The collapse of Trump’s legal team in the midst of a disagreement over legal strategy, first reported by CNN Saturday night, stands in stark contrast to the slow descent of elected Republicans into the former president’s corner as lawmakers’ anger wears off and his potential ability to help or destroy them in the 2022 election becomes paramount.
While the Republican Party continues to submit to Trump’s whims, forgive his dangerous behavior and tremble at his electoral threats, the judiciary and lawyers are held to higher ethical standards – largely refusing to tolerate his attempts to destroy the nation’s democratic institutions and founding principles during his unfounded campaign masquerade – making the GOP’s loyalty to Trump even more frightening.
Someone familiar with the departure of the five lawyers – Butch Bowers, Deborah Barbier, Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris – told CNN that Trump wanted the lawyers to focus their defense on the fact that there was massive voter fraud in November and that the election was stolen from him, rather than question the legality of the president’s conviction after his departure. According to CNN’s Gloria Borger, Caitlan Collins, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Semler, Trump has not been receptive to conversations about how to proceed.
Still, the GOP has done much to support the former president, showing last week how irrevocably changed it has been by Trump’s corrosive influence, when party members largely remained silent and refused to censure Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, who had to end the week in disgrace after CNN’s KFile revealed that she had previously claimed to support the execution of prominent Democrats.
Instead, the new Republican, like Trump, doubled down on the bet and came away largely unscathed, evading any punishment from the GOP leadership for falsely claiming to be the victim of the “bloodthirsty media.” On Saturday, she appeared on Twitter with a provocative speech after claiming a “big conversation” with Trump continued to spout lies about the presidential election and showed not a shred of remorse for endorsing violent threats against lawmakers or insulting and unsubstantiated theories about the Parkland shooting. Although his behavior meets with the approval of the GOP leadership, some Republican parties and local leaders are rushing to condemn GOP lawmakers who dared to vote for impeachment proceedings against the former president.
The case of Trump – who should be acquitted in the Senate – and Green is the latest example of how Lincoln’s party has become a party of no consequence, tied to its moorings by Trump’s adoption of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and his intimidation of the most dangerous elements of the fringe party.
In sentences that could have been ripped from Mr. Trump’s permanently suspended Twitter account, Green said Saturday that she would never “apologize” or “back down,” despite CNN’s revelations about her shocking and conspiracy-fueled social media, including a comment suggesting that “a bullet in the head would be quicker” than a way to impeach House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She also supported comments about the execution of FBI agents.
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Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is credited with enforcing discipline within his ranks and installing a decency platform, said he plans to speak with Greene this week about contributions that threaten to kill lawmakers. But he also spent the past week getting comfortable with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and making up for his short-lived rebuke to the former president after an uprising that endangered the lives of his members by paying tribute to the standard-bearer of a party that is already preparing to disintegrate in the pre-election cycle.
At least 50 House Democrats have called for Ms. Green’s suspension and others have called for her censure or disqualification from committee duties, but so far there is no indication that the GOP leadership will demolish her.
Prior to his election in a red district last fall, Republican strategists expressed concern about Green’s ties to Islamophobic and anti-Semitic tropes, as well as his past support for QAnon – whose supporters believe in an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Trump has engaged in celebrity and Democrat child abuse. But she won and was one of Trump’s strongest supporters in supporting his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. On Capitol Hill, she wore a mask that read, “Trump won.”
“I got a call from my favorite president, Mr. Trump!” Green tweeted on Saturday. “I am very grateful for his support and, most importantly, the people of this country are 100% loyal to him because he is 100% loyal to the people and, most importantly, to America.” Mr. Trump’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the appeal.
Republicans feel the urge to impeach.
Meanwhile, it is the Republicans who ignored Trump with their impeachment vote earlier this month who now appear to be in greater political danger. On Saturday, the South Carolina Republican Party voted to formally censure Delegate Tom Rice for voting to impeach Trump. South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick argued that the vote was “nothing more than a political exit strategy” and that it “played into the hands of the Democrats.”
Several other Republicans in the House of Representatives who joined Rice in voting for impeachment are facing blowback from the House, with their party’s flank facing major challenges, rebukes from local leaders and an attack on their spending.
Several members of the Wyoming Republican Party, Liz Cheney, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House, have called for her to lose her leadership position after she supported impeachment. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, a close ally of Trump, forced her to hold a rally in her home state on Thursday, and Trump quickly reciprocated by showing allies a poll that proved she was weakened domestically.
In Cheyenne, Gaetz tried to stir up divisions within his party by advocating “prairie populism” and calling on Republicans to defeat Cheney if she runs, even taking a phone call from Donald Trump Jr. to reinforce that message. He said Cheney was part of a “private club of insiders” that also includes President Joe Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Pelosi, and that he wanted to use the government to “get rich.”
“Washington blames powerful brokers like Liz Cheney for corrupt gambling. But there are more of us, and we see the fakes more clearly than ever,” Gaetz told the gathering. “If you want to prove you have power, defeat Liz Cheney in the next election and Wyoming will bring Washington to its knees.”
Cheney told his party that his vote on the impeachment clause – which accused Trump of “inciting sedition” – was a decision of conscience. McCarthy said he supported Cheney but had “concerns.” Votes to indict Cheney and nine other Republicans could be the result of Wednesday’s meeting with all House Republicans, but it is unclear if and how McCarthy will respond to the controversy over Green’s social media posts. So far, he has only spoken out publicly through a spokesman, who called Green’s comments “deeply troubling.” The minority leader has already canceled a GOP board meeting scheduled for Tuesday – because that’s when he returns from an energy event in Houston, his spokesman told CNN. But he gave no further details on why it hasn’t been rescheduled, and a source familiar with the matter believes that one of the reasons McCarthy has canceled is that he doesn’t want to talk about Green.
“The lie of a flock of feathers together….
In her Saturday Twitter feed, Green attempted to argue that she, like Trump, is a victim of “bloodthirsty media” and “socialist, America-hating” Democrats. Referring to Pelosi’s comments at a press conference this week that “the enemy is in the House,” Green tried to define the enemy as “the toxic rot of socialist politics” and “America sells itself last – pompous hypocrites who think they are untouchable elites.”
She was rebuked on Twitter Saturday by Romney – a rare Republican who has often spoken out against Trump – saying, “A bundle of feathers lies together: the absurdity of Marjorie Taylor Green and the ‘big lie’ of a stolen election.”
But while most Republicans are silent on Green, tensions are rising between her and some Democrats who want to see official action to reprimand her for her past remarks. Congressman Cory Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, plans to take his office away from Green after their feud over the mask earlier this month.
Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said Saturday that “the Republican leadership needs to step forward” because the Green is “putting us all in a tough spot.”
Thompson called on McCarthy to take a stand for the good of his party and called it a sad day for Republican politics in America. “He is the number one Republican in the House of Representatives,” Thompson said of McCarthy in an interview with CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Saturday in the “newsroom.
“He has to show that leadership. Otherwise, his silence makes him complicit in what she is doing.”
But McCarthy’s visit to Mar-a-Lago this week showed that his main concern is to stay in Trump’s favor, which means Green – and those who share his beliefs – are unlikely to go anywhere.