Liz Cheney isn’t the most important thing about her primary loss. It’s about the Republican Party

As expected, Rep. Liz Cheney lost her primary by a large margin Tuesday night, purely for the sin of speaking out against Donald Trump’s coup attempt. That was enough to have her Republican In Good Standing card stripped despite her reliably conservative positions on everything else. It just can’t be said enough: The desire to overturn an election, or at least the willingness to flirt with it, is a requirement for status in the Republican Party in 2022.

It’s not just Cheney, though she is the most prominent case. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2021. Just two will remain in Congress after this year, with four having lost primaries and four having decided to retire (before they could lose a primary).

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RELATED STORY: Top Republican candidates in some battleground states are running to overturn the next election

Top Republicans didn’t just fail to support an incumbent in a primary. They didn’t just actively support a primary challenger to an incumbent. They actively and publicly celebrated Cheney’s loss.

“Congratulations to @HagemanforWY on her MASSIVE primary victory to restore the PEOPLE of Wyoming’s voice,” Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted, noting that she had joined Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in endorsing Harriet Hageman. Stefanik, of course, replaced Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican when Cheney’s ex-communication from the party really got rolling.

”Girl, BYE,” was all Rep. Lauren Boebert had to say. Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul capped his tweet celebrating Hageman’s win with a “Bye Liz.”

This level of venom is spurred not by broad policy disagreement but by Cheney’s disloyalty in refusing to embrace the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, or at least keep her mouth shut about her opposition to that. That’s it. That’s all. It’s a staggering statement about today’s Republican Party.

There’s a lot of debate among Democrats about how to assess Cheney. Is she a hero? Is she just meeting the minimum bar of not supporting coups? But Cheney isn’t the point. The point is that, among Republicans, Cheney’s courage in adhering to the idea that the outcome of elections should be respected stands out, and her willingness to keep talking and name names stands out still more. Yes, everyone in office should be where she is on the basic question of whether the winner of the presidential election should become president, but they’re not. Far from it.

Cheney: Two years ago. I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear. But it would've required that I go along with president trump's lie about the 2020 election.. That was a path I could not and would not take. pic.twitter.com/vRq0Fdz4x1

— Acyn (@Acyn) August 17, 2022

Morning Digest: Liz Cheney goes down in defeat, but Sarah Palin’s comeback campaign is unresolved

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WY-AL, AK-AL: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney lost Tuesday’s Republican primary 66-29 to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, but we’re going to need to wait another two weeks to learn who prevailed in Alaska’s instant-runoff special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

With 150,000 ballots tabulated early Wednesday, which the Associated Press estimates represents 69% of the total vote, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola leads with 38% as two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, grab 32% and 29%, respectively; the balance is made up of write-in votes.

The Last Frontier allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they're received through the end of the month, so these margins may shift: State election officials say they plan to have updated results on Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher's votes to the two remaining candidates.

No matter what, though, Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all be on the ballot again in the November instant-runoff election for a full two-year term along with one other competitor. (This special election only had three candidates because independent Al Gross dropped out shortly after taking third in the June special top-four primary.)

Tuesday was also the day that Alaska held its top-four primaries for statewide and legislative offices, and the results of the House race so far closely resemble the special tallies: Peltola is in first with 35%, Palin second with 31%, and Begich third at 27%. Another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, leads Libertarian Chris Bye 4-1 for fourth, but the AP has not called the final spot in the general.

While it will take some time to know the winner in Alaska, though, there was no suspense about what would happen with Cheney in dark-red Wyoming. The congresswoman just two years ago was the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership and a strong contender to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker, but she instantly became a national party pariah when she voted to impeach Trump; Cheney went on to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack along with just one other Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Trump and his allies made defeating Cheney a top priority, and his “Bachelor” style endorsement process eventually resulted in him supporting Hageman, who had placed third in the 2018 primary for governor. (Politico relays that Trump’s team originally considered backing her in a prospective rematch against Gov. Mark Gordon.) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth went on to fall in line behind Hageman, a one-time Trump skeptic who now embraces the Big Lie.

Cheney’s defeat makes her the eighth House Republican to lose renomination this year compared to four Democrats so far. The Wyoming result also means that at least eight of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment will not be going back to Congress next year because of primary losses and retirements: Only California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced through their respective top-two primaries, though Valadao still has to win his competitive general election against Democrat Rudy Salas.

But Cheney didn’t show any regret about what happened to her once promising career in Republican politics. She proclaimed in her concession speech that “now, the real work begins” and pledged she “will do whatever it takes to ensure Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”

election recaps

 AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, advanced through the top-four primary as expected, though the AP has not yet called the other two spots for the November instant-runoff general election. Murkowski holds a 44-40 edge over her Trump-backed foe as of Wednesday morning, while Democrat ​​Pat Chesbro, who is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, is well behind with 6%. A pair of little-known Republicans, Buzz Kelley and Pat Nolin, are taking 2% and 1%, respectively.

 AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will face former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker in the fall, but it remains to be seen who will be the fourth general election candidate. Dunleavy is in first with 42%, while Gara and Walker are grabbing 22% each. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce holds a 7-4 edge for fourth over state Rep. Christopher Kurka in a race where both Republicans are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.

 WY-Gov: Gov. Mark Gordon didn’t come close to losing his Republican primary, but he still scored an unimpressive 62-30 victory over Brent Bien, a retired Marine colonel who campaigned against the incumbent’s pandemic health measures. Gordon should have no trouble in the fall against the Democratic nominee, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Theresa Livingston.

 WY-SoS: State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist who has insisted the 2020 vote was “clearly rigged,” beat state Sen. Tara Nethercott 50-41 in the Republican primary to serve as secretary of state. Wyoming Democrats did not field a candidate here.

Senate

FL-Sen: The University of North Florida’s newest survey finds Democratic Rep. Val Demings leading Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-44, which is actually better for Team Blue than the tie that two different pro-Demings polls recently showed. This is the first independent survey we’ve seen since winter, and quite a departure from the 46-34 Rubio advantage UNF had in February. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes that the school obtained its sample by emailing a list of registered voters, which he calls a “​​pretty unusual design.”

NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02: Saint Anselm College gives us a rare look at the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, which is the last competitive Senate primary in the nation, as well as Team Red's nomination contests for New Hampshire's two Democratic-held congressional districts. Before we get into the results, though, we need to note that the school asked several issue questions about abortion before it got to the horserace: We always encourage pollsters to ask these sorts of questions after the horserace to avoid "priming" voters to lean one way or the other.

We'll begin with the Senate question, where Donald Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who lost the 2020 nomination for New Hampshire's other Senate seat, posts a 32-16 advantage against state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith are far back with just 4% each, while author Vikram Mansharamani notches 2%; a 39% plurality remains undecided with less than a month to go.

This is the first poll we've seen here since April, when the University of New Hampshire had Bolduc beating Smith 33-4. Prominent national groups haven't taken sides here, but Bolduc so far has not run a particularly impressive campaign two years after his 50-42 loss. The frontrunner had a mere $70,000 in the bank at the end of June, and he spent last year accusing Gov. GOP Chris Sununu of being a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."

Bolduc also has ardently embraced the Big Lie, saying at a recent debate, "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it]." He has plenty of company, though, as Morse is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked Tuesday if the 2020 election was stolen. Bolduc would also prefer this be the last New Hampshire Senate election in history: Both he and Fenton have called for repealing the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to elect their senators in 1913.

Bolduc's many rivals, though, have considerably more resources available as they try to get their names out in the final weeks of the campaign. Fenton finished the second quarter with a $1.63 million war chest, though almost all of that was self-funded. Morse and Mansharamani had $980,000 and $790,000, respectively, with Smith holding $350,000.

Turning to the 1st District, Saint Anselm College shows 2020 nominee Matt Mowers edging out former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt 25-21 in his bid for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas. Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown and state Rep. Tim Baxter are well behind with 9% and 8%, respectively, with former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott clocking in at 2%. The lead still goes to unsure, though, as 33% did not select a candidate.

Mowers has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he finished June with a modest $820,000 to $670,000 cash-on-hand edge over Leavitt. Biden carried both the old and new version of this eastern New Hampshire constituency 52-46 (the court-drawn congressional map made only tiny changes to both of the state's districts after Sununu thwarted efforts by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to make the 1st considerably redder), while Pappas defeated Mowers 51-46 last time.

Finally in the 2nd District, the school finds a hefty 65% undecided in the GOP primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel just 12-10 while another 8% goes to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado. (She earned 4% against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.)

Hansel has the backing of Sununu, and he ended the last quarter with a $300,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, with Burns holding $100,000. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.

Governors

FL-Gov: The University of North Florida finds Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried beating Rep. Charlie Crist 47-43 in next week's Democratic primary, which makes this the first poll to give her the edge all year. Crist quickly responded by releasing a Change Research survey that gave him a 47-37 advantage, which is only a little larger than the 42-35 Crist lead that Fried's own internal from Public Policy Polling showed just last week. An early August St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics had Crist up 56-24.

UNF also takes a look at the general election and has Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpacing Crist and Fried 52-40 and 50-43, respectively.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College also surveyed the general election for governor, and it finds Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beating Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman 48-29. An early July Sherman internal from Public Policy Polling put the governor's lead at a smaller, though still wide, 43-33. The school looks at the Sept. 13 GOP primary as well, but it shows Sununu with a huge 68-6 lead over perennial candidate Karen Testerman.

House

NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones has launched the first negative TV spot of next week's Democratic primary against attorney Dan Goldman, a self-funder who is the only other candidate with the resources to air television ads; Jones' team tells Politico that he's putting $500,000 into this late effort.

The commercial frames the crowded contest as a straight-up choice between "conservative Dan Goldman" or "progressive Mondaire Jones." The narrator goes on to contrast the two, saying, "Dan Goldman has dangerous views on abortion; Mondaire Jones is 100% pro-choice, the best record in Congress." She goes on to argue that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," while the 17th District congressman stood up to the NRA and Republicans.

The spot doesn't go into detail about its charges against Goldman, but Politico provides some background. The candidate last month sat down for an interview with Hamodia's Reuvain Borchardt and was asked, "Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?" Goldman responded, "I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions."

Goldman later said he "would not object" when Borchardt inquired if he'd be alright with a state law that would ban abortion if "there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy." However, the candidate then had a conversation with an aide who was also present at the interview, and Borchardt writes that "from that point forward Goldman's responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all."

Jones and Goldman's other rivals were quick to go on the attack after the article was published, while Goldman himself insisted he'd "misspoke" and "unequivocally support[s] a woman's right to choose."

As for this ad's charges that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," the New York Daily News recently explained that he has stock in, among many other companies, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and News Corp. A spokesperson said, "Dan does not manage his money … It is handled by a broker, and is designed to mirror the S&P 500."

NY-19 (special): DCCC Analytics has dropped an internal showing Republican Marc Molinaro edging out Democrat Pat Ryan 46-43 in next week's special election. The last poll we saw was a late July Triton Polling & Research survey for Molinaro's allies at the right-wing Freedom Council USA, and it gave their man a larger 50-40 advantage.

PA-08: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is out with an internal from GQR Research that shows him defeating Republican Jim Bognet 52-46 in their rematch for a northeastern Pennsylvania constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48. The only other poll we've seen here was a late June survey for Bognet and the NRCC that put the Republican ahead 46-45.

Cartwright held off Bognet 52-48 last cycle as Trump was prevailing in the old 8th District 52-47, a win that made him one of just seven House Democrats to hold a Trump district. The congressman has taken to the airwaves early for 2022, and Politico's Ally Mutnick relays that he's already spent $415,000 on TV for the general election. Bognet, by contrast, on Tuesday began running his first spot since he won the May primary, a joint ad with the NRCC that ties Cartwright to Scranton native Joe Biden.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: MassInc has surveyed the Sept. 6 Democratic statewide primaries for Responsible Development Coalition, and it finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin leading Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 43-15, which is larger than the 38-25 advantage he posted in a late June poll from YouGov for UMass Amherst. Responsible Development Coalition is funded in part by the Carpenters Union, which backs Galvin.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The FBI on Tuesday arrested former Rep. TJ Cox, a California Democrat who won his sole term in a huge 2018 upset, for "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud." Politico says that these charges carry a combined 20-year maximum prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 through 2018 Cox "​​illicitly obtained over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments he solicited and then stole." They also say that he broke campaign finance laws by funneling money to friends and family and having them contribute it to his campaign as "part of a scheme and plan to demonstrate individual campaign donations as preferred over the candidate's personal loans or donations to his campaign."

Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in 2018 in the 21st Congressional District in the Central Valley, but he lost their tight rematch two years later. Cox initially announced in December of 2020 that he'd run again, but, in a development that now comes as a massive relief for his party, he ultimately decided not to go for it.

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Morning Digest: Democratic ads hit extreme anti-choice GOP candidates with their own words

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Tennessee held its primary Thursday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a recap in our next Digest.

Leading Off

Abortion: We wondered shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned in late June if Democratic campaigns would continue to focus hard on abortion rights this cycle, and the answer is a resounding yes. Team Blue is airing new commercials in the races for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat and governor of Michigan that each use footage of the newly minted Republican nominees, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon, expressing extreme anti-choice views, while Team Blue has also kept up the offensive in other races across the country.

We'll start in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly quickly opens with clips of Masters proclaiming, "I think Roe v. Wade was wrong. It's always been wrong … It's a religious sacrifice to these people, I think it's demonic." The audience later hears the Republican argue, "The federal government needs to step in and say no state can permit abortion … You make it illegal and you punish the doctors."

Kelly's allies at Senate Majority PAC are also hammering Masters on abortion rights in a new $1.2 million ad campaign, though they're adopting a different messaging strategy. The commercial stars a woman identified as Brianna who explains, "Three years ago, I had an ectopic pregnancy, and if I didn't make it into the OR within a couple minutes, I was going to bleed out and die." She continues, "But according to Blake Masters, that's just too bad. He wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother." Brianna ends by saying that if Masters had his way, her three children would have lost their mother.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a DGA-backed group called Put Michigan First makes use of a debate clip where Dixon answers in the negative when asked, "Are you for the exemptions for rape and incest?" The spot then plays footage of podcaster Charlie LeDuff asking the candidate, "The question would be like, a 14-year-old who, let's say, is a victim of abuse by an uncle, you're saying carry that?" Dixon responds, "Yeah, perfect example." When Dixon is asked in an interview with MIRS if she'd provide an exception for "health of the mother," she replies, "No exceptions."

Over in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's commercial takes Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans to task for celebrating when Roe was overturned. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is airing a spot where several women warn that, under a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, they could be "investigated and imprisoned for a miscarriage."

And back in Arizona, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs proclaims she'll "protect a woman's right to choose, fix our schools, and lower costs." Other recent Hobbs ads also attack each of the GOP frontrunners, former TV news anchor Kari Lake and Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, for opposing abortion rights. (Hobbs began airing her ads as Tuesday's GOP primary was still too close to call.)

Republicans, by contrast, have been reluctant to discuss abortion at all in their general election commercials even before this week's big defeat for anti-choice forces in Kansas. One notable exception came last month when Mark Ronchetti, who is Team Red's nominee for governor of New Mexico, argued that his policy to restrict the procedure to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy was reasonable and that Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham was "extreme" for supporting "abortion up to birth."

Most Republicans, though, remain content to avoid the topic altogether. Masters, for his part, is spending at least $650,000 on an opening general election ad campaign starring his wife, who says he's running because he loves the country and the state. (Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin points out that Masters just days ago was campaigning as a conservative border warrior who warned, "There's a genocide happening in America.") The RGA, meanwhile, is attacking Hobbs on border security―but not abortion.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Blake Masters' allies at Saving Arizona PAC have dusted off a mid-July internal from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly 49-44, which is identical to what OnMessage Inc. found in a more recent survey for another conservative group. Both firms are releasing these unfavorable numbers to argue that the political climate will be a big asset to Masters.

Governors

FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls' newest survey for Florida Politics finds Rep. Charlie Crist beating Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in a 56-24 landslide in the first poll we've seen in nearly a month for the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.

Fried's allied PAC, meanwhile, is running the first negative commercial of the race, and it goes after Crist for appointing an "anti-choice extremist" to the state Supreme Court when he was Florida's Republican governor. The spot also features footage from this year of Crist saying, "I'm still pro-life," though it doesn't include him continuing, "meaning I'm for life. I hope most people are." (Crist used that same interview to express his regret over his anti-abortion judicial picks.) Politico says the spot is airing in the Orlando market, which covers about 20% of the state.

RI-Gov: Gov. Dan McKee has secured an endorsement from RI Council 94, which is Rhode Island's largest state employee union, for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, meanwhile, has earned the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, which is one of the state's two teachers unions: The other, the NEA, is for McKee.

WI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tim Michels said just one month ago that "[w]hen politicians are shocked to find themselves losing, they go negative out of desperation," but you can probably guess what he's now doing days ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary. Yep, the Trump-endorsed candidate is airing his first attack ad against former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, whom Michels' narrator dubs "the ultimate Madison insider" and a "[p]ro-China, pro-amnesty, anti-Trump politician."

Kleefisch and her allies went on the offensive in early July, with the former lieutenant governor arguing that Michels "pushed for years to raise our gas tax while getting rich from massive government contracts." That prompted Michels to put out a statement bemoaning that "it is sad that the former Lieutenant Governor has decided to go negative by falling in line with politics as usual."

The anti-tax Club for Growth was all too happy to attack Kleefisch last month, but Michels himself insisted as recently as Monday that he was still taking the high road. "I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race," he said, explaining, "And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition." Michels added, "And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you."

So why did Michels decide to court disrespect and try out some "bad policy" just days later? Kleefisch's team, of course, told the Associated Press' Scott Bauer that this about-face proves their candidate "has all the momentum." Michels' own spokesperson, though, also hinted that they felt the ads were doing them some real damage, arguing, "When your opponent does that for weeks on end, it can't go unanswered forever."

Unfortunately, we have almost no recent polling to indicate if either of the candidates campaigning to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are going "negative out of desperation." The one and only survey we've seen in the last month was a mid-July internal for a pro-Michels group that had him up 43-35, numbers that are quite dusty now.

Whatever the case, things may get a whole lot uglier on Friday when Trump, who has zero qualms about "talking bad about the competition," holds his pre-primary rally in Waukesha County. (You may have heard a few jokes about it if you've ever logged onto Twitter in the last decade.) We got a taste for Trump's dislike of the former lieutenant last month when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice reported that Trump used his April meeting with Michels to bring up a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn.

The elder Hagedorn went straight to the MAGA doghouse the next year when he provided the crucial vote to stop Trump's attempts to steal the election, and Bice reports that he was upset about the photo of the two teenagers. Kleefisch, who has trashed the justice herself, responded by declaring, "I'm outraged my opponent would use a photo of my underage daughter for political ammunition in order to score an endorsement." However, unnamed sources told Bice that Michels didn't actually know about the picture before Trump himself raised the topic ahead of his "little rant" against Brian Hagedorn.  

House

CO-03: Democrat Adam Frisch has released an internal from Keating Research that shows him trailing far-right freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert 49-42 in a western Colorado seat that Trump would have taken by a similar 53-45 spread.

FL-10: Both the state AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association have endorsed gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost ahead of the busy Democratic primary on Aug. 23.

FL-13: The Club for Growth is airing what appears to be the first negative TV ad of the Aug. 23 GOP primary, and its piece rips Kevin Hayslett as a "trial lawyer" who was disloyal to Donald Trump in 2016. The broadside comes days after Hayslett released an internal that showed him trailing 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, whom both the Club and Trump are supporting, only 36-34.

The narrator informs the audience, "While Hillary's campaign called Trump a fraud, Hayslett declared it was 'ludicrous' Trump had not released his tax records." The commercial concludes that Hayslett, whose offense doesn't seem to have gone further than Facebook posts, is "guilty of aiding and abetting the Democrats to assault Donald Trump."

Hayslett himself launched his own negative spot around the same time arguing that it's Luna who's the GOP heretic. The audience is treated to footage of Luna saying, "I always agreed with President Obama's immigration policies," and favoring a "pathway to citizenship."

IN-02: A special election will take place this year to succeed Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, who died in a car crash on Wednesday, though it’s not yet clear when it will be and how the GOP nominee will be chosen. Almost everyone expects the special to coincide with the Nov. 8 general election, but it’s up to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to set the date. Trump carried the existing version of this northern Indiana seat 59-39, while he took the redrawn version by a similar 60-37 spread.

It will be up to the local GOP leadership to choose a new nominee for the special and regular two-year term, and Fox’s Chad Pergram explains that state law requires that any vacancy on the ballot “shall be filled by appointment by the district chairman of the political party.” The chair of the 2nd District Republican Party, though, was Zach Potts, a Walorski aide who was also killed in the collision.

MN-03: Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips is out with a poll from GQR giving him a hefty 57-36 edge over Navy veteran Tom Weiler, who has next week's Republican primary to himself. Biden would have carried this suburban Twin Cities constituency 59-39, though Weiler's allies are hoping that a GOP wave could reverse the dramatic Trump-era gains Democrats made in this once-swingy area.

MN-05: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, whose city makes up about 60% of this constituency, has endorsed former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels' bid against Rep. Ilhan Omar in next week's Democratic primary. Omar backed the mayor's two main rivals in last year's instant runoff race, though Frey ended up winning re-election convincingly. Frey and Samuels also defeated a 2021 ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, while Omar supported the "Yes" side.

NY-10: Impact Research's internal for attorney Dan Goldman shows him leading Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou 18-16 in the packed Aug. 23 Democratic primary, with New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones at 14% and 10%, respectively. Other polls have found different candidates ahead, but they all agree with Impact that a hefty plurality are undecided. 

NY-16: Former Rep. Eliot Engel has endorsed Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi's Democratic primary campaign against the man who unseated him two years ago, freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Gashi also earned the backing of Nita Lowey who, unlike Engel, left the House voluntarily last year after decades of service. About three-quarters of this seat's denizens live in the old 16th District where Bowman upset Engel, while the balance reside in Lowey's old turf.

NY-23: Barry Zeplowitz and Associates has conducted a survey that gives state GOP chair Nick Langworthy a 39-37 edge over 2010 gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino in this month's primary, which is dramatically different from Paladino's 54-24 lead in his own mid-July internal from WPA Intelligence. Veteran pollster Barry Zeplowitz said he conducted this new poll independently, though Paladino quickly called foul and attacked Zeplowitz for donating $99 to his rival.

"So because I gave $99 to a candidate who asked and gave nothing to a second candidate who did not, the poll is a complete scam?" Zeplowitz asked rhetorically, adding, "Mr. Paladino should be thanking me for giving his campaign a heads-up that he is involved in a toss-up. Let the best man win."

WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney's newest commercial for the Aug. 16 GOP primary opens with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, proclaiming, "In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump." Every poll that's been released shows the younger Cheney badly losing to Trump's pick, attorney Harriet Hageman, in what was the Trumpiest state in the nation in both 2016 and 2020.  

Prosecutors

Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Seven candidates are competing in next week's officially nonpartisan primary to replace retiring incumbent Mike Freeman as the top prosecutor in Minnesota's largest county, but campaign finance reports show that only three of them have access to a serious amount of money. The two contenders with the most votes will advance to the November general election.

The top fundraiser through July 25 by far was state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who took in $230,000 and has several unions on his side. Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty raised a smaller $140,000, but she sports high-profile endorsements from local Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party.

Retired judge Martha Holton Dimick, finally, hauled in a similar $130,000; Dimick, who would be the state's first Black county attorney, has the backing of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey as well as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Former District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Thursday that he would not compete in this fall's instant-runoff special election to regain the post he lost in a June recall. His announcement came the same week that attorney Joe Alioto Veronese launched a bid to take on incumbent Brooke Jenkins, a recall leader whom Mayor London Breed appointed to replace Boudin last month.

Alioto Veronese is the grandson of the late Mayor Joseph Alioto, who served from 1968 to 1976; his mother, Angela Alioto Veronese, ran in the 2018 special election for mayor but took a distant fourth against Breed. The younger Alioto Veronese previously served as a California criminal justice commissioner and member of the city's police and fire commissions, but he doesn't appear to have run for office before now.

Under the city's current law, the district attorney's post would be on the ballot again in 2023 for a full four-year term. However, voters this fall will decide on a measure that would move the city's next set of local elections to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward.

Election Recaps

WA-03: The Associated Press on Wednesday evening called the first spot in the previous day's top-two primary for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who notched 31%, but it remains unclear which Republican she'll face. With 158,000 votes counted, which the AP estimates is 83% of the total, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler leads Trump-backed Army veteran Joe Kent by a narrow 23-22. The five Republican candidates on the ballot are taking a combined 66% of the vote compared to 33% for Democrats in this 51-46 Trump seat, though Herrera Beutler may have won some support from Democratic voters after voting for impeachment.

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere has conceded Tuesday's Republican primary to appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell, who leads her 58-42. (The margin may shift as more votes are tabulated.) Both candidates were competing to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month.

Mitchell will now go up against Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020, in a special election for the final two years of the term. This post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

Montgomery County, MD Executive: It’s been more than two weeks since the July 19 Democratic primary, but we still don’t know who won the nomination to lead this populous and reliably blue county. With 132,000 ballots counted, incumbent Marc Elrich leads wealthy businessman David Blair 39.3-39.2―a margin of 154 votes.

Election officials say that there are about 4,000 mail-in votes left to tabulate as well as 7,250 provisional ballots to sort through, and that they’re aiming to certify the results by Aug. 12. The second-place candidate would then have three days to request a recount, which is what happened in the 2018 contest between these very two candidates: Elrich ultimately beat Blair by 77 votes four years ago.

P.S. This dragged-out count came about because Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a measure that would have allowed mail-in ballots to be processed ahead of Election Day. The author of that bill is state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents part of Montgomery County; Kagan has called for the state to change its policies to prevent another major delay this November.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Wanda Vázquez, who became governor of Puerto Rico in 2019 after her predecessor resigned in disgrace, was indicted Thursday on bribery charges related to her unsuccessful 2020 campaign for a full term. Vázquez, who is affiliated with both the GOP and the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), responded by proclaiming her innocence.

Federal prosecutors allege that Vázquez fired the head of Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions and appointed a new one loyal to a campaign donor. Vázquez badly lost the PNP primary 58-42 to Pedro Pierluisi, who prevailed in a close general election.

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Retiring Sen. Toomey: Trump ‘disqualified himself’ and GOP will have ‘stronger candidate’ in 2024

Why is it that, with a few notable exceptions, prominent Republicans almost always wait until they’re on their way out the door to slag off Donald Trump? They’re like B-movie ninjas who attack an enemy one at a time. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re like doctors who watch the mole on your back gradually morph into a Rorschach blot over the course of six years before telling you, on the eve of their retirement, that you should probably think about getting that looked at.

Sen. Pat Toomey is one of these folks. While he voted to convict Donald Trump following his second impeachment (though not after the first)—and never really warmed up to the ocher arschloch during his reign of whatever-that-was—Toomey had already announced his retirement when he voted to dump Trump into the dustbin of history. So while his impeachment vote was more courageous than his compatriots’ votes to acquit, it wasn’t like he was risking his political future or anything.

That said, he's making his position perfectly clear before he rides off into the sunset to work at some noxious conservative think tank that will craft an elegant intellectual rationalization—based on time-honored Jeffersonian principles—for pushing Medicare recipients out to sea on ice floes.

But to his credit, he thinks Trump is garbage. Just listen to his very measured and dispassionate case, which he relayed toward the end of a recent Bloomberg TV interview:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R) Pennsylvania: “He disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior.” He also thinks the Republican Party will have a stronger candidate than Donald Trump in the next presidential election https://t.co/qlvvI3zrft pic.twitter.com/qp32wpfbiz

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) June 30, 2022

TOOMEY: “I think he disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior, especially leading right up to Jan. 6. I think the revelations from this committee make his path to even the Republican nomination much more tenuous. Never say never, and he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring, but I think we’ll have a stronger candidate.”

Okay, it’s nice of him to state the obvious and everything, but how about showing some urgency? How about dropping napalm like GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are doing? Maybe he could out his fellow Republican senators who agree with him but are too craven to admit it lest Trump’s preternaturally wee Chucky Doll hands “Truth” out some scarcely comprehensible, ungrammatical, ALL-CAPS DIATRIBES to his flying monkeys in the heartland. It’s not like the future of our democracy is at stake or anything! Hello! McFly! 

Donald Trump is not more powerful than every single member of the GOP combined. They didn’t need the revelations from the House Jan. 6 committee to sink him. They could have done that literally dozens of times over the past year and a half by closing ranks with whatever pro-democracy forces managed to crawl out of the smoldering wreckage of Jan. 6.

But, well, a mealy closing statement about the GOP having “better candidates” than Trump is something, isn’t it? It’s not much, but it’s something

Of course the party has better candidates. No one on the face of God’s green globule could be a worse candidate. But what exactly are you going to do about it once you’re out of Congress, Toomey? Fire off a handful of press releases and call it a day?

We are at a crossroads. One fork of the road leads to Putin-style fascism, the other to a healthier and happier democracy that can continue to thrive on a planet that will at most be half Mad Max hellscape if we manage to reverse course in time.

The Republicans who know better—and I’d like to think there are a lot more than just Cheney, Toomey, and Kinzinger who do—need to do their sworn duty to our Constitution, or it will eventually be worth less than Donald Trump thinks it is.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Craven Republicans marvel at Liz Cheney’s lonely stand for American democracy as we know it

The GOP colleagues of embattled Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming just don't get it. Why would anyone decide to stand for something bigger than themselves at risk of their own career? Why not just look at yourself in the mirror every morning knowing that you are bargaining away democracy for your children and grandchildren in exchange for your own short-term personal gain?

The Washington Post writes:

Cheney’s Republican colleagues have struggled to understand her motives, especially given the political price she is paying in Wyoming, where Trump celebrated his largest margins of victory. Some wonder whether she is angling to run for a higher office.

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enate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—who has repeatedly underestimated Donald Trump's staying power—is mystified that taking down Trump is "the only thing she cares about,” a McConnell confidant told the Post. “That doesn’t help anyone," McConnell added.

Likewise, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has privately called Cheney "obsessed" with decimating Trump and his political hold on the Republican Party. In fact, McCarthy reportedly told Cheney he would try to shield her from backlash over her impeachment vote if she would just play nice with Trump going forward. She declined the invitation to morph into a spineless slug.

These accounts are the most recent in a long line of reports relaying how perplexed Cheney's colleagues are by her crusade to dismember Trump limb by limb, even if it ultimately crushes her political future.

But Cheney described her motivations at a campaign event earlier this month, pondering the notion that the nation's peaceful transfer of power (i.e., democracy) could come to an end.

“I looked at my boys in the weeks after January 6; it became very clear that we might suddenly have to question that,” Cheney said of the peaceful transition between presidents. “And I am absolutely committed to do everything I can do, everything that I am required and obligated to do to make sure that we aren’t the last generation in America that can count on a peaceful transition of power. It is hugely important.”

What Cheney’s GOP counterparts are really marveling at is the concept of principled leadership—of placing the good of the whole above the immediate concerns of oneself. They either suffer from a total lack of imagination about what turning the country into a fascist hellhole would be like or they are indeed excited by the prospect. Surely “very fine” Republicans fall on both sides of that divide.

But somewhere in between that craven naïveté and that authoritarian bloodthirst, Liz Cheney has stepped into the void.

Her political views are 99.9% abhorrent to us as liberals.

Her cunning is sometimes frightening.

But we cannot deny Cheney this moment in history. She should rightfully be celebrated for her vision, her courage, and her relentless perseverance.

Democratic voters increasingly want ‘fighters.’ Cheney plans to deliver in Jan. 6 hearings

House Democrats have been here before: debating exactly how to handle an unprecedented congressional proceeding involving the most prominent Republican in the country who, once again, committed unconstitutional and potentially unlawful acts. This time around, the sometimes heated discussions surround preparation for next month’s televised hearings on the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

During Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearing, Democrats anguished over exactly what angle, tone, and how far to reach, according to what one person involved in those deliberations told The Washington Post.

The difference now as the select committee investigating Jan. 6 plots its next phase is that an old-school rock-ribbed Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, is in the room alongside Democrats, fighting for what she clearly views as an existential battle for her future, her party, and indeed the country.

By all accounts, Cheney—who serves as vice chair of the panel—has led the way in adopting an aggressive prosecutorial posture during the Jan. 6 investigation. Her counterparts say she is the most well-versed, well-read, and prepared member of the panel, and she has leaned heavily on her legal training to inform her approach.

The Daily Kos Elections Team talks about how the MAGA civil war might be hurting the GOP in races across the country on The Downballot podcast

So as the panel debates format, tone, and priorities for the upcoming hearings, Cheney has championed making Trump the focal point while some Democrats have reportedly argued for emphasizing the security and intelligence failures that allowed the MAGA mob to storm the Capitol.

“Cheney has wanted to make sure we keep the focus on Trump and the political effort to overthrow Biden’s majority in the electoral college and to attack the peaceful transfer of power,” a committee member told the Post. In other words, Cheney is focused on Trump’s intentional effort to subvert U.S. democracy rather than the technocratic failures that played out during the attack.

"Rep. Cheney’s view is that security at the Capitol is a critical part of the investigation, but the Capitol didn’t attack itself," explained Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler.

Amen: The Capitol didn't attack itself.

The committee is still grappling with multiple questions, such as how much to emphasize the legal significance of its findings and whether to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department (a purely symbolic act); whether to adopt a more prosecutorial tone during the hearings; and whether to make a bid to interview Donald Trump and/or Mike Pence before they conclude their work.

But one person who is crystal clear about the threat Cheney poses to him is Trump himself, who told the Post he views the Wyoming Republican as a bigger rival than Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who led Democrats' first impeachment effort.

“From what people tell me, from what I hear from other congressmen, she’s like a crazed lunatic, she’s worse than anyone else,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, she’s worse than any Democrat.”

That's because Cheney has always known where the bodies were buried, and Trump knows it.

While much about the hearings is yet to be determined, here's what we do know:

  • Committee Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Cheney will co-lead the hearings, while a third lawmaker joins them depending on the topic.
  • They expect to field eight hearings covering material mined from more than 1,000 interviews and 125,000 records.
  • The panel is considering interviewing witnesses such as top Pence aide Marc Short as well as former Justice Department officials Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during Trump's post-election pressure campaign, and Richard Donoghue, Rosen's top deputy.
  • The final hearing is expected to be in September, when the panel will enumerate its key findings and recommend action items aimed at preventing future coup attempts.

In focus groups, Jan. 6 accountability has emerged as an important and motivating issue for some voters. Democrats in particular likely want to see heads roll among GOP officeholders who stoked 2020 conspiracy theories, fomented violence, and worked to overturn the election.

Democratic voters in two other recent focus groups written about by Amy Walter of Cook Political Report expressed a desire for more "fighters" among Democratic lawmakers and candidates, more generally. Walter writes:

When asked to describe Democrats in Congress as an animal, almost all picked docile creatures, or as one man described them, animals that are "slow and arboreal." When asked what kind of animal they wished Democrats would be, they chose "great white shark," and "grizzly bear." Another said she wanted them to be like a hyena, an animal that is "fast, aggressive, assertive, and gets what they want done."

What Democratic voters are effectively describing there is a desire for what Cheney has brought to the Jan. 6 probe, at least in approach and disposition if not her actual politics.

And while the committee has no legal authority to hold Trump and GOP lawmakers criminally liable for the Capitol attack, it is certainly positioned to make a moral judgment about who was responsible for the deadly assault that day.

At the very least, Cheney seems hell-bent on delivering that to the American public.

Who’s the biggest loser: McConnell or McCarthy?

For years, Capitol Hill reporters have assured Americans that privately, Republicans disparage Donald Trump and can't wait to get rid of him.

Now we are finally getting some real audio to back that up, and what it exposes is exactly what a bunch of losers GOP lawmakers are—GOP leadership in particular.

The recordings, made in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, were unearthed by two New York Times reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, whose book This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future will be released next month.

The reporters released one piece of audio Thursday between House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and then-House GOP Communications Chief Liz Cheney. Friday, on CNN, they released two more pieces of McCarthy audio, one from a Jan. 10 phone call with an inner circle of House GOP leaders and another from a Jan. 11 call with the entire Republican caucus.

The phone calls reveal a man who is absolutely desperate to rid himself of Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

"I've had it with this guy," McCarthy tells the GOP leadership team on Jan. 10. "What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend it, and nobody should defend it.”

Listen to Jennifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win explain how Democrats must message to win on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

No one, that is, until he ran down to Mar-a-Lago three weeks later to beg Trump's forgiveness.

On Jan. 11, McCarthy was a little less pointed in his conversation with the wider caucus, but still talking tough.

"Let me be very clear to all of you, and I've been very clear to the president: He bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands, or buts," McCarthy said.

No ifs, ands, or buts—until he ran his hiney down to Mar-a-Lago three weeks later to beg Trump's forgiveness.

McCarthy then told the caucus that he asked Trump directly if he bore responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6 and if he feels badly about it.

"He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he need [sic] to acknowledge that," McCarthy reported back to the caucus.

That will probably be news to Trump, the notion that he took responsibility for something—anything, really—let alone the violent Jan. 6 coup attempt.

Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also had some choice words on Jan. 11, telling two advisers of the impending House impeachment, “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us."

According to the Times' Martin and Burns, McConnell told the aides he expected the Senate would convict Trump, with a strong contingent of Republicans voting accordingly. At least 17 Republicans would be needed to seal Trump's fate if all 50 Democrats voted in favor, and McConnell clearly thought he had the votes.

But once McConnell took the temperature of the caucus, he didn't. And ol' masterful Mitch also didn't have the leadership skills to deliver the votes. As McConnell recently admitted publicly, "moral red lines" aren't exactly his thing.

"He didn’t ascend to power by siding with the minority, he explained to a friend," write Martin and Burns.

As for McCarthy's leadership, just two days after that Jan. 11 call with the entire GOP caucus, he pretended it never happened at his weekly press conference.

“Did you tell House Republicans on their January 11 phone call that President Trump told you he agreed that he bore some responsibility for January 6?" a reporter asked.

“I'm not sure what call you're talking about," replied McCarthy.

Now there's a guy with some unshakable moral fortitude.

And so here we sit in the spring of 2022 with Trump still the 2024 GOP favorite even as he complicates the path for congressional Republicans to retake the majority. In fact, it's not exactly clear why he would want either McCarthy or McConnell to regain control of their chambers.

The biggest guessing game on Capitol Hill Friday morning was how hard Trump would come down on McCarthy. That seems doubtful. McCarthy is a useful idiot who will do absolutely anything Trump says in his desperate bid to become speaker of the House one day.

On Friday morning, McCarthy wasn't running around trying to rehabilitate his public image, he was madly ringing up all his colleagues to assure them that Trump isn't angry with him, according to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman.

So who's the biggest loser? Broadly speaking, both Mitch and Kev are epic losers in the leadership department. They both wanted to rid themselves of the Trump plague with every fiber of their being, and yet capitulated to him at a time when Trump was at his lowest, most vulnerable political moment since he had announced his 2016 candidacy for president.

Dooming Trump was completely within reach, and neither of them had the grit or determination to follow through. Thus, Trump is still ruling their world.

More specifically, who will be the biggest loser of Trump's wrath? Likely McConnell, precisely because he's not the exquisite bootlicker that McCarthy is.

McCarthy gladly and immediately laying himself belly up at Trump's feet while McConnell doesn't will simply remind Trump how deeply he loathes McConnell.

He’ll be coming for McConnell. Trump can throw McCarthy under the bus later.

Awkward recording of Kevin McCarthy emerges hours after his denial. What else do reporters have?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy strongly denied a Thursday report that, in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, he had said he would urge Donald Trump to resign. Then the audio came out of him saying he intended to do just that.

Whoopsies!

On the recording of a Jan. 10, 2021 House Republican leadership call, which Rachel Maddow played Thursday evening, Rep. Liz Cheney—then a member of House Republican leadership—can be heard referring to “when we were talking about the 25th Amendment resolution,” then asking McCarthy if Trump might resign. 

“I’ve had a few discussions. My gut tells me no,” McCarthy responded. “I am seriously thinking about having that conversation with him tonight. I haven’t talked to him in a couple days.”

RELATED STORY: Kevin McCarthy's failure to act on Gosar and Greene's white nationalist flirtation says it all

Friday, Apr 22, 2022 · 3:06:54 PM +00:00 · Laura Clawson

CNN just broadcast new audio of McCarthy unambiguously blaming Trump for the January 6 attack during a House Republican Conference call on January 11, 2021. In the audio, McCarthy also claims Trump acknowledged to him that he bears responsibility for January 6. pic.twitter.com/qH7vPdS1Qf

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 22, 2022

Friday, Apr 22, 2022 · 3:07:54 PM +00:00 · Laura Clawson

Kevin McCarthy swore off Trump after Jan. 6: “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend it, and nobody should defend it.” pic.twitter.com/ZgUoOAYP52

— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) April 22, 2022

“From what I know of him, I mean you guys all know him too, do you think he’d ever back away? But what I think I’m going to do is, I’m going to call him,” McCarthy continued. “This is, this is what I think. We know [the impeachment resolution will] pass the House. I think there’s a good chance it’ll pass the Senate, even when he’s gone. Um, and I think there’s a lot of different ramifications for that.”

Listen to Jennifer Fernandez Ancona from Way to Win explain how Democrats must message to win on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

McCarthy went on to try to game out some of those ramifications, saying, “I haven’t had a discussion with the Dems, that if he did resign, would that happen,” and describing the possibility of a pardon from Pence as “one personal fear that I have.”

Returning to the conversation he planned to have with Trump, McCarthy said, “The only discussion I would have with him is I think it will pass, and it would be my recommendation that you should resign. I mean, that would be my take, but I don't think he would take it. But I don't know.”

This, again, is from the recording of the thing McCarthy called “totally false and wrong” reporting hours before the recording was released.

There’s the interesting question of how New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin got that recording—and the many more recordings they say they have. It’s a question with one obvious answer, though a spokesperson for Cheney insists, “Representative Cheney did not record or leak the tape and does not know how the reporters got it.” I mean, if you say so, Liz.

McCarthy also reportedly said he wished Twitter would ban some Republican House members, like Rep. Lauren Boebert, another report McCarthy denies and is now presumably wondering if he was recorded saying. 

Within weeks, McCarthy was off at Mar-a-Lago sucking up to Trump, as he has continued to do since. Nothing can match the cravenness on display from Republicans then and now, but listening to this recording, you do have to wonder if swifter, more decisive action from Democrats might have driven the wedge deeper between Trump and congressional Republicans. Either way, McCarthy is an absolutely proven liar and any reporter quoting him from here on should include that caveat. Every single time.

Recording of McCarthy and Cheney pic.twitter.com/oHMMV7TXbo

— Acyn (@Acyn) April 22, 2022

Jan. 6 committee wrestling with criminal referral for Trump

The Jan. 6 committee has amassed so much evidence in the nearly 500 days since Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that congressional investigators are weighing a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for the twice-impeached ex-president. 

Whether they ultimately issue that referral is a question that hangs heavy in the air over the probe and members are internally split on the path ahead, according to a report by The New York Times from Sunday. 

Nonetheless, after some 800 interviews and extensive cooperation from those orbiting the Trump White House and campaign in the runup to Jan. 6,  the committee’s bipartisan leadership has said the evidence strongly indicates Trump illegally obstructed Congress—again—and committed fraud against the American people as he and those who sought to keep him in power worked to pull off a scheme that hinged on his lies about the outcome of the 2020 election.

During an interview on CNN following the Times report, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican ousted from GOP leadership for her participation in the probe, brushed off the notion that division was stewing among members. 

Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

The sources in the Times said some lawmakers on the committee are at odds over whether it is actually necessary to throw their weight behind a criminal referral for the ex-president to the Department of Justice. 

That referral is mostly symbolic as the committee has acknowledged countless times over the last year in court and to the press that it simply does not have the authority to prosecute Trump.

A criminal referral could also potentially trigger a lengthy series of delay tactics from Trump or his allies in Congress that would draw time and resources away from key areas of the probe. 

From the Times:

The members and aides who were reluctant to support a referral contended that making one would create the appearance that Mr. Garland was investigating Mr. Trump at the behest of a Democratic Congress and that if the committee could avoid that perception it should, the people said.

This assessment on optics reflects, at least in part, the scars left in Washington from the deeply contentious and circus-like atmosphere created in the wake of Trump’s first impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

Prosecution in this case, as a matter of constitutional fact, must be left to the proper—and separate—channels at the Department of Justice.

To that end, over the sprawl of its inquiry the select committee has issued subpoenas aplenty and filed lawsuits to claw back or expose various records from integral Trump White House and campaign officials. In this process, it has left a trail of morsels for the Department of Justice to consider as that department conducts its own separate and massive review of Jan. 6.

Take the case of John Eastman, the Trump attorney who wrote a memo proposing how to overturn the election through an unconstitutional pressure strategy involving former Vice President Mike Pence. 

RELATED STORY: Trump led a criminal conspiracy, Jan. 6 lawyers say in court

When a federal judge in California finally reviewed the emails Eastman sought to keep away from the committee during his tenure at Chapman University, the judge found information that led him to believe Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” engaged in a federal crime. 

The ruling was a boon for transparency overall, to be sure, but it also provided the Department of Justice with something deeply important, at least in the eyes of some members of the Jan. 6 committee: A federal judge’s ruling, they reportedly said, would simply mean more in the eyes of Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Once the committee completes its investigation, it will issue a report on its complete findings and recommendations. That report alone may have so much information and relevant evidence in it that the Department of Justice could use it as its guide to bring criminal charges. 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who previously served on both impeachment inquiries for Trump and for former President Bill Clinton, now sits on the Jan. 6 probe. She is of the opinion that a criminal referral isn’t the end all be all to accountability or justice. 

When asked whether the select committee would issue a criminal referral for Trump, Lofgren told the Times, “Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.”

“It doesn’t have a legal impact,” Lofgren said. 

Other panel members like Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia have been insistent, however, that it is about the principle of the matter, political ramifications of the criminal referral be damned. 

“This committee, our purpose is legislative and oversight, but if in the course of our investigation we find that criminal activity has occurred, I think it’s our responsibility to refer that to the Department of Justice,” Luria recently told MSNBC. 

This weekend, Cheney told CNN “there’s not really a dispute on the committee” over the referral and emphasized that members are working in a “really collaborative way.” 

The committee, reportedly, has not yet met formally to discuss issuing a referral to the Department of Justice for Trump, however, and there may not be a meeting in the mix any time soon. 

Public hearings are expected this summer, potentially in May and June, and according to committee member and Rep. Pete Aguilar, the probe is not interested in “presupposing” what will be in its final report. 

As of April 6, the Department of Justice has made nearly 800 arrests in its investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Democrats’ complicated dance with neoconservative heiress Liz Cheney

This article, written by TNR deputy editor Jason Linkins, first appeared on newrepublic.com and in Power Mad, a weekly TNR newsletter. Sign up here.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who in recent years has emerged as the Harley Quinn of Washington’s Never Trump suicide squad, is facing a tough reelection fight against Harriet Hageman, a former Cheney adviser who has since been Trump-pilled. Hageman has won the former president’s endorsement, but Cheney still has friends in high places: Republicans from the pre-Trump era continue to support her, fueling speculation that she’s “laying the groundwork for something more,” according to CNN, which notes that she has “demonstrated impressive fundraising prowess, including raising a personal record $2 million in the final quarter of 2021.” And yet, for all that prowess, it’s becoming clear that she will probably need some additional assistance to win back her seat—specifically, from Democrats.

It’s truly an odd thing to contemplate. Not too long ago, the thought of a Cheney-less Capitol Hill would have been a dream of Beltway Democrats, who saw Liz ride on her father’s coattails to a seat in Congress. But that was all before her opposition to Donald Trump—and her votes to impeach him—earned her a place in the Resistance and a perch on the Jan. 6 commission.

To defeat Hageman in the GOP primary in August, Cheney will need a certain percentage of Democrats to become crossover voters. (Wyoming allows voters to change their party affiliation as late as Election Day. A pro-Trump attempt to change that law failed last week.) As POLITICO’s Tara Palmeri reported this week, “Wyoming political strategists say the only path to victory for Cheney is with the help of Democrats and independents.” Party-switchers have, notably, come through for Republicans before: Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon relied on such voters to propel him to victory over a far-right opponent.

It’s one thing for voters in Wyoming to strategically align themselves for the best of a bad result; it’s another thing entirely for institutional Democrats to put their heft behind Liz Cheney. But that’s what some Democratic donors are doing, despite the massive headwinds facing the party’s own candidates in the fall midterms. As CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reported last October, liberal buckrakers of real renown have lately lined Cheney’s larder, including Ron Conway, one of President Joe Biden’s “top campaign bundlers,” and John Pritzker, cousin of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

I get that Cheney has done an inspiring job clearing the very low bar of opposing Trump’s corruption and assault on democracy. But is this truly a good use of finite resources, to ensure that Wyoming’s ruby-red House seat remains in the hands of someone who only voted with Trump 93% of the time, instead of one who will exceed that loyalty by a few percentage points? While it would be unfair to dismiss Cheney’s opposition to Trumpism as insincere—she’s surely seen little political benefit for taking the stances she’s taken—this might be a good occasion for Democrats to consider how much longer they want to be in the Liz Cheney business, given what a poor defender of democracy she has actually been during her career.

In fact, Democrats should ponder whether to seek out the Never Trumpers as dance partners at all. That movement’s only clear success has been to draw outsize media attention. While Trumpists are snatching up key positions in the country’s electoral mechanics, with an eye toward tilting the next presidential contest, Never Trumpers are writing op-edsretiring from the fight, and occasionally making a complete mess of trying to help Democrats win elections.

Perhaps the most worrisome part of this partnership is the extent to which the Democrats have allowed these disaffected Republicans to colonize the Democratic Party’s aesthetic. Biden’s own Democratic National Convention was an often perverse display of moderate Republican courtship, with spare-no-expense production values given to Ohio Republican John Kasich to stand at a literal crossroads to make a point about a figurative crossroads, while Maine’s Sara Gideon was reduced to introducing a musical guest despite being in a competitive Senate race against Susan Collins—a seat that Democrats would dearly love to have now.

Writing for The New Republic, Samuel Moyn pinpointed an even more troubling aspect of this partnership: the extent to which Never Trumpism was being driven primarily by the foreign policy lifers of the Bush-Cheney era, the “stalwart crew” who “feared that Trump threatened the Cold War national security consensus” that gave rise to so much neoconservative misadventure. It’s worth noting that earlier this week, Commentary’s John Podhoretz crowed that neoconservatism had been vindicated, in part because “hip liberals” are no longer its loudest critics (instead, he argues, “‘traditional conservatives’ … have taken their place as the leading anti-American voices of our time”).

Do Democrats believe that the vindication of neoconservatism is an acceptable trade-off for the chance to have Liz Cheney as an occasional ally? It seems a bad deal to me, especially in a week when the fruits of neoconservatism have been so vividly on display in reports that a Kuwaiti detainee, rendered to a CIA black site in Afghanistan, was used as a “living prop to teach trainee interrogators, who lined up to take turns at knocking his head against a plywood wall, leaving him with brain damage.” With democracy on the line, is neoconservatism truly something that Democrats want to associate with? This marriage of convenience should be headed for a divorce.

This article first appeared on newrepublic.com and in Power Mad, a weekly TNR newsletter. Sign up here.