Jan. 6 probe seeks Newt Gingrich; questions role in Trump’s attempt to overturn election

The Jan. 6 committee on Thursday asked Newt Gingrich to come forward voluntarily and answer questions about evidence investigators obtained highlighting the role he played promoting former President Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election both before and after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

According to the committee, the emails that piqued their interest were between Gingrich and Trump’s advisers, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, communications strategist Jason Miller, and others, like Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, all of whom have cooperated at length with the congressional investigation.  

Gingrich, a Georgia Republican and former House speaker, had cozied up to the White House as Trump’s impeachment-marred and scandal-ridden term came to an end. In the process, the committee contends, Gingrich ended up providing Trump’s team with significant input on television advertisements that propagated conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. 

Jan 6 Cmte Letter to Newt Gingrich by Daily Kos on Scribd

Further, House Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson noted, mere days after the election in November 2020, Gingrich peppered Meadows and Cipollone with questions about who was in charge of coordinating an elector bid that would put fake pro-Trump “electors” in states demonstrably won by now-President Joe Biden. That fake elector bid was at the very core of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. 

A month later, Gingrich proposed that ads should encourage the public to pressure state officials to investigate conspiracy theories. Those included the now long-debunked claim of Trump ballots being smuggled in suitcases out of voting centers in Georgia by nefarious election workers.

Those conspiracy theories latched on to by Gingrich and others ultimately upended the lives of election workers. 

But persuasion was not enough. 

Gingrich wrote Kushner, Miller, and consultant Larry Weitzner in a Dec. 8, 2020 email that “the goal is to arouse the country’s anger through new verifiable information.” 

“If we inform the American people in a way they find convincing and it arouses their anger, they will then bring pressure on legislators and governors,” Gingirch wrote. 

But that “new verifiable information” was bunk. 

Gingrich also did this just after Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia deputy secretary of state, issued an impassioned public plea begging that the disinformation and character attacks on election workers and election officials cease. 

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” Sterling said. 

Literal hours after the insurrection, investigators on the committee say Gingrich opted to keep pushing Trump’s agenda.

Thompson described Gingrich as “relentless.” 

In an email sent at 10:42 PM on Jan. 6—former Vice President Mike Pence had only reopened the Senate around 8 PM—Gingrich asked about the fake electors for Trump in an email to Meadows:

“[A]re there letters from state legislators about decertifiying electors?” Gingrich wrote.

The committee asked Gingrich to appear for a transcribed interview beginning the week of Sept. 19. 

As the summer winds down, the Jan. 6 committee’s public-facing activities are expected to ramp up. As committee member and Rep. Jamie Raskin recently told Daily Kos, the Jan. 6 probe would continue to gather and assess new evidence it received over the course of its public hearings and work to tie up loose ends before issuing an interim report.  

RELATED STORY: Pulling back from the ‘appalling descent’: An interview with Jan. 6 investigator Jamie Raskin

Meanwhile, on Friday, according to The New York Times, Cipollone and his deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin are expected to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack. 

Morning Digest: Mo Brooks just found out Trump’s Complete and Total endorsements are anything but

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

AL-Sen: Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he was "withdrawing my endorsement" of Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the May Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, a move that came after months of stories detailing the GOP master's unhappiness with the congressman' campaign. Trump concluded his not-tweet by saying, "I will be making a new Endorsement in the near future!"

There are two remaining available candidates in the GOP primary that Trump could back: Army veteran Mike Durant and Shelby's choice, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt. Trump had disparaged Britt as "not in any way qualified" for the Senate back in July, but he's warmed up to her in recent months and, per a CNN report last month, even told her that "he would speak positively of her in private and public appearances."

That same story relayed that Trump saw Durant, whom he derided as "a McCain guy" because he functioned as a surrogate for John McCain's 2008 campaign, as unacceptable. That seems to also be changing, though, as Politico reports that Durant met with Trump on Monday. As for Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, the Club for Growth responded to Trump's Wednesday announcement by saying it was still sticking with him.

Trump argued he was abandoning the "woke" Brooks because the candidate told an August rally, "There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you." However, while CNN said last year that Brooks' performance at this event, as well as Trump's brief but friendly conversation with Britt backstage, were what "first sowed frustration" with the congressman inside Trumpworld, few observers believe that those seven-month-old comments from Brooks are the reason Trump is now leaving him for dead.

Instead, almost everyone agreed that Trump decided that Brooks was running a doomed bid and wanted to avoid being embarrassed by his primary defeat. Indeed, CNN reported all the way back in December that Trump, GOP insiders, and even Brooks' allies were unhappy with his weak fundraising and other aspects of his campaign: The candidate responded that month by "reassessing his campaign strategy" and replacing several members of his team, but CNN said last week that this shakeup only granted him a temporary reprieve from Trump's gripes. "He feels he has been more than patient and that Mo hasn't risen to the occasion despite many opportunities to do so," said one unnamed person close to Trump.  

But things intensified last week when Trump began to publicly discuss yanking his "Complete and Total" endorsement over the August comments. Brooks responded by saying that Trump had been told "that there are mechanisms by which he could have been returned to the White House in 2021 or in 2022, and it's just not legal." An unnamed Trump advisor told CNN afterwards that a Republican saying that the 2020 election couldn't be overturned represented a "cardinal sin," and that Brooks had just said "the quiet part out loud and it might cost him (Trump's) support." Brooks himself last week used his very first ad of the race to proudly showcase the Jan. 6 speech he delivered to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the day’s violence, but that messaging wasn't enough to keep Trump on his side.

Things got even worse for Brooks on Tuesday when the Republican firm Cygnal released a survey for the Alabama Daily News and Gray Television that showed the former frontrunner in a distant third place. Durant led with 35%, while Britt led Brooks 28-16 for the second spot in an all-but-assured June runoff; last August, before Durant joined the race, the firm showed Brooks crushing Britt 41-17.

There's no word if those ugly numbers influenced Trump, but he announced just a day later that he was finally done backing Brooks. The congressman himself responded with a statement saying, "President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency." He continued, "As a lawyer, I've repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit(s) what President Trump asks. Period." Brooks also declared that Trump has allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to "manipulate" him.

The Downballot

Joining us on The Downballot for this week’s episode is Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—the official arm of the Democratic Party dedicated to winning state legislatures nationwide. Jessica talks with us about how the DLCC picks its targets and helps candidates, the impact of freshly un-gerrymandered maps in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and how Democrats are protecting vulnerable seats in a challenging midterm environment.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss yet another shameful redistricting ruling from the Supreme Court, Donald Trump pulling the plug on Mo Brooks' Senate campaign in Alabama, and a brand-new special election for the top prosecutor's post in America's fourth-largest county. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Redistricting

WI Redistricting: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Wisconsin's new legislative maps in an unsigned "shadow docket" opinion on Wednesday, ruling that the state Supreme Court had violated the Voting Rights Act when it selected a map for the state Assembly earlier this month that would increase the number of Black-majority districts in the Milwaukee area from six to seven. However, the high court rejected a separate challenge on different grounds to the state's new congressional map.

As a result, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will now have to either pick new legislative maps or provide further evidence in support of the plans it originally selected, which were submitted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. But as election law expert Rick Hasen noted, in a piece calling Wednesday's ruling "bizarre on many levels," the U.S. Supreme Court is using the Wisconsin case to "chip away at the Voting Rights Act." That suggests the justices would be hostile to the Evers maps no matter what additional arguments the Wisconsin court might adduce.

The decision also showcases the high court's stark hypocrisy: Six weeks ago, the Supreme Court blocked a lower federal court ruling ordering Alabama to redraw its congressional map in order to create a second Black congressional district, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act—the same law the Wisconsin Supreme Court cited as motivating its choice of maps. At the time, Justice Brett Kavanaugh explained in a concurring opinion that the lower court's order in the Alabama case had come too close to the election for the state to revise its existing map, which included only a single district with a Black majority.

Now it's late March, yet the Supreme Court has nevertheless seen fit to send Wisconsin back to the drawing board. There's simply no legitimate reason for the differing outcomes: The original lower court ruling in Alabama came down four months before the state's primary, while the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision was issued just five months ahead of the primary there. In both cases, however, Republican interests benefit, and the cause of Black representation suffers.

Senate

NC-Sen: Rep. Ted Budd, aka the far-right congressman running for Senate that Trump still backs, is running a spot for the May primary based around his support for finishing Trump's border wall.

NH-Sen: Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton tells Politico that he's considering entering the September Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan and would self-fund $5 million if he gets in. Felton adds that he'll decide early next month after, naturally, the Bitcoin 2022 gathering.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The Club for Growth has released a WPA Intelligence survey of the June Republican primary that gives its endorsed Senate candidate, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a wide 57-19 lead over Army veteran Sam Brown.

The Club also takes a look at the race for governor, where it has yet to take sides: WPA shows Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo leading former Sen. Dean Heller 28-22, with North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee at 13%. A recent PPP survey for the Democratic Governors Association had Lombardo ahead with a similar 26%, while Heller and Lee tied with 13% each.

Governors

GA-Gov: Newt Gingrich has waded into his home state's May Republican primary for governor by backing former Sen. David Perdue's intra-party bid against incumbent Brian Kemp.

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has publicized a GQR internal of the twice-delayed Democratic primary, which is now set for July, that shows him trailing state Comptroller Peter Franchot 23-15; former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and former nonprofit head Wes Moore aren't far behind with 11% and 10%, respectively. Baker, who was the runner up in the 2018 primary, has released these numbers to argue that he's the strongest alternative to Franchot.

On the Republican side, termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan has endorsed former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, whom the Washington Post called his "handpicked candidate" last year.

PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman's newest spot for the May Republican primary consists of him calling for the impeachment of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia's reform-minded district attorney.

House

CO-08: While Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco initially sought to collect signatures to qualify for the June Democratic primary ballot for this new seat, he didn't end up turning in enough petitions before last week's deadline. Tedesco will instead seek to advance by competing at the April 5 party convention, where he'll need to win the support of at least 30% of the delegates in order to keep his candidacy alive.

The other major Democratic candidate is state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who did turn in the requisite number of petitions. She's also competing for the party endorsement next month, but she'll make it to the primary ballot as long as she wins at least 10% of the delegates.

FL-07: Longtime congressional aide Rusty Roberts announced this week that he was entering the Republican primary to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Roberts previously served as chief of staff for John Mica, the Styrofoam-obsessed Republican whom Murphy unseated in 2016. (Politico wrote during that campaign that Mica "obsessively hordes throwaway coffee cups in his office and home, insisting that his companions reuse the same paper or Styrofoam carries because 'it's recyclable!'")

MO-01: Republican state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month that Democratic state Sen. Steven Roberts wants lawmakers to modify the boundaries of the safely blue 1st District to strengthen his chances for a potential primary campaign against Rep. Cori Bush. Roberts rejected Schatz's claim about his interest in shaping redistricting, though he did not deny he was considering a campaign against the high-profile freshman. "Is this on the record or off the record?" he asked a reporter, and when he was informed he was on the record, Roberts simply said he was focused "on my legislative duties."

Roberts appeared in the news again on Monday when The Intercept reported that someone with an IP address in the Missouri Office of Administration edited Roberts' Wikipedia page to delete a section describing how he'd been accused of sexual assault by two different women in 2015 and 2017, though he was never charged. A spokesperson for Roberts denied any knowledge of the edits and also deflected a question about a possible campaign against Bush. Missouri's candidate filing deadline is still set for March 29 even though the GOP-run legislature hasn't yet passed a new congressional map.

NC-13: Law student Bo Hines uses his first spot for the May Republican primary to talk about his time as a college football player and to inform the viewer that he's Donald Trump's endorsed candidate. The spot features a montage of Hines jumping rope, lifting weights, and, in one weird moment at the 12-second mark, apparently talking to himself in the mirror.

NJ-11: For the second cycle in a row, former Kinnelon Council President Larry Casha has dropped out of the Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Mikie Sherrill.

TN-05: Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has announced that he's joining the August Republican primary for the open 5th District, which Republicans recently transformed from blue to red by cracking apart the city of Nashville. Ogles is a former state director for the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity, and he launched a primary bid in 2017 against Sen. Bob Corker days before the incumbent decided to retire. Ogles, though, attracted little attention in the new open seat race from the Kochs or anyone else, and he soon dropped out and launched a successful bid for Maury County mayor.

Ogles, who established himself as a loud opponent of Gov. Bill Lee's pandemic measures, responded to Lee's summer declaration that school districts could decide for themselves if a mask mandate would be required in elementary schools by calling for the legislature to hold a special session to address his "continued abuses of power." Ogles also didn't rule out a primary campaign against Lee before the new congressional maps were unveiled, but he soon shifted his focus to the 5th District.

Ogles joins a contest that includes former state House Speaker Beth Harwell; businessman Baxter Lee; retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead; music video producer Robby Starbuck; and Trump's choice, former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. Ortagus' campaign, though, has attracted scorn from plenty of loud conservatives who have cast the recent Tennessee arrival as an outsider.

Ortagus gave her critics some fresh material last month when, during an appearance on Michael Patrick Leahy's conservative radio show, she bombed the host's quiz about the new district and state. Among other things, Ortagus couldn't answer when asked which "three interstate highways" are in the 5th, the names of the four living former Republican governors (she only got Lee's predecessor, Bill Haslam), and the identity of "[o]ne of the most famous NASCAR drivers living today [who] lives in the 5th District and has a large auto dealership in Franklin." (The answer is Darrell Waltrip.)

Each chamber of the state's GOP-dominated legislature has also passed a bill that would impose a three-year residency requirement on congressional candidates, and while its state House sponsor denied it had anything to do with any specific contender, observers were quick to note that it would keep Ortagus off the ballot. However, while the Senate version would take effect this cycle, the House bill wouldn't come into force this year. It likely wouldn't matter what the legislature ends up agreeing to, though, because of a 1995 Supreme Court decision that ruled that states cannot add further qualifications to candidates for Congress that aren't in the U.S. Constitution.

VT-AL: Sianay Chase Clifford, who is a former aide to Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, announced last week that she was joining the August Democratic primary for Vermont's open House seat and campaigning as "a real progressive option." Chase Clifford, who is 27, moved to the Bay State for college, and she returned to Vermont during the pandemic. The candidate, whose mother is from Liberia, would be the first Black person to represent the state in Congress.

Attorneys General

GA-AG: Donald Trump has endorsed Big Lie proponent John Gordon, who renewed his law license last year to try to help Trump overturn his Georgia defeat, against Attorney General Chris Carr in the May Republican primary. Carr warned his counterparts in other states against joining Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit to throw out the results in Georgia and other states Biden won, and Trump lashed out Tuesday by saying the incumbent did "absolutely nothing" to aid him.

Gordon, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "has little statewide profile," though he does have a close connection to another Trump ally. The paper reports that former Sen. David Perdue, who is trying to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp, lives on property owned by Gordon because his own place is undergoing construction, though Perdue denied he had anything to do with this endorsement.

Carr and Gordon are the only Republican candidates, so this contest will be decided without a runoff. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Jen Jordan is the undisputed frontrunner against attorney Christian Wise Smith.

ID-AG: The Club for Growth has dropped a survey from WPA Intelligence that shows former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who was one of the far-right's most prominent members during the tea party era, lapping five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden 35-14 in the May Republican primary. The Club hasn't made an endorsement, though it supported Labrador in his unsuccessful 2018 bid for governor.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Three more GOP candidates have announced that they'll run in this year's special election to succeed their fellow Republican, soon-to-be-former County Attorney Allister Adel: City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere, attorney James Austin Woods, and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Republicans need to turn in just over 4,500 valid signatures by April 4 in order to make the primary ballot; Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, launched her own bid earlier this week.

Godbehere on Tuesday earned a supportive tweet from former TV anchor Kari Lake, the far-right conspiracy theorist that Donald Trump is supporting for governor. Woods, for his part, is the son of the late Grant Woods, who served as state attorney general from 1991 to 1999. That link may not be helpful with GOP primary voters, though, as the elder Woods was a vocal Trump critic who became a Democrat in 2018.

Finally, Mitchell is a longtime sex crimes prosecutor who attracted national attention during Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 Supreme Court hearings when the all-male Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee brought her in as a "female assistant" to question him and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. She went on to tell the GOP senators that no "reasonable prosecutor" would prosecute Kavanaugh for sexual assault.

The next year Mitchell temporarily served as Maricopa County attorney after Bill Montgomery resigned to join the state Supreme Court: Both she and Godbehere were named as finalists for the appointment for the final year of his term, but Adel was ultimately selected. Mitchell made news again last month when she was one of the five division chiefs to tell their boss to resign due to serious questions about her sobriety and ability to serve as the county's top prosecutor.

On the Democratic side, 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle said Tuesday that she'd already collected the requisite petitions in less than 24 hours.

Republicans are preparing another ‘Contract on America’ with the aid of … who else?

There are few people in modern political history who have done as much damage to our democracy as Newt Gingrich. As the prototypical, ideological Republican “bomb-thrower” who first came of age during the Reagan “revolution” in the 1990s, Gingrich ushered in and patented an era of hyperpartisan viciousness and crass, unrelenting political rancor that finally reached its apotheosis in a GOP now firmly under the thumb of Donald Trump. As a co-author of the Republican Party’s infamous 1994 Contract with America (a revenue-gutting, deregulatory attack on government programs recast by President Bill Clinton as a Contract on America), Gingrich established the standard legislative template for all future attempts by conservatives at governance (actually “non-governance”) while in the process turning the “government shutdown” deficit-scolding and brinksmanship into routine tactics for Republicans whenever a Democrat occupies the Oval Office.

Gingrich was and still is a nasty piece of work. He is notable for creating a smear lexicon that he encouraged Republicans to adopt in which Democrats were routinely labeled with such pejoratives as “sick,” “decay,” “corrupt”and “traitors,” while Republicans were urged to self-describe their proposals with noble-sounding words like “caring,” “principled" and “common-sense.” He was a primary motivating force behind the churlish, politically driven impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Facing a broadly based public backlash against both his party’s policies and his own abrasive personality, Gingrich was forced to resign as House speaker in 1998 and left Congress altogether the following year, spending his time as an erstwhile pundit on the conservative media circuit and regurgitating his ideas in high-priced speeches and insular, right-wing think tanks.

By all standards of human decency that should have been the denouement of all things Gingrich, but because the Republican Party as it stands today has few if any purported “thinkers” able to formulate even an excuse for public policy, he remains relevant as their “go-to” man. The benighted cruelty and criminal incompetence of the Trump administration offered Gingrich as an éminence grise, a chance to reaffirm his bona fides, and he immediately signed on to parroting Trump’s requisite Big Lie about election fraud. So when relatively hapless Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy needed help in preparing his minions for the 2022 elections, Gingrich was a natural choice. As reported by Jeff Stein and Laura Meckler for the The Washington Post: 

Newt Gingrich, whose “Contract with America” in 1994 is linked with the GOP takeover of Congress in that midterm cycle, said he has been advising House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) on a set of policy items for Republicans to take to voters ahead of the November elections. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and other members of House Republican leadership are also involved in the project, which is not expected to launch until the spring or summer.

As McCarthy himself told Breitbart last week, his Gingrich-inspired project for the midterms already has a working title: “We’ll come out with a Commitment to America … We’ve been working on policy.”

In today’s Republican-speak, “working on policy” translates into looting the country for profit; initiating pointless and distracting “Benghazi-style” investigations to harass, smear, and intimidate Biden administration officials and otherwise occupy the media, and exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by dividing and polarizing Americans as much as possible.

Republicans are expected to focus their new platform on education policies aimed at tapping into parental discontent; countering the rise of China with new economic measures; and “oversight” of the Biden administration. They are also looking at invoking other traditional GOP goals such as cutting taxes, restricting immigration, criticizing Silicon Valley and repealing environmental rules.

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election all but assured that Republicans now intend to present themselves as the party of education, if by “education” you meant the deliberate stoking of racial resentment among white parents and parents otherwise exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The party that featured anti-teacher smears as part of its national convention, consistently and deliberately downplayed teachers’ health and safety during the pandemic, and has spearheaded a longstanding effort to privatize and eliminate public education now seeks to portray itself as a defender of our public schools, specifically by way of appealing to parents of school-age children. Except the only “parents” it seems to want to pander to are the types of parents who enter school board meetings unmasked, screaming about their “freedoms” while complaining loudly about teachers who dare to provide students with historical context for this nation’s unique and long-standing embrace of virulent racism.

As Stein and Meckler point out, however, beyond pandering to disgruntled parents, there is little that Republicans can actually do to further degrade our public schools, as much as they might want to:

McCarthy has released a “Parents Bill of Rights” that would not make big changes in education but would send some new mandates to school districts, some of which duplicate actions that are already routine or covered by existing rules and laws ...

The document also asserts that parents have a “right to be heard.” School boards almost uniformly allow for public comment, though some have shut meetings down because of disruptions including screaming and threats of violence.

The curious love-hate relationship between Republicans and what they like to simplify in broad, ridiculous brush strokes as “Big Tech” is another “policy” area Republicans plan to exploit. But this is largely a matter of insider baseball barely comprehensible to a GOP rank and file thoroughly mesmerized by their smartphones and tablets. The party appears to have no problem with the tech monopolies their own party fostered for decades as long as they amplify GOP lawmakers; it’s only when tech behemoths attempt to place curbs on the GOP‘s now requisite hate speech that Republicans find these mammoth corporations not to their liking. 

It’s difficult to take them seriously, and I frankly doubt anyone in Silicon Valley actually does. It’s also hard to take any anti-China stance seriously beyond its obvious pandering to Trump’s racist base, who appear to still believe that the minuscule possibility the COVID-19 virus originated in a lab somehow absolves Donald Trump of all the subsequent malfeasance in response to the pandemic that cratered his reelection in 2020.

One area where Republicans promise to effect big changes is in eliminating barriers to House members actually killing themselves: “[C]hanging congressional rules, such as by repealing mask mandates, removing magnetic scanners from the floor of the House and abolishing voting by proxy” are all in the works, virtually guaranteeing that their anticipated majority after 2022 winnows itself down a bit through natural selection. But beyond this, assuming they achieve a majority in one or even both chambers of Congress, the actual GOP agenda promises to be fairly threadbare, as any effort to cut taxes any further for the wealthiest Americans will inevitably run into President Biden’s veto pen. And until the Supreme Court effectively guts the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to function, Republicans’ ability to increase pollution though deregulation and accelerate global warming will also continue to be stymied.

In sum there’s not a great deal policy-wise for Gingrich or McCarthy to work with beyond criticizing the nation’s withdrawal from the 20-year Afghanistan war (a debacle that was scarcely mentioned during the two years Republicans enjoyed congressional majorities under Trump). Also, of course, everything about Hunter Biden, from his “mysterious” connection to Chinese businesses to his art deals with the Georges Berges gallery in SoHo. With Gingrich tending the till of an anticipated House majority, President Biden will doubtlessly be impeached … for something. Because the current leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, will demand it.

Of course, all of this will be happening in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Republicans at both the federal and state levels have all but ensured will continue at least through 2023. That’s the real wild card since any actions the GOP takes to further exacerbate the pandemic will be seen in light of what happens after omicron. The political fallout from a continued COVID-19 pandemic is unknowable at this point, but Republicans have already amply demonstrated they are completely incapable of formulating any policy response to it. So the focus for Gingrich and McCarthy will not be on policy, but on constant personal attacks and smears on Democrats and the demonization of the Biden administration. This has always been Gingrich’s modus operandi, and it is perfectly suited to a modern Republican Party that has long since abandoned any pretense of governance or concern for the well-being of Americans.

The first Contract on America  essentially fizzled out with Gingrich, its proponent and co-author, blithely leaving the field and the cultural wreckage he wrought behind him. Contract on America 2.0 simply promises to pick up where he left off, albeit with a GOP even more morally bankrupt than in the 1990s. Any American concerned for the future of this country should hope that Gingrich’s second bite at the apple proves equally poisonous to himself and the party that spawned him.

Morning Digest: Why did Maryland Democrats go soft on redistricting? Here’s who’s to blame

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

Leading Off

MD Redistricting: Want to know why Maryland Democrats pulled their punches when it came to targeting the state's lone Republican congressional seat? Slate's Jim Newell has an excellent new piece detailing which politicians were obstacles to an 8-0 Democratic map, and why.

At the top of the list are Rep. Jim Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume. Sarbanes, as the lead sponsor of H.R. 1, the bill to ban congressional gerrymandering nationwide, was reportedly reluctant to support a maximalist map that would ensure Republican Rep. Andy Harris would lose re-election. Maryland's new map, however, is still very much a Democratic gerrymander—half-hearted though it may be—so it's not as though Sarbanes can pitch himself as above the partisan fray, especially since he declined to criticize the map after it passed.

Mfume, meanwhile, outright embraced unilateral disarmament. "I mean, if it were the other way around, and Democrats were one-third of the population, and they put forth maps or started moving toward an 8–0 representation, we'd be up jumping up and down in arms," he said, ignoring the fact that Republicans in many more states than Democrats are doing everything they can to maximize their advantage in redistricting. But, says Newell, Mfume also didn't want to take in conservative white voters from Harris' district, concerned that doing so "would distract from his representation of majority-minority communities in Baltimore," and therefore "was adamant against suggested changes, like stretching his district north to the Pennsylvania border."

Campaign Action

A couple of less well-known Democrats figure in this story, too. In our examination of the new map, we noted that the revamped 1st District now leaps across Chesapeake Bay to take in the areas around Annapolis but not the very blue state capital itself. Why not? Newell reports that state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, whose district includes the city, "didn't want a competitive congressional district like the 1st layered atop hers." Elfreth's staff claim the senator "had no role" in drawing the maps.

Finally, Newell points a finger at state Senate President Bill Ferguson, who reportedly "was never comfortable" with an 8-0 map due to his own high-minded sensibilities and feared unspecified "blowback" from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. But Hogan vetoed the map that Democrats did pass anyway (a veto they instantly overrode), and a group closely connected to the governor has threatened to file suit, so what greater blowback could Ferguson possibly have feared?

Newell's entire article is worth a read, but the last word belongs to one Maryland Democrat who did favor an 8-0 plan. In light of extreme Republican gerrymandering across the country, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, "[W]e have not only a political right, but I would argue an ethical duty, to do whatever we can to fight fire with fire, and try to defend democratic values and democratic process in America."

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: The Connecticut Supreme Court has granted a request from the state's bipartisan redistricting commission for additional time to complete work on a new congressional map, setting a deadline of Dec. 21. Under state law, the panel was required to produce a new map by Nov. 30 but was unable to. The court also ordered commissioners to provide the names of three potential special masters by Wednesday to assist the justices in drawing a new map in the event that the commission misses its new deadline.

Senate

NC-Sen, NC-07: Former Rep. Mark Walker said Thursday that he would continue his uphill bid for the Republican Senate nomination through the rest of the year as he considers whether to switch to the open 7th Congressional District. Walker made this declaration one day after the state Supreme Court temporarily stayed candidate filing for all races and moved the primary from March to May due to a pair of lawsuits challenging the state's new congressional and legislative maps that are currently pending.

PA-Sen: George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia, said Thursday it was "very likely" he runs for the Senate next year. Bochetto has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary. (The eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red's high-water mark for decades to come.)

More recently, Bochetto aided Donald Trump's defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he also persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia's city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing TV doctor Mehmet Oz 44-42 in a hypothetical general election. The release did not include any other matchups.

Governors

GA-Gov: In a thoroughly unsurprising development, former Speaker Newt Gingrich is backing his fellow Trump sycophant, ex-Sen. David Perdue, in next year's Republican primary.

MA-Gov: While Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll was mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for governor following Republican incumbent Charlie Baker's retirement, Politico reports that the post she's interested in campaigning for is lieutenant governor. In Massachusetts, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated in separate primaries before competing as a ticket in the general election.  

OR-Gov: EMILY's List has endorsed state House Speaker Tina Kotek in next year's Democratic primary.

House

CA-22: Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez's spokesperson tells GV Wire's David Taub that the Democrat is thinking about running to succeed outgoing Republican Rep. Devin Nunes in this still-unfinalized Central Valley constituency.

Taub also relays that the DCCC has met with 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47, but that he has yet to comment on his own plans. Janz last year ran for mayor of Fresno but lost the officially nonpartisan race 52-40 to Republican Jerry Dyer; Janz back in January endorsed 2020 nominee Phil Arballo's second campaign against Nunes, though his calculations appear to have changed now that the incumbent is resigning. Arballo, for his part, has confirmed that he'll be competing in the upcoming special election to succeed Nunes in addition to the race for the regular two-year term.

Finally, Taub reports that Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula is also thinking about running. Arambula, a physician and the son of a former local assemblyman, himself considered running against Republican Rep. David Valadao back in 2015 in the neighboring 21st District but decided not to do it. Instead, Arambula won his current post in a low-turnout 2016 special election for a seat around Fresno, and he quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the chamber's moderate Democratic faction.  

Arambula's career seemed to be in real danger after he was arrested in late 2018 after one of his daughters accused him of abuse, but a jury found him not guilty months later. (Arambula, who maintained his innocence, argued that conservative prosecutors were targeting him for political reasons.) The incumbent went on to win re-election 62-38 as Joe Biden was taking his 31st Assembly seat by a similar 62-36 spread.

IL-13: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski in next year's Democratic primary for this newly drawn open seat.

MD-06: Former Del. Aruna Miller closed the door on another run for Congress on Thursday when she announced that she would run for lieutenant governor on author Wes Moore's ticket. Miller had filed FEC paperwork back in January for the 6th District in case Rep. David Trone, who defeated her in the 2018 Democratic primary, left to run for governor. Trone ultimately announced that he'd stay put, and while Miller didn't confirm this meant she wasn't going to campaign here, she made no obvious moves to prepare for a second bid.

NJ-05: John Flora, who serves as mayor of the small township of Fredon (pop. 3,200), has joined the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

TX-27: Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback announced Friday that he would challenge Rep. Michael Cloud in the March Republican primary for the new and safely red 27th District, a gerrymandered constituency that stretches from Corpus Christi along the Gulf Coast north to the outskirts of the Austin area.

Louderback's tiny county, with a population of just 15,000 people, is home to just 2% of the district's residents, so the challenger starts with almost no geographic base of support. Cloud, by contrast, already represents over 85% of the new seat, and he's done everything he can to ingratiate himself to his party's ascendant far-right wing.

Back in March, Cloud was even one of just 12 House members to vote against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to members of the U.S. Capitol Police for their work combating the Jan. 6 insurrection. He defended himself with a statement saying he couldn't support a resolution because it included text that "refers to the Capitol as the temple of democracy – simply put, it's not a temple and Congress should not refer to it as one." Cloud added, "The federal government is not a god."

Louderback himself also doesn't appear to have laid out an argument for why primary voters should fire Cloud. He instead kicked off his bid by declaring, "This campaign will be based on national security issues, oil and gas issues, Medicare issues and a lot of things that are threats to Texas and the United States." He continued, "I look forward to a really good race where competitive styles in management can be examined by the public."

WA-03: State Rep. Vicki Kraft has confirmed that she'll challenge her fellow Republican, incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, in the August top-two primary. Kraft joins a GOP field that includes Army veteran Joe Kent, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, as well as evangelical author Heidi St. John.

Kraft used her kickoff to take Herrera Beutler to task for her "extremely unfortunate" vote to impeach Trump, but she mostly emphasized her own opposition to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's pandemic safety measures. Kraft declared, "Whether it's fighting for parents' rights, and against controversial mandates in schools such as comprehensive sex education or COVID-19 masks; or fighting for individuals' rights, and against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, I will continue fighting for the people and will make sure their voice is heard in Washington, D.C."

Attorneys General

MN-AG: On Thursday, business attorney Jim Schultz became the fourth Republican to announce a bid against Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose 2018 victory made him the first Muslim elected statewide anywhere in America. Ellison was already facing a rematch against 2018 opponent Doug Wardlow, who lost 49-45 and now serves as general counsel for MyPillow, the company led by election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. Also in the running are former state Rep. Dennis Smith and attorney Lynne Torgerson.

Minnesota is far from a safe state for Democrats, but Republicans haven't held the attorney general's post since Douglas Head left office in early 1971. The last time Team Red won any statewide races at all, meanwhile, was 2006, when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty narrowly earned a second term, though they've come very close to breaking that streak a few times since then.

TX-AG: EMILY's List is backing Rochelle Garza, who is a former ACLU attorney, in next year's Democratic primary.