Bolton accuses Dems of taking impeachment ‘opportunity’ and ‘driving straight into a ditch with it’

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday accused Democrats of having taken the “opportunity” of the impeachment inquiry and having driven it “straight into a ditch” by turning it into a partisan fight.

McCarthy leaves Intel spot open months after Ratcliffe confirmation

House Republicans aren’t rushing to fill an empty seat on the high-profile House Intelligence Committee that has remained vacant for months, even as Congress grapples with potential foreign interference in the upcoming elections.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is taking his time deciding who should replace former Rep. John Ratcliffe — now the Director of National Intelligence — on the prestigious panel, according to sources familiar with the California Republican’s thinking, and a pick isn’t expected anytime soon. President Donald Trump tapped Ratcliffe to be the nation’s spy chief five months ago, and the Senate confirmed him in May.

McCarthy’s selection will surely create some sore feelings in the conference as dozens of House Republicans are vying for a spot on the panel, despite it becoming a hotbed for some of Capitol Hill’s most public partisan brawls the last few years, culminating with the president’s impeachment.

And McCarthy’s choice could signal whether he wants to reverse the partisanship that's wracked the panel in the era of Trump or continue down a more similar path. With two more Republicans on the panel set to retire, the committee — the smallest one in the House with 21 total current members — could undergo a revamp.

But Democrats contend that leaving the slot open this long is another symptom of the disregard Republicans have displayed for intelligence matters, pointing to the GOP’s recent boycott of the committee’s proceedings since the coronavirus pandemic forced the panel to conduct hearings, briefings and roundtables virtually.

“It’s reflective of a lack of seriousness that the minority is bringing to the responsibilities of the committee,” Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told POLITICO.

“It’s a disservice to their caucus and to the country,” he said, adding the incomplete roster “impedes the minority’s voice in the process. They’re undermining themselves.”

The committee's top Republican, California Rep. Devin Nunes, repeatedly declined to comment.

Other Republicans on the panel, who have begun attending the committee’s limited closed-door sessions in recent weeks — including briefings from the Trump administration on election security threats and intelligence reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan — contend that being down to just eight members hasn’t impeded their oversight efforts. And they say it’s natural for leadership to take its time with such a weighty decision.

“They have no idea how much time we’re spending down in Intel and going about our own work. I don’t report to them when we’re doing Intel work, the phone calls I'm having,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), adding he recently had a secure phone call with outgoing Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley about supply chain issues.

“And you tell me how much Intel work they were doing during impeachment and the last three years? Give me a break,” he added.

The Intelligence Committee is the only permanent committee in Congress whose members are hand-picked unilaterally by the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House, meaning they retain tight control over the committee's business and tend to appoint close allies.

And McCarthy is fielding interest from all across the GOP conference.

Wenstrup said that even before Ratcliffe was confirmed, over a dozen younger members had casually approached him about how to get a spot on the committee, asking: “‘What did you do? How did you make your case?’”

Further complicating McCarthy’s decision-making process: There is a chamber rule that each side of the aisle must have at least one member who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Ratcliffe sat on both panels when he served in Congress. That means Ratcliffe’s replacement must also be plucked from the Judiciary Committee, leaving McCarthy a more limited bench to choose from.

Speculation has run rampant about who might get the seat, according to sources on both sides of the aisle, with names rising and falling as the game of musical chairs has dragged on for months. At one point, there was even the possibility that Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a top ally of the president who temporarily served on the committee during Trump’s impeachment hearings and is now the top Republican on Judiciary, might somehow return.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a Navy veteran who serves on Judiciary and is well-liked within the GOP conference, was considered a possible contender, but his freshman status likely prohibits him from receiving such a prestigious appointment; same goes for freshman Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.).

Retiring Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who served on the Select Committee on Benghazi, could be a placeholder pick, though Intel would be a tough assignment to drop into for only a few months.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05: Rep. John Ratcliffe, (R-TX), is sworn in before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill on May 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. The panel is considering Ratcliffe's nomination for director of national intelligence. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee include Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a former attorney who served as one of Trump’s impeachment surrogates; several members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, including Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs of Arizona; and veteran Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, who unsuccessfully sought the top GOP spot on Judiciary.

McCarthy will have more flexibility whenever he selects members to replace retiring Texas Reps. Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, and Mike Conaway, who led the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after Nunes recused himself.

Outside of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chair of the House Republican Conference and a vocal foreign policy hawk, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for Intel, though that was before her colleagues accused her of undermining Trump’s administration for criticizing its response to the coronavirus and foreign policy decisions during a recent closed-door meeting.

Other names that have been floated include Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.). Both sit on the House Financial Services Committee and could apply their fiscal knowledge to intelligence and national security matters.

The momentum around Barr’s candidacy has stalled, though, after the unexpected death of his wife in June. The Kentucky Republican, who said he is focused on raising his two daughters, returned to Capitol Hill just before the August recess.

Historically, the panel has attracted lawmakers who want to do serious intelligence work; committee members deal with the nation’s most closely-held secrets and most often meet in secure classified settings, away from the glare of the C-SPAN cameras. But the panel has transformed in the Trump era and become more of a partisan breeding ground, as evidenced when the committee’s Republicans called on Schiff to resign.

Despite the lack of a full roster, the committee’s work has continued.

Last week the panel approved its annual intelligence policy bill — though in a straight party-line vote, instead of unanimously by voice vote. It’s also working with the U.S. intelligence community to finalize its “deep dive” on China, focused on the various national security threats posed by Beijing, and reviewing the pandemic and how the clandestine community is postured to analyze global health issues.

McCarthy initially came under fire at the start of this Congress, accused of slow-rolling the committee’s work when he took weeks to name someone to an open spot on the panel while Democrats were eager to restart the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

McCarthy eventually tapped Ratcliffe for the role, but personally informed at least 70 lawmakers who sought the spot on the panel and didn't get the seat, which delayed the announcement.

“If anyone were to read anything into this other than it’s a procedural process they would be wrong,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) told POLITICO. “It’s just going to take a little while and of course we take our Intel responsibilities seriously.”

Democrats, however, say leaving Ratcliffe’s spot empty is a sign of the GOP’s disconnect at a critical time. With less than 100 days until the election, top Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have criticized the Trump administration for withholding information on possible Russian election meddling.

“Honestly, I wish that the minority would just be a little more involved in what’s going on in the oversight of the intelligence community,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, one of four new Democrats named to the panel last year.

“We can’t oversee the intelligence community in a partisan way, it has to be bipartisan,” he added, especially when the Trump administration is “trying to hide the ball in terms of information about the intelligence community, not communicating with us in the way that they should and also preventing career public servants from doing their duty and showing up to testify about vital matters.”

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As Republicans itch over next possible Supreme Court vacancy, Democrats mull countermeasures

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016, Senate Republicans discovered a heretofore unidentified, now-infamous caveat to President Barack Obama's constitutional powers: Black presidents aren't allowed to fill vacant Supreme Court seats during an election year. The Senate refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, who was put forward by Obama for the role; instead, the seat was simply left vacant for the duration of Obama's term. When Republican Trump was installed as president the next year, the Senate swiftly confirmed his own conservative nominee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fawning Trump golf partner Sen. Lindsey Graham, among others, have not been shy in declaring that the previously made-up rule no longer applies under Trump. On the contrary, they say the Senate would move swiftly to confirm any last-minute nominees if a vacancy were to arise in the last months of Trump's calamitous term. The recent diagnosis of liberal court icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with liver cancer (she is by all accounts being successfully treated) is putting new focus on these Republican court-packing inventions and un-inventions—and is pushing Democratic senators to more seriously consider expanding the court to rebalance it in the face of blatant Republican sabotages.

Whether Democratic senators will have the guts to actually do the thing remains an open question. But Sen. Tim Kaine—not exactly a liberal firebreather—is among those now open to expanding the Supreme Court if McConnell, Graham, and the others are insistent on undoing their own supposed ban on election-year nominees, notes NBC:

"If they show that they're unwilling to respect precedent, rules and history, then they can't feign surprise when others talk about using a statutory option that we have that's fully constitutional in our availability."

Unfortunately, that is phrased as a threat that depends on if Republicans go any further than they already have, rather than an observation about just how far they have already gone. The Democratic National Committee may go farther; they’re planning to make a call for "structural" court reforms part of the party platform.

The current Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy, and for structural rather than ideological reasons. The blocking of an Obama justice under a newly invented partisan rule that was discarded immediately afterwards put Neil Gorsuch on the court illegitimately; the Republican Senate's role in hiding evidence during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings was a near-perfect runup to the fiasco of discarded impeachment charges against Trump, not because anyone was willing to argue that Trump did not do the political extortion he was charged with but because Republican senators declared they simply did not wish to hear any evidence either way. The court is a product of the same Republican corruption that has debased the rest of Washington, and the nation. The party broke it.

“It would be very dangerous for Americans to begin to believe the Supreme Court was not the legitimate arbiter of our nation's laws,” we often hear. True, but that ship has sailed. The Supreme Court is a parody of itself already; you cannot even make good money making bets as to which conservative justices will discard their own precedents and proclamations to bend each new argument towards the preferred "conservative" outcome, because everybody else also knows that the core of conservative justices will make those flips of logic whenever the need arises. Pointing it out is now a consistent feature—and perhaps the most consistent feature—of non-conservative dissents.

It is true that Trump replacing any Supreme Court position in the next few months would quickly blossom into yet another crisis of government as the Senate swiftly erased whatever self-declared impediments were thrown up in the past, the whole of America watched it happen, and a good chunk of America came to the conclusion that the Supreme Court was now simply a structural appendage of the Republican Party. Again, though: ship, sailed. Watching the Kavanaugh nomination and listening to McConnell's unending carousel of new-rules-that-are-not, does anyone think the Supreme Court is not that appendage right now?

House committee subpoenas 4 top Pompeo aides

A top House Democrat has subpoenaed four senior aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of resisting interviews in an investigation of President Donald Trump's firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) issued the subpoenas Monday to Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management and a longtime Pompeo associate, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String and senior adviser Toni Porter.

The subpoenas are an escalation in the committee's confrontation with the State Department, which has resisted repeated oversight attempts by the committee since Democrats' impeachment investigation last year.

"The Administration continues to cover up the real reasons for Mr. Linick’s firing by stonewalling the Committees’ investigation and refusing to engage in good faith," Engel, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a joint statement. "That stonewalling has made today’s subpoenas necessary."

Bulatao is seen by Democrats as a linchpin in their investigation, an enforcer of sorts for Pompeo who Linick said attempted to bully him into shying away from sensitive investigations about Pompeo's use of taxpayer resources and stewardship of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The other aides, Democrats say, were aware of the circumstances of Linick's departure or of the two investigations that he said raised questions about Pompeo's actions. Linick testified to the House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Government Reform committees last month, leading the panels to request interviews with Bulatao and the other aides.

Bulatao had been slated to appear on July 2, but Democrats deferred to a State Department request for a delay on the eve of his testimony, citing the need to review the recently completed inspector general's report on the Saudi arms sale. Democrats also agreed to postpone the other witness depositions until after Bulatao's appearance, but by Monday their patience had run out.

In a required letter to Congress after removing Linick, Trump said he had lost confidence in the department's watchdog. But when pressed directly, Trump said he removed Linick at Pompeo's request and knew little about the details of the inspector general's work. State Department aides have pushed back on suggestions that Pompeo or Bulatao acted improperly, alleging that Linick himself was the one acting improperly. Pompeo recently told reporters Linick was a "bad actor" in the department and wasn't adequately fulfilling the role of IG.

The State Department blasted the subpoenas in a lengthy statement, calling claims of stonewalling “outrageous.”

“The Department has been offering good faith proposals to satisfy their oversight inquiry since May 28, 2020,” a department spokesperson said. “Related to this inquiry regarding Steve Linick, we have offered a briefing, an open hearing before both House Committees with the Under Secretary for Management, a briefing for Members on the Office of the Inspector General’s review of the implementation of the Arms Export Control Act, and we have provided a very clear path for every individual requested to engage with the Committees. All of the offers have been rejected, manipulated by the Committees, or outright ignored.”

The escalation between the committees and the State Department follows what had seemed to be a breakthrough last week, when Pompeo's executive secretary, Lisa Kenna, told senators she would commit to appearing before investigators on Aug. 7, part of a package deal with other witnesses involved in the probe. That agreement marked a resumption of tensions between the State Department and the Democrat-led House, which subpoenaed documents from the department amid its impeachment probe but ultimately received none.

In their statement announcing the subpoenas, Engel and Maloney indicated they had secured testimony from a senior State official voluntarily. That official, Charles Faulker, described String's role in the Saudi arms deal, suggesting String helped develop the legal rationale for declaring an emergency that allowed the $8 billion sale to proceed without required congressional approvals.

"According to Mr. Faulkner, Mr. String cited 'rising tensions' in a 'decades-long' conflict among Gulf powers as a basis for such an emergency transfer," the committees indicated.

Last week, Engel subpoenaed Pompeo to produce another set of documents: those the State Department had already shared with Senate Republicans investigating Joe Biden's relationship with Ukraine, part of what Democrats say is a smear campaign that amplifies disinformation about Biden's role in leading diplomacy with a crucial European partner.

The strained relationship between Linick and Bulatao is at the heart of the committee's investigation. Bulatao told the committee that Linick botched an investigation into his own office's handling of a sensitive report about political retaliation inside the State Department, which leaked to the media ahead of its release. Linick was cleared in that probe by Pentagon watchdog Glenn Fine, whom Linick had asked to conduct the review.

Linick told lawmakers he faced pressure to stop probing the Saudi arms sale, which Pompeo allies said was a policy dispute rather than a question of management. Linick said his response was that he was investigating the implementation of the policy, which is within the inspector general's scope. Linick also emphasized that Bulatao was among a small inner circle of Pompeo aides who were informed of his ongoing probe of Pompeo's use of government resources.

Linick was also investigating the role Pompeo's wife, Susan Pompeo, played at the department and whether she and her husband improperly used State Department staffers to run personal errands for them.

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The Fatigue Factor: Is America Tired Of Democrat Drama?

President Biden? It’s a sobering thought. Not so much because Joe Biden is a wild-eyed loon. But because he’s using loons to get elected and they will want payment if he pulls it off.

Slim chance, you say. Really? Think again.

Yes, the polls are corrupted and contrived and the media is totally in the tank for the Democrats—as they always are. And it is true, by any logical analysis, that by comparing track records and personalities, the president wins by a wide mile. But those are sensible perspectives and politics is sadly not about sensible anything…but more likely than not about illogical and senseless perception borne of a shallow relationship between the voter and the zeitgeist.

And we can all admit, the spirit of the times is not good. Not since the late 1960s have we had this kind of constant drama of existential controversy. Granted, all of it contrived by the Democrats and the media.

Even before the president took office he was supposedly a Russian pawn. Then there was a special prosecutor. Then impeachment. Now COVID-19 and riots. Have the American people run out of patience with the consistent melodramatic brouhaha? Is there a fatigue factor setting in where a majority of voters in key battleground states are willing to tolerate a Biden presidency to end the never-ending kerfuffle?

Because you know that’s the deal. As soon as Biden would be elected, peace and tranquility would reign supreme. A new golden age, for some people. It’s almost like a tumultuous romantic relationship where you break up with someone you really like because you just can’t handle the drama anymore.

Does the president have an effective defense against this? He should, and it would be law and order. In 1968, under somewhat similar circumstances, Richard Nixon used that theme to great advantage against Democrat Hubert Humphrey and was elected president. But the country is different than it was in the late 60s.

We’ve replaced generations tempered by depression, war, and prosperity with an easily swayed significant portion of the population composed of social media-driven voyeurs and a youth programmed to respond to basic PC stimuli like the most conditioned of Pavlov’s dogs.

Whither the republic? I don’t know. Honestly, I wish that I could, as I did (pre-COVID) confidently predict a Trump victory. There are still idiots out there doing that and by their clueless complacency making a Biden victory much more possible. You know the type. The ones that, despite all evidence to the contrary, actually said “Red Tsunami” in 2018 and meant it. Their confirmation bias does not help the cause.

So we stand on the precipice of the fall campaign season and all bets are off. We can win if the American people still have a modicum of sense. The Left will win if the same people throw in the towel and surrender to the false drama of manufactured negativity Democrats and the hard left have produced —and will continue to produce— until November.

Because it’s not really a Trumpian drama. It’s Democrat drama wrapped up with insincere bows and ribbons by the press to drop on the presidential doorstep. If the American people get that, we’re okay. If not, well, say hello to the 25th Amendment.

This piece was written by David Kamioner on August 3, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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The post The Fatigue Factor: Is America Tired Of Democrat Drama? appeared first on The Political Insider.

Republicans prep for leadership battle if Trump goes down

The maneuvering for power in a possible post-Trump world has already broken out among House Republicans — a worrisome preview for the GOP of potentially chaotic leadership fights this fall.

The party’s long-simmering divides were largely papered over after Donald Trump won the White House in 2016. But members expect the truce among the GOP’s warring factions to crumble if Trump’s presidency ends, and the current leadership could face the fallout.

How that will shake out for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney is not completely certain. But according to interviews with over a dozen Republican lawmakers and aides, there’s a growing sense that if Trump loses the White House — and the GOP fails to make meaningful gains in the House — the fight for the future of the party will play out in challenges across leadership.

“If Trump loses, there’s gonna be a mad scramble if we’re in the minority,” said one Republican lawmaker, who was granted anonymity to speak more freely. “There’s people seeing this as an opportunity. … I think it’s gonna be a real fight.”

The early feuding that has already erupted inside the House GOP is being fueled by Trump’s dismal poll numbers and growing fears that Republicans could sink even further into the House minority, underscoring the anxiety in the GOP conference just three months before the election.

Several sources familiar with the party’s internal dynamics cautioned that any potential effort to push out the top Republican leaders might be difficult. Only a simple majority is needed to secure a leadership post in the House minority, and the caucus does not contain a deep bench of potential challengers. There are also positions lower down that could become competitive and offer an outlet for ambitious Republicans, from head of the House GOP’s campaign arm to an open slot as vice conference chair.

But Trump loyalists and more establishment-type conservatives are already trying to stake out ground ahead of the elections: During a recent private GOP conference meeting first reported by POLITICO, some of Trump’s fiercest allies unloaded on Cheney for not being loyal enough to the president and said she’ll be to blame if Trump and the GOP stumble in November.

The infighting then spilled into public view, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) calling on Cheney — the highest-ranking Republican woman — to be removed from her position as conference chair.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 21: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on April 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. The president met with lawmakers about the $482 billion aid package that would replenish a small-business loan program and provide funding for hospitals facing financial shortfalls due to COVID-19.

“There are a lot of folks interested in change,” said Gaetz, who has taken particular issue with Cheney’s previous support for a primary opponent to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). “I just don’t understand how we’re going to win the majority back if our leadership is coming after our members in primaries.”

“I always knew Liz to support ‘forever wars,’ but I hope she doesn’t want a forever war with her own conference,” he added in an interview.

Cheney stood her ground during the closed-door meeting and hit back at Gaetz with a jab about his upcoming HBO documentary on his efforts to “drain the swamp”; she also publicly vowed to continue speaking out against Trump whenever she feels it’s necessary.

GOP leaders have sought to put on a united front and downplay suggestions that the party is fractured heading into November. But the dust-up offered a sneak peak of the potentially messy battle to come.

“I think this is all about what’s gonna happen in November. The Freedom Caucus guys are trying to put [Cheney] back in her corner,” said another GOP lawmaker, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “She is playing the long game. Folks in Conference are figuring that out.”

Cheney’s public critiques of Trump and strong support of Dr. Anthony Fauci have been interpreted by some of Cheney’s colleagues as an attempt to build a distinct brand within the GOP and position herself in case Trump — and McCarthy or Scalise — falters, though no one thinks she’s rooting for that scenario.

By contrast, McCarthy and Scalise have both closely tied themselves to Trump; the president even fondly refers to the minority leader as “my Kevin.” A broad GOP defeat could lead to calls for new leadership as the party searches for answers — and a scapegoat.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04:  U.S. President Donald Trump (R) speaks as he joined by House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) in the Rose Garden of the White House on January 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump hosted both Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the White House for the second meeting in three days as the government shutdown heads into its third week.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Not sure McCarthy and Scalise are prepared to be in the minority and with a Dem President,” the GOP lawmaker said. “Members are already beyond frustrated. That will boil up and get more ugly.”

Said another Republican member: “I think there is going to be a problem in leadership if there’s a loss ... If we gain some seats, I think Kevin will stay there.”

But even if Republicans lose the White House and additional House seats, McCarthy and Scalise might be just fine. The makeup of the GOP conference has grown more conservative in recent years and a smaller House GOP with fewer moderates could be even more Trumpy after November, regardless of whether the president sticks around another four years. Embracing Trump tightly is hardly a sin in today’s GOP.

McCarthy’s allies also argue that the minority leader’s fundraising chops, relationships with members and efforts to lead the party through impeachment would boost his case. Scalise, meanwhile, has earned plaudits for helping the GOP clinch a number of wins on procedural floor votes and is also a strong fundraiser; he has never faced a leadership challenge.

There’s also the issue of who, if anyone, could mount a serious challenge to the top GOP leaders.

Cheney — an ambitious, fast-rising star in the party — has been floated as a potential speaker or leader one day. The Wyoming Republican even passed on a bid for an open Senate seat to stay in the House, a clear sign of where her priorities lie. Her allies have lauded Cheney’s messaging tactics and forthrightness while still remaining loyal to Trump’s conservative agenda; they also think she could help the party make sorely needed inroads with women voters.

But the blowup with Trump’s allies — and a public rebuke from Trump on Twitter — have raised new questions about Cheney’s future and her upward mobility in the House GOP, especially if Trump does win. Cheney’s fundraising also pales in comparison with that of McCarthy and Scalise, though her office pointed out that’s because she is focused on raising money directly for candidates and the campaign arm.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) acknowledged that Cheney’s critiques of Trump could hurt her. But, he added, “you’ve got to realize, in families there’s always disputes.”

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. House Republican leaders criticized their Democratic colleagues handling of the impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

“I don’t think there’s any ramifications for her,” added Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.). “She’s doing such a good job.”

Pushing out the highest-ranking woman in the GOP could also be bad optics — unless a different woman lands a spot somewhere in leadership. Gaetz declined to name a potential challenger to Cheney and said he doesn't want the job himself.

Cheney secured her current leadership post by announcing a challenge to another lawmaker, but it’s unclear whether she’d be willing to make a play for a higher position if it means taking on McCarthy or Scalise. When she announced her plans to stay in the House, she went out of her way to say she looked forward to seeing McCarthy as speaker.

At a recent news conference, Cheney downplayed the dispute with her conservative colleagues and instead focused on highlighting how awful a Biden-Schumer-Pelosi agenda would be for Republicans.

“Certain groups like to throw stones a lot. Leadership has to take it and roll with it, and that’s what she’s doing,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), alluding to the hard-line House Freedom Caucus’ recent ambush of Cheney. “For anybody to be agitating, maybe there’s just personality differences.”

It was only two years ago that Rep. Jim Jordan, a notorious troublemaker for leadership and co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, unsuccessfully challenged McCarthy for GOP leader. Since then, however, the Ohio Republican has been seen as more of a team player and even earned a coveted role as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

But during the contentious GOP conference meeting, his colleague saw glimmers of the old Jordan as he piled on Cheney, suggesting that her Trump criticism could hurt the president and the party at the polls — the exact type of argument that he or his colleagues would likely make if they try to target Cheney after an electoral bloodbath.

“If a president goes down, then you don’t win back a majority,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who also spoke up against Cheney during the meeting. “People are always free to speak their minds. But we’ll see how it goes from here to November.”

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‘The Swamp’ Exposes Just How Much Republican Matt Gaetz Kisses Trump’s Butt

‘The Swamp’ Exposes Just How Much Republican Matt Gaetz Kisses Trump’s ButtSpoiler alert: Contrary to his stated intentions, President Donald Trump has not “drained the swamp,” but has in fact amplified D.C. corruption and special-interest power—currently, more than 300 lobbyists have seats in his administration—unseen in modern times. The Swamp understands and exposes this fact, and yet Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme’s HBO documentary (premiering August 4) nonetheless tackles the issue of politics and money via a decidedly wishy-washy look at three of Trump’s staunchest faux-“renegade” GOP congressional acolytes: Colorado’s Ken Buck, Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and Florida’s perpetually sycophantic Matt Gaetz.It’s Gaetz who’ll likely be best known to viewers, thanks to a series of headline-making (and social media-inflaming) stunts, including tweeting out a not-so-veiled threat to congressional witness (and former Trump attorney) Michael Cohen, and leading a group of rabble-rousing Republicans on a raid of a closed-door impeachment hearing deposition. A perpetual fixture on Fox News, where he parrots Trump talking points in the most extremist fashion imaginable, he’s a young, eager go-getter who’s hitched his post to the current commander-in-chief. That’s certainly the figure depicted by DiMauro and Pehme’s film, which captures him articulating his staunch support in personal phone calls to the president (and is told, in return, “You’re doing fantastic…you’re tough and smart and you have the look”), as well as stating outright “I love him so much.” Throughout the film, Gaetz is repeatedly seen fawning all over Trump, receiving marching orders from the president and delivering near-daily progress reports. When Trump calls him “handsome,” the congressman acts like he’s won the lottery. John Oliver Unloads on ‘Idiot’ Trump for Endorsing Dr. Demon SpermNetflix Targets the ‘World’s Most Wanted’ CriminalsGiven his fawning admiration for the president, it’s predictable that Gaetz spends a lot of time in The Swamp criticizing D.C. venality at the hands of wealthy special interest groups, whose checkbooks are coveted by politicians wanting to maintain their membership in the party, and their position in committees. Gaetz, Massie and Buck’s dismay over this flawed paradigm is voiced at regular intervals throughout the film (set in 2018-2019), as is a greater desire for bipartisanship, which Gaetz himself partakes in alongside California’s Ro Khanna with their Khanna-Gaetz amendment designed to take unilateral war powers (specifically with regards to Iran) away from the president and return them to Congress. In this effort, as in their many censures of super PAC influence, the three come across as principled outliers committed to upending the “new normal” of donor-driven governance ushered in by Newt Gingrich in 1994.Like an introductory scene of Gaetz dressing and putting on makeup in the office work closet he calls home—the better to maximize his daily productivity, he says—such commentary is the trio’s (and film’s) means of casting them as hard-working against-the-grain mavericks. At the same time, though, directors DiMauro and Pehme fully recognize that these supposed rebels—and Gaetz in particular—are bald-faced hypocrites who don’t walk their own talk. While it’s true that, in 2020, Gaetz became the first Republican to swear off any campaign donations from super PACs (a worthwhile stand, to be sure), he otherwise comes across as a guy who doesn’t care that his beloved president is far from the reformer he claimed he would be on the campaign trail. First during the Mueller hearings and again throughout the impeachment process, Gaetz readily takes to his Fox News pulpit to rail against the “witch hunt” and Democrats, as well as to vilify immigrants as “criminals, thugs, special-interest aliens…jihadists,” habitually using the president’s very own polarizing language. He’s akin to a Trump ventriloquist dummy.The discrepancy between Gaetz’s anti-“swamp” pronouncements and his adulation of a leader whose entire Oval Office tenure has been designed to enrich himself is hard to ignore, and The Swamp certainly takes pains to underline it, as it does the dissonance between Buck and Massie’s avowed disgust for special interests and yet dubious connections to the NRA and the coal industry. Massie himself likens his congressional pin to The Lord of the Rings’ ring (because its limitless power is corrupting), and equates himself to Star Wars’ rebel fighters and Congress to the Death Star, and the nerdiness of the latter point is only outweighed by the silliness of the analogy, especially since Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale recently associated the president’s re-election as a villainous Death Star juggernaut ready to wipe out its enemies.Despite routinely pricking Gaetz and company for behaving in ways that are diametrically opposed to their declared values, The Swamp still spends considerable energy lavishing fond attention on them. Slow-motion shots of Gaetz strutting down D.C. streets, sunglasses on and the sun shining from behind him, contribute to puffing up his media-friendly persona as rock star-ish upstart contrarian driven to shake up the status quo. Since the film knows this isn’t really the case—at its conclusion, Gaetz votes along party lines for a military bill even though his beloved war powers amendment was cut out of it—the effect is to make one feel as if the directors want to have it both ways, obligated to critique their subject but not too harshly because, after all, Gaetz has granted them intimate access to his life in the first place.Only in interviews with Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig does The Swamp make a truly passionate case for the need for wide-scale lobbying reform—which came, most recently, in the form of Democrats’ H.R. 1 bill, which found few receptive Republican friends in the Senate. From climate change to military funding to gun control (to name only a few pressing national concerns), “none of these issues can be addressed sensibly until we address the deep corruption inside of our government,” he says. Without that, we’re doomed to deal with a system that turns politicians into fundraisers, and because “politics of hate is the most productive technique for fundraising we have,” that in turn leads to the hyper-polarization we see today.When it’s providing an insider’s view of the ways elected representatives are compelled—often willingly—to sell themselves to the highest bidder in order to maintain their sliver of power, The Swamp is a revealing and timely survey of our broken government. Where it stumbles, however, is in its choice of tour guides through that greedy bog—a collection of pretenders whose corruption-friendly actions speak far louder than their crusading words. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Asked whether Trump wants election delayed, will accept foreign help, Trump team refuses to say

It was another typical day on the Sunday shows, the place where America's most powerful people congregate to, for the most part, brazenly lie to us. Today's version came with one thing that the Trump team Very Much wants to talk about—banning social media app TikTok—and several they very much did not.

The two things they didn't want to talk about: Whether Donald Trump has asked his staff about delaying the November elections, and whether Trump's White House and/or campaign will accept foreign "assistance" in defeating former Vice President Joe Biden.

WATCH: Trump adviser Jason Miller is asked three (3) times whether the Trump administration or campaign would accept foreign assistance in this election. Three (3) times, he refuses to say no.

— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) August 2, 2020

That Trump campaign creature and deadbeat dad Jason Miller was so aggressively unwilling to answer straight-up whether the Trump team would be willing to accept foreign election assistance to beat Biden, on Fox News Sunday, is probably not surprising. Miller instead called it a "silly question," which to his credit is true: Trump himself faced impeachment for extorting a foreign government to provide such help, using the tools of his office, so pretending there is some remaining doubt about whether Trump and his team of people who did such a thing would do such a thing is indeed "silly."

This one is on Fox host Chris Wallace. If you book the oozing gastropod Miller on your show, you know what you're going to get: Lying. Gaslighting. Dear Leader-isms a-plenty. And you would still talk to him ... why? The point of bringing on a spokesperson who you can be absolutely sure will lie about anything and everything pertinent is what, exactly?

Newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, plucked from his House seat after a campaign of vigorously defending Trump from both the thing Trump was impeached over and every last thing he wasn't, had his own moment of not-gonna-answer-that when asked on Face the Nation whether Trump, after suggesting in a tweet that the presidential election be delayed, asked "you or anybody else in the administration to look into" delaying it.

Meadows couldn't answer that one. Or rather, wouldn't answer that one, instead swerving to attacks on pandemic vote-by-mail efforts with the usual aplomb of a treasonous dirtbag man with no particular attachment to seeing those elections happen. He can't answer whether Trump administration members were specifically asked, by Trump, if there was a way to delay the elections? Really now?

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't answer John Dickerson's question about "did the president ask you or anybody else in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the election day?"

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020

If you can't give an emphatic no to that one, we can all read between the lines. All right then, so it's come up.

None of this bodes very well for the elections, of course. Meadows was among the House Republicans most willing to be crooked on Trump's behalf back in Congress; presumed foreign agent Rep. Devin Nunes has been getting anti-Biden packets from pro-Russian Ukrainians while ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo, of the same vintage, uses his State Department perch to distribute anti-Biden materials to House Republicans while hiding it from Democrats.

There's a coordinated Republican strategy to manufacture foreign dirt, using pro-Russian foreign forces, to attack Biden with conspiracy theories in the final months of the election so that the best American pal foreign autocrats ever had can cling to power for another four years. From Pompeo to Barr, from Nunes to Meadows to Giuliani to Miller, they're sifting through disinformation to see what they can plausibly use before the press, the American people, intelligence services and federal investigators catch wind of it.

It'll probably be very stupid things, given what Giuliani has presented so far, but that doesn't mean they won't go all-in on the effort. If Trump and his team cannot be bothered to form even a mediocre plan for combatting the pandemic that has now killed 150,000 Americans and which may kill 250,000 before November—and they clearly can’t—then arguing that whoever Trump’s running against would be even worse is the only remaining play.