th Congressional District for 15 years, running for president against the incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972. He battled party leaders while serving seven terms in Congress and went on to publicly disavow the GOP in his later years.


He died at home Wednesday, according to Lee Houskeeper, a family friend.

Years after leaving Washington, McCloskey made one last bid for elective office in 2006 when he challenged Richard Pombo of Northern California’s 11th District in a primary race that McCloskey described as "a battle for the soul of the Republican Party." After losing to Pombo, who had spent most of his tenure in Washington attempting to undo the Endangered Species Act, he threw his support behind Democrat Jerry McNerney, the eventual winner.

"It was foolish to run against him (Pombo), but we didn't have anybody else to do it, and I could not stand what a------ they'd become," the frank-talking former Marine colonel said of the modern GOP in a 2008 interview with The Associated Press.

McCloskey cited disillusionment from influence peddling and ethics scandals under the George W. Bush administration as reasons why he switched parties in 2007 at the age of 79. "A pox on them and their values," he wrote in an open letter explaining the switch to his supporters.

"McCloskey was a rarity in American politics — his actions were guided by his sense of justice, not by political ideology," Joe Cotchett, his law partner since 2004, said in a statement. "He hated inequity and did not hesitate to take on members of his own political party."

Born in Loma Linda, California, on Sept. 29, 1927, as Paul Norton McCloskey Jr., he graduated from South Pasadena High School, where the second baseman made the school's baseball hall of fame, although he self-deprecatingly called himself "perhaps the worst player on the baseball team."

McCloskey joined the Marine Corps as an officer and led a rifle platoon during some of the most intense fighting of the Korean War. He was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism, the nation’s second-highest honor, a Silver Star for bravery in combat and two Purple Hearts.

He earned a law degree from Stanford University and founded an environmental law firm in Palo Alto before making the move to public office. In 1967, he defeated fellow Republican Shirley Temple Black and Democrat Roy Archibald in a special election for the San Mateo County congressional seat.

The left-leaning McCloskey had a thundering presence in Washington, attempting to get onto the floor of the 1972 Republican National Convention during his bid to unseat then-President Nixon on an anti-Vietnam War platform. He ultimately was blocked by a rule written by his friend and law school debate partner, John Ehrlichman, that said a candidate could not get to the floor with fewer than 25 delegates. McCloskey had one.

Still, McCloskey loved to say he finished second.

He would later visit Ehrlichman in prison, where Nixon's former counsel served 1.5 years for conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Watergate break-in that led to the president's resignation.

While in office, McCloskey also was known for befriending Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and criticized Israeli influence on American politics. The congressman was the first to demand Nixon's impeachment, and the first to demand a repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that allowed the Vietnam War.

But his enduring legacy is the Endangered Species Act, which protects species designated as endangered or threatened and conserves the ecosystems on which they depend. McCloskey co-wrote the legislation in 1973, after a campaign by young people empowered by Earth Day activities successfully unseated seven of 12 Congress members known as "The Dirty Dozen" for their anti-environment votes.

"On that day, the world changed," McCloskey recalled in 2008. "Suddenly, everybody was an environmentalist. My Republican colleagues started asking me for copies of old speeches I had given on water and air quality."

"A powerful champion of endangered species, Pete, ironically, became one," said Denis Hayes, co-organizer of the Earth Day, about the rarity of a "green, anti-war Republican."

After 15 years in the House, he lost his run for a Senate seat to Republican Pete Wilson, who went on to be California's governor. He moved back to rural Yolo County, relishing the life of a farmer and part-time attorney.

"You know, if people call you 'congressman' all the time, you'll end up thinking you're smarter than you are," he said.

McCloskey, however, couldn't stay quiet forever.

In 2006, after his unsuccessful race against Pombo, he helped form the Revolt of the Elders Coalition, a group of retired Republican congressmen who pushed to get soldiers more money for college, undo measures that made it tougher to investigate ethics violations and rallied against those who had received funding from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including Pombo.

"If you can do something at age 80 that positively affects our country, you should be proud of it. Otherwise there's no redeeming value in getting older," he said.

McCloskey is survived by his wife, Helen — his longtime press secretary whom he married in 1978 — and four children by his first wife: Nancy, Peter, John and Kathleen.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton can be disciplined for suit to overturn 2020 election, court says

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas appeals court has ruled that Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton can face discipline from the state bar association over his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

A disciplinary committee of the State Bar of Texas accused Paxton in 2022 of making false claims of fraud in a lawsuit that questioned President Joe Biden's victory. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals said Paxton can be sanctioned by the committee because the lawsuit seeks to punish him in his personal capacity as an attorney and not as a public official.


"The focus of the Commission’s allegations is squarely on Paxton’s alleged misconduct — not that of the State," Judge Erin Nowell, an elected Democrat, wrote in the 2-1 opinion.

The lone Republican on the panel, Judge Emily Miskel, was in dissent.

A similar lawsuit was also brought against one of Paxton's top deputies. Earlier this week, a coalition of state Republican attorneys general urged the Texas Supreme Court to reject efforts by the bar to impose discipline. All nine members of the state's highest civil court are Republicans.

"As in that case, we will appeal this ruling and we have full confidence the Supreme Court of Texas will not allow false claims by the State Bar and partisan political revenge to affect professional licensure of the state’s lawyers," Paxton spokeswoman Paige Willey said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the State Bar of Texas and the committee accusing Paxton declined to comment on the ruling.

Paxton is among the highest-profile attorneys to face a threat of sanctions for aiding in efforts led by former President Donald Trump to throw into question Trump's defeat.

The state bar's disciplinary group's punishments against an attorney can range from a written admonition to a suspension or disbarment. The disciplinary process resembles a trial and could include both sides eliciting testimony and obtaining records through discovery.

Paxton is not required to have bar membership in order to serve as attorney general.

State bar officials began investigating complaints over Paxton’s election lawsuit in 2021. A similar disciplinary proceeding was launched by the group against Paxton's top deputy. That case awaits a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court.

Biden hosts Czech leader at White House to promote Ukraine aid amid holdup in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden urged the U.S. House to immediately take up Senate-passed supplemental funding for Ukraine and Israel on Monday as he hosted Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala in the Oval Office.

The visit came as Biden aimed to highlight the efforts other nations are making to support Ukraine. It followed the Czech government’s announcement that it is sending 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine, which Kyiv says is badly needed on the battlefield against Russia's invasion.


"As the Czech Republic remembers, Russia won’t stop at Ukraine," Biden said. He appealed to Congress to pass the supplemental funding so the U.S. could do its part to help Ukraine. "They have to do it now," Biden said.

Fiala praised the U.S. president for his leadership in support of Ukraine, adding, "We are also doing our best."

He said, "In 1968 I saw Russian tanks in the streets of my town, and I don’t want to see this again."

Biden called the Czech Republican a "great ally" in NATO, as Fiala said his country's decision to purchase F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. will "make our cooperation and security much stronger."

Fiala told reporters following his sit-down with Biden that he will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to further discuss Ukraine aid.

"The support from U.S., the help from U.S. is very important," Fiala said.

Committee discourages impeachment of Vermont sheriff accused of kicking suspect

A special legislative committee recommended against impeachment Tuesday of a Vermont sheriff charged with assault for kicking a shackled prisoner but said the sheriff is doing a disservice by remaining in office.

A resolution to be introduced in the House by committee members on Wednesday urges Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore to resign "for the good of the people of Franklin County."

"While the Committee is not recommending articles of impeachment for Sheriff Grismore, they made it clear that Mr. Grismore remaining in office is a detriment to the citizens of Franklin County," House Speaker Jill Krowinski said in a statement. "The Committee heard from many individuals, and while the report lays out a list of concerning actions that are completely unacceptable of an elected official, it does not meet the high bar for impeachment."


Grismore did not immediately return an email seeking comment. He told WCAX-TV that the recommendation not to pursue articles of impeachment is a vindication of what he knew all along.

Grismore was elected sheriff in November 2022, a few months after he was fired from his position as a captain in the sheriff’s department for kicking a shackled prisoner. He pleaded not guilty to a simple assault charge.

Grismore was the only candidate on the ballot after winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations in the Aug. 9, 2022, primary. Just before he took office in February 2023, state police said they were investigating the finances of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and Grismore.

In December, the Vermont Criminal Justice Council found that he violated the state’s use of force policy and voted 15-1 that he permanently lose his law enforcement certification, which means he is unable to enforce the law in Vermont. A special legislative committee was formed last May to investigate possible impeachment.

The committee said in the report released Tuesday that it believes it's important for a sheriff to be able to fulfill law enforcement duties and should get ongoing law enforcement training, which is not available to a decertified officer. It also said it believes that a sheriff should show and uphold "the highest standards of honesty, integrity, conduct, and service."

"Through his conduct prior to taking office and his continued insistence that his use of force was appropriate, Mr. Grismore demonstrates none of these," the committee said.

Quoting Dr. Seuss, ‘Just go, Go, GO!’ federal judge dismisses Blagojevich political comeback suit

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Rod Blagojevich, the ex-governor and ex-con who often dusted off ancient and sometimes puzzling quotations to emphasize his positions, found himself at the other end Thursday when a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit attempting to return to public life by quoting Dr. Seuss: "Just go."

The Chicago Democrat, impeached and removed from office by the General Assembly in 2009, then sentenced to federal prison for political crimes, filed suit in federal court to reverse a ban accompanying his impeachment that prohibits his return to public office.


On Thursday, in a colorful, 10-page smackdown dismissing the action from Chicago, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Seeger debunked the former governor's claims issue by issue, then relied on Dr. Seuss' 1972 book, "Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!" to suggest what Blagojevich should do:

"The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just Go. Go. GO! I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!"

Mark Vargas, a Blagojevich spokesperson, said the ruling was no surprise.

"The people should be able to decide who they want or don't want to represent them," Vargas wrote on X, formerly Twitter, "not federal judges or establishment politicians who are afraid of governors who fight for the people."

He did not say whether Blagojevich, 67, would take further action.

As Illinois governor from 2003 to 2009, Blagojevich was fond of quoting Greek philosophers, Roman statesmen and the Bible (particularly John 8:32: "The truth will set you free.")

He was impeached and removed from office in 2009, then convicted of 17 counts of corruption in 2011, including attempting to sell or trade for political gain the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama upon his election as president. He served eight years behind bars of a 14-year sentence before his sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump in 2020. The Illinois Supreme Court also revoked his law license.

Blagojevich, who routinely joked while governor that he had received a "C" in constitutional law at Pepperdine University Law School, filed the lawsuit in 2021, representing himself. Accompanied by a gaggle of news reporters, cameras and microphones outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, the always impeccably coifed Blagojevich declared, "I’m back."

The federal civil rights complaint sought to reverse the state Senate's impeachment ban on his holding office again, arguing the ban violates the Constitution's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and the First Amendment's protection of the people's fundamental right to vote. "And by that," Seeger explained, "Blagojevich apparently means the fundamental right to vote for him."

"The complaint is riddled with problems," Seeger began. "If the problems were fish in a barrel, the complaint contains an entire school of tuna. It is a target-rich environment. The complaint is an Issue-Spotting Wonderland."

First off, Seeger said that civil rights complaints must be filed against a person, which neither the state of Illinois nor its General Assembly is.

Next, Seeger discussed at length why a federal court cannot intervene in a legislative impeachment proceeding because of the Constitution's separation-of-powers provision. The judge then pointed out that even if the impeachment ban was reversed, Illinois state law still prevents a convicted felon from holding "an office of honor, trust or profit."

The Sixth Amendment, Seeger wrote, applies to criminal trials, not civil trials: impeachment "took away his job, not his liberty," he said.

Further, Blagojevich can't sue to protect the rights of voters. They need to speak for themselves, Seeger said, and "no voter is here hoping to cast a vote for Blagojevich."

Finally, the judge said, Blagojevich might not even have a reason to proceed because when he filed the lawsuit, he said he might want to run again, but hadn't decided. Seeger noted that a legal claim is not "ripe" if it depends on "contingent future events that may not occur."

"The case started with a megaphone, but it ends with a whimper," Seeger concluded. "Sometimes cases in the federal courthouse attract publicity. But the courthouse is no place for a publicity stunt.

"He wants back. But he's already gone. Case dismissed."

Race for Illinois prosecutor seat features former appellate judge, professor with Democratic backing

An open seat to lead the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office has become one of the most spirited races in the Illinois primary with a Democratic matchup between a tough-on-crime judge and an attorney with union and establishment backing.

The Cook County state’s attorney primary features Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former appellate judge with a large campaign war chest, versus Clayton Harris III, a professor and former prosecutor who’s held government posts.

The race is the latest example of how the legacy of progressive Democrats who swept into big city prosecutor offices over the past decade has fractured. Some, including in Los Angeles, face tough reelection bids with blame on progressive policies for perceptions that cities are less safe. Others have resigned or face possible impeachment.


In Chicago, Democrats hoping to replace outgoing State’s Attorney Kim Foxx are walking a line, saying they'll uphold some of her progressive policies while also being critical of her tenure.

"We should be booming, and we’re not because of crime," said O’Neill Burke, who's more openly critical of Foxx. "This is something we can fix."

Meanwhile, Harris says punishments must be appropriate and consider racial disparities: "We can focus on our communities being safe without sacrificing justice."


Neither candidate has high name recognition. But the winner of Tuesday's primary in heavily Democratic Cook County is expected to coast to victory in November.

It’s an open race because Foxx, who easily won her first two elections, declined to run a third time. Her leadership was praised by reformers but also blasted for being soft on crime and the handling of high profile cases like Jussie Smollett.

One campaign issue has been the future of Foxx's controversial policy not to prosecute retail theft as a felony unless the value of the stolen goods is over $1,000. State law sets a $300 felony threshold.

Harris said he’d continue the practice.

"If someone came and took my cellphone, is that cellphone worth a felony on your record? I do not think so," he said. "We look at recidivism. We charge everyone appropriately."

O’Neill Burke said she’d scrap it.

"It doesn’t deter crime, it promotes it," she said of Foxx’s change.

In other cities, progressive policies are also being blamed for crime and homelessness. That’s even as violent crime, including homicides and shootings, has largely fallen in Chicago and nationwide to the same level as before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón survived a nonpartisan primary this month but expects a tough November election. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner faces the possibility of an impeachment trial. In San Francisco, Chesa Boudin was recalled by voters, while St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner resigned.

In the Chicago area, both candidates say Foxx made important strides. The state's attorney's office has more than 700 attorneys and is the largest after Los Angeles.

O’Neill Burke said she’d continue restorative justice efforts for young people and credited Foxx with diversifying the workforce. Harris has held up Foxx’s conviction review unit, which has overturned wrongful convictions, as a national model.

Harris says the prosecutor must improve the relationship with law enforcement.

On the campaign trail, he's talked about his personal life as a Black man raising children on Chicago’s South Side, as well as his professional experience in helping run government and lobbying elected leaders.

"Being a Black man. I’ve been pulled over before for no reason," he said. "We can have safe communities without being racially profiled."

Harris has scrutinized O’Neill Burke’s record as an assistant state’s attorney. He's put a spot spotlight on a decades-old murder case where O’Neill Burke, who is white, helped prosecute a Black child on charges he murdered an older white woman when he was 10 years old.

The conviction was thrown out by a federal judge who found the boy’s confession was coerced by police and taken without a parent or attorney present.

O’Neill Burke now says she’ll advocate for stronger legal protections for children under interrogation, but she wouldn’t change her work on the 1994 case as the boy’s attorney and parents were in court when he took the stand and repeated the confession.

"No one has ever questioned my conduct in this case or any case," she said, calling Harris’ campaign ads about the case a "distraction" for voters.

Harris disagrees.

"Instead of acknowledging that mistakes were made, there has been a doubling down," he said. "That’s the wrong attitude to have."

When it comes to fundraising, O’Neill Burke is ahead, with roughly double the amount of Harris, just under $2 million compared to roughly $750,000. Her sum includes money from top Republican donors.

But Harris has picked up hefty endorsements from labor unions, progressive leaders and the Cook County Democratic Party.


His Democratic ties are a top target for O’Neill Burke.

Harris was briefly a chief of staff for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, helping oversee the office after Blagojevich was arrested and ultimately convicted. Harris wasn't accused of wrongdoing.

O’Neill Burke deems Harris a "Democratic insider" while attempting to tie his lobbyist work to Republicans who oppose abortion. Her campaign promises including creating a unit within the prosecutor’s office to protect abortion rights.

"I’ve spent every single day for the last 30 years in a courtroom from every vantage point. That’s a significant advantage," she said in an interview. "He has spent a career answering to politicians and you cannot answer to a politician in this job."

Also running in the primary is Republican former Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who lost a 2020 bid for the office.

Former GOP Congressman Justin Amash announces bid for Michigan US Senate seat

Former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who left the GOP in 2019 after calling for the impeachment of then-President Donald Trump, announced a Republican bid for Michigan's U.S. Senate seat Thursday.

Amash represented Grand Rapids from 2011 to 2021, and he becomes the third former U.S. representative to join the Republican field vying for Michigan’s open Senate seat. Former U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers and Peter Meijer have also announced Republican campaigns, as has businessman Sandy Pensler.

"I’m convinced that no candidate would be better positioned to win both the Republican primary and the general election," Amash said on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. "That’s why, today, I’m making it official: I’m joining the race for United States Senate in Michigan."


The decision to jump into the Republican primary comes after Amash left the party to become an independent. He had been the lone House Republican to support a Trump impeachment inquiry in 2019.

He opted not to seek reelection to Congress after his fifth term and to instead pursue a Libertarian nomination for president. At the time, Amash said that millions of Americans do not feel well represented by either major political party.

Amash seems to have come back to the party, but he promised in his announcement to be "an independent-minded senator prepared to challenge anyone and everyone on the people’s behalf," if elected.

Amash, whose father is Palestinian and his mother Syrian, was the first Palestinian American lawmaker to serve in the U.S. Congress. Earlier this year, Amash said on social media that several relatives were killed when an Israeli airstrike struck a church in Gaza City.

Michigan's U.S. Senate race is expected to be the lone competitive open seat in the country this year. Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced last January that she would not seek reelection after having served in the upper chamber since 2001.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is considered the favorite to win the nomination and has dominated other candidates in fundraising — bringing in $11.7 million between her campaign launch in February 2023 and the end of that year.

Rogers, who served seven terms in the U.S. House, has led all Republicans in fundraising. The Republican race is expected to be highly competitive, with Meijer and Pensler each having the ability to at least partially self-fund their campaigns. Former Detroit police Chief James Craig dropped his Republican bid earlier this month.


Amash and Meijer — who are both from Grand Rapids — will each face the difficult task of overcoming past support for impeachments of Trump. Meijer was among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 after the deadly mob siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump wields significant influence over Republicans in Michigan, and his endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat has the potential to dramatically impact the outcome of the race.

The GOP has not won a Michigan U.S. Senate race since 1994.

Defending the Michigan seat could prove crucial for Democrats in their effort to maintain the Senate, where the party holds a 51-49 majority and also faces tough headwinds as they defend seats in Republican-leaning states from West Virginia to Montana and Ohio.

Utah school board member who questioned a student’s gender censured by lawmakers

The Utah Legislature voted Thursday to censure a conservative member of the state Board of Education whose social media post questioning the gender of a high school basketball player triggered threats against the girl and led state officials to call for the board member's resignation.

Lawmakers passed a resolution condemning the actions of Natalie Cline a day after the Utah State Board of Education voted unanimously to strip Cline of her committee assignments and nearly all administrative responsibilities. The board will no longer allow Cline to attend meetings or place items on the agenda, and her colleagues have asked her to resign by Feb. 19.

The legislative reprimand, which now heads to the governor's desk, carries no real punishment but is a formal way for lawmakers to express their disapproval. The measure received unanimous support in the Senate after passing the House with only two votes against, one from a Democrat and the other from a Republican.


Both the Legislature and Board of Education have left it up to Cline whether to resign or remain in her role with limited authority. She is up for reelection in November. Democrats had urged the Republican legislative leaders to punish Cline more harshly, either by impeaching her or by allowing the board to impeach her — a power it does not currently have.

Cline, who had previously come under investigation for inflammatory comments about LGBTQ+ students, singled out the Salt Lake City athlete in a Facebook post that falsely insinuated the girl was transgender. After she learned that the girl was not trans, Cline apologized for provoking a firestorm of vulgar comments.

House Speaker Mike Schultz, a Hooper Republican, said ahead of the vote that members of his chamber were "scattered" on whether to impeach Cline or allow voters to decide her future in the fall.

"If this body moves ahead with impeachment, this blows up like a mushroom cloud on the national stage," Schultz said. "The hate that you’re seeing directed toward that family right now then becomes national. That’s a hard decision to make."

House Minority Leader Angela Romero said she was frustrated that Republican leaders cut off debate before she could propose an amendment that would instead initiate impeachment proceedings. She and her fellow Democrats nonetheless overwhelmingly voted in favor of the resolution to censure Cline.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters Thursday that he supports the board's forceful censure and thinks it effectively has the same impact as impeachment. He had urged the board to take action against Cline, saying she "embarrassed the state."

Even when she apologized, Cline defended her initial suspicions, saying that a national push to normalize transgender identities makes it "normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are."

Cox pushed back Thursday against criticisms from LGBTQ+ rights advocates who argue he and Republican lawmakers enabled Cline's behavior by passing a transgender bathroom ban that they say gives people license to question someone's gender.

"Even if this young person was transgender, it would still have been inappropriate," Cox said. "That is not who we are or what we should be doing."

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Cline argued the board was taking away her right to represent her constituents without due process. She wrote that she did not have enough time to read all the materials and create a response before Wednesday’s meeting.

The board determined that Cline violated policies requiring members to respect student privacy and to uphold state educator standards, which include not participating in sexual or emotional harassment of students and treating students with dignity and respect.

The board's resolution said Cline allowed negative comments about the girl to remain on her social media page while comments in support of the student were deleted, which together "appeared to constitute cyberbullying as defined" in Utah law.

In a letter published Thursday in The Salt Lake Tribune, the girl’s parents, Al and Rachel van der Beek, also urged Cline to resign and called for her impeachment.


"Ms. Cline did the very thing we teach our children not to do — she blasted social media without fact checking, which ultimately led to a barrage of hateful and despicable comments that were directed at our daughter that lasted for more than 16 hours," the letter said. "It was one of the most painful things we’ve had to endure."

RNC to convene privately, resolution to call Donald Trump the ‘presumptive nominee’ removed

The Republican National Committee is meeting behind closed doors this week as some allies of Donald Trump had hoped to put the group's stamp on the former president early in the 2024 GOP presidential nominating campaign.

But a proposed resolution to declare Trump the presumptive nominee has been removed from the agenda before the committee is scheduled to meet in Las Vegas this week, party officials said.

The reversal comes as the first two early-state contests have winnowed the Republican campaign down to two major candidates, with Trump as the heavy favorite and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley vowing to continue her uphill challenge.


What was expected to be an uneventful RNC winter meeting in Las Vegas this week briefly gained heightened attention last week after the resolution, introduced by Maryland Committeeman David Bossie, to name Trump the presumptive nominee became public.

Bossie was Trump's deputy campaign manager in 2016 and advised his team when Congress pursued a second impeachment after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Within hours of the resolution's leak, Trump batted down the proposal, which some members of the committee criticized publicly as premature.

"While they have far more votes than necessary to do it, I feel, for the sake of PARTY UNITY, that they should NOT go forward with this plan," Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social.

There is no formal RNC rule barring the party from declaring a presumptive nominee. And there is precedent for such a move. In 2016, then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the presumptive nominee after the Indiana primary, though that was in May and Trump had battled Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for three months since Cruz finished first in the leadoff Iowa caucuses ahead of second-place Trump.

The Associated Press only uses the term once a candidate has captured the number of delegates needed to win a majority vote at the national party conventions this summer.

That point won’t come until after more states have voted. For both Republicans and Democrats, the earliest it could happen is March.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel suggested last week that Haley had no path to the nomination in light of Trump's majority vote totals in the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses and the Jan. 23 New Hampshire primary.

"We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump, and we need to make sure we beat Joe Biden," McDaniel said in a Fox News interview the night of the New Hampshire primary.

Haley said Sunday during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the RNC was "clearly not" an honest broker "if you're going to go and basically tell the American people that you're going to go and decide who the nominee is after only two states have voted."

"The American people want to have their say in who is going to be their nominee," she said. "We need to give them that. I mean, you can’t do that based on just two states."

Wisconsin Republican push to impeach elections official faces internal opposition

A Republican attempt to impeach Wisconsin's nonpartisan top elections official is nothing more than "a big show for the cameras" and will be ignored, the Assembly's GOP majority leader said Thursday.

Several Republican lawmakers, including the state Senate president, have called for Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe to be impeached over her handling of the 2020 election won by President Biden. The Senate voted in October to fire Wolfe but later admitted that the vote was symbolic and had no legal effect.

In the Assembly, state Rep. Janel Brandtjen has introduced a resolution to impeach Wolfe. As of Thursday, it had just five co-sponsors in addition to Brandtjen. It would require 50 votes to pass.


Brandtjen tried in vain on Tuesday to be recognized to speak in an attempt to get a vote on her proposal. Brandtjen, who has endorsed discredited conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, accused Republican leaders of being "Administrator Wolfe's PR team."

During a news conference before Thursday's session, Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August said Brandtjen's proposal would not be voted on because it doesn't have enough support to get out of committee or be approved by a majority of the Assembly.

"We have a process that has been utilized in this building for decades of how to bring a bill or a resolution to the floor," August said. "And that’s the process that we’ll continue to use."

August said if Brandtjen has enough support to bring the measure forward for a vote, she can.

"But the fact is she doesn’t," August said. "Our caucus is focused on real things, not grifting and not making a big show for the cameras. And that’s all she’s interested in doing."

Even as the impeachment effort stalls, Republicans have called for Wolfe to be replaced. But she has said she will remain in her post at least through the November election.


Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is being targeted for recall by supporters of former President Donald Trump, in part over his opposition to the Wolfe impeachment. Trump in November posted a news release on his social media platform Truth Social from Brandtjen criticizing Vos for not doing more to remove Wolfe.

The Assembly can only vote to impeach state officials for corrupt conduct in office or for committing a crime or misdemeanor. If a majority of the Assembly were to vote to impeach, the case would move to a Senate trial in which a two-thirds vote would be required for conviction.

Although Wolfe is the administrator of elections, it is the more than 1,800 local clerks who actually run elections in the presidential battleground state. The commission she oversees is run by a bipartisan board with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Brandtjen and others who support impeaching Wolfe had pushed for decertification of Biden's 2020 win. Biden defeated Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, an outcome that has withstood two partial recounts, a nonpartisan audit, a conservative law firm’s review, and multiple state and federal lawsuits.