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Kevin McCarthy's 1/6 Problem
Plus: Elise Stefanik is even worse than you thought
The details of the story have been reported, but a very smart friend connects the dots.
In March - Kevin McCarthy hired Brian Jack to run his political operation. Jack had been Donald Trump’s White House political director.New: Kevin McCarthy has hired Trump’s White House political director, Brian Jack, to lead his own political operation The move underscores McCarthy's strategy of keeping Trump & his orbit close as ahead of 2022 and McCarthy’s goal of becoming Speaker
2. Brian Jack was directly involved in helping set up the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. Rep. Mo Brooks said that Jack called him and encouraged him to speak at the 1/6 rally, while Jack was still working for Trump.
Per my cell phone records [Brooks said in a January 12 statement], on Tuesday morning, January 5, I had a telephone call with Brian Jack, White House Political Director. He asked me to speak at the Trump rally the next day, Wednesday morning.
I had never attended a Trump rally in my life but had seen many on TV, and thought it an honor for the White House to invite me to address Trump volunteers and supporters, so I readily agreed.
3. So Kevin McCarthy hired Jack knowing he was pushing Stop the Steal stuff.
After initially condemning Trump’s role in the insurrection, McCarthy has been aggressively walking back his criticisms, and revising his version of his conversation with Trump that day.
Liz Cheney has been pushing for the creation of an independent 9/11-style commission that would narrowly focus on the 1/6 attack on the Capitol.
“Which means undergirding this whole Liz + Commission thing is the fact that not only does Kevin himself have a conflict given his call with Trump on 1/6,” writes our friend. “But his top political guy would also potentially be a target of the investigation into 1/6.”
Elise Stefanik Is Even Worse Than You Thought
On Sunday, McCarthy made it official; he’s all-in on the anti-Cheney coup — and supporting Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik to take her spot.
How did she go from saying that one particular Republican candidate was “disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements” in 2015 to feeding vague conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden on Steve Bannon’s podcast in 2021? Her evolution mirrors the transformation of her party, while her rise within its ranks is a fall from the modern, millennial conservatism she once was on track to define.
“Elise could have been the face of a new generation of Republicans that could represent a real big-tent party, that could build beyond the base, that could lay the foundation for a coalition that could win elections nationally,” says Margaret Hoover, a center-right commentator who worked with Stefanik at the Bush White House and now hosts PBS’s Firing Line. “It shows that she was never motivated by principles, and that’s deeply disappointing.”
As recently as 2019, Time magazine had named Stefanik one of its “100 Next,” and there were reasons for optimism. The early Stefanik did not hesitate to break with Trump on his proposed Muslim ban, telling a local newspaper "This is not who we are as a country... This is not according to our constitutional principle."
"And I associate myself with Speaker (Paul) Ryan's comment just saying there is no place for what Trump said about Muslims in this country."
She also pushed back against his crude misogyny.
"I think he has been insulting to women," Stefanik said in another local radio interview in August 2015, referring to Trump's misogynistic comments about then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. "I think this may be Mr. Trump's peak moment. And I think we're going to see his numbers change and decline over the coming weeks and months….”
In October 2016, after Trump's crude and sexist comments on the infamous Access Hollywood tape emerged, Stefanik called Trump's comments wrong.
"Donald Trump's inappropriate, offensive comments are just wrong - No matter when he said them or whatever the context," she said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Her voting record reflected her independence from Trump.
She voted with Democrats on a bill that would have blocked Trump from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, backed LGBTQ anti-discrimination bills, and voted against the 2017 tax cuts. According to CQ Vote Watch, Stefanik voted with Trump less than 70 percent of the time in 2019 and 2020 — the seventh lowest score in the GOP.
In a profile he wrote for Time magazine in 2019, former House Speaker Paul Ryan gushed: “Elise isn’t just the future of the Republican Party. She is the future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America.”
She made a different choice.
And now it is paying off for her in the GOP.
The key to Stefanik’s rise is not just her willingness to embrace Trumpism in Full — it is the way she has grasped onto the Big Lie as a slingshot for her ambitions.
As CNN’s Daniel Dale notes, she has “parroted conspiracy theories about ‘irregularities,’ then mentioned she had ‘concerns’ about ‘Dominion software,’ indirectly alluding to a false conspiracy theory that the voting-machine company had been part of an effort to rig the election against Trump.”
She signed onto the friend-of-the-court brief supporting Texas’s bid to get the Supreme Court to overturn the election results and — even after the January 6 riot — voted against certifying the election results for President Biden.
In other words, Stefanik has not merely accepted Trump’s election lie, she has amplified it; and not merely amplified it, but has done so in a particularly shameless way.
On January, Stefanik said this:
“In Georgia, there was unconstitutional overreach when the Secretary of State unilaterally gutted signature matching for absentee ballots and in essence eliminated voter verification required by state election law. In addition, more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone. And many individuals testified to not being able to meaningfully observe the counting of ballots.”
As the Washington Post’s fact-checkers pointed out, her “whole statement is riddled with false claims,” that were easily debunked. “With the passage of time,” wrote the Post’s Glenn Kessler, “the appropriate thing for Stefanik to do now would be to admit her statements on Jan. 6 were false.”
Instead the New Stefanik doubled down on the falsehoods.
This is who she is. And in a few days she will be elevated to the third highest position in the House GOP caucus.
Like Ryan, she was once the GOP’s future. But now her rise is propelled by the unscrupulousness of her ambition and the malleability of her principles.
She is the perfect choice for what the GOP has become.
The increasingly heated debates over education—ranging from the slow pace of school openings to curricular changes to the elimination or rollback of gifted-and-talented programs for top students—are now galvanizing political issues at the local level and becoming relevant nationally as well. And unlike the evanescent nature of made-for-cable-TV policy fights, the disruptive changes driven by left-wing activists directly affect every parent with school-age children.
Republicans were slow to appreciate the political potency of these issues, but it’s now a central part of party messaging.
The Virginia GOP’s Ridiculous Convention by Car
This time, the Virginia GOP opted for a convention to push out another candidate: Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase, who probably had a good shot at winning a normal primary. Chase is the Trumpiest of the three candidates with a reasonable shot. She’s like the Blazin’ wing sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings, you have to sign a waiver before you try it—which would make marketing executive Pete Snyder and former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin the Wild and Mango Habanero. All are Trumpy and spicy, but to the electorate outside of die-hard Republicans, they might as well all be the same.
Keep in mind, this is the same party that previously nominated Corey Stewart and Ken Cuccinelli for statewide office. The days of Medium Ed Gillespie and Mild Bob McDonnell are over. The price of entry to Virginia Republican politics these days is a high-Scoville MAGA heat-unit rating.