Tag Archives: gop

Report: Top GOP Lawmaker Was Recorded Saying He Thought Trump Was on Putin’s Payroll

Mother Jones

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Another night, another bombshell report about President Donald Trump and Russia.

The Washington Post revealed Wednesday evening that in June 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was secretly recorded telling other top Republicans that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin “pays” Trump. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was in the room at the time, apparently ended the exchange moments later by telling those present not to leak what was said.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R-Calif. and Trump,” McCarthy said, according to the Post, which reports that it obtained and verified a recording. (A spokeman for Rohrabacher denied the allegation; Trump has also denied any coordination with Russia.)

Spokesmen for Ryan and McCarthy told the Post that the exchange was meant as a joke, and there’s no evidence in the story that McCarthy was aware of any evidence to support the claim that Trump or Rohrabacher was on the Russian payroll. Regardless, the conversation provides some insight into what GOP congressional leaders apparently thought about candidate Trump, who by then had essentially secured the Republican presidential nomination.

The Post published this story just as news was breaking that the Department of Justice had appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

Prior to the discussion of Trump, according to the Post, Ryan and McCarthy had met separately with the Ukrainian prime minister, with whom they had discussed Russian interference in Eastern Europe. Here’s how the Post recounted the recorded conversation, which apparently took place the day after news broke that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked:

“I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is…The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp opposition research that they had on Trump,” McCarthy said with a laugh.

Ryan asked who the Russians “delivered” the opposition research to.

“There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy said, drawing some laughter.

“Swear to God,” McCarthy added.

“This is an off the record,” Ryan said.

Some lawmakers laughed at that.

“No leaks, alright?,” Ryan said, adding: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

“That’s how you know that we’re tight,” Rep. Steve Scalise said.

“What’s said in the family stays in the family,” Ryan added.

The Post notes that it’s difficult to tell whether the remarks were “meant to be taken literally.” When initially asked about the exchange, spokesmen for Ryan and McCarthy denied that the statements had been made. After being told by the Post that there was a recording of the conversation, the spokesmen said that it was an “attempt at humor.”

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”

After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”

“This was a failed attempt at humor,” Sparks said.

Another intriguing aspect of this story is involvement of Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer and high-ranking GOP Hill staffer who ultimately entered the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate with backing from the conservative “Never Trump” movement:

Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”


Report: Top GOP Lawmaker Was Recorded Saying He Thought Trump Was on Putin’s Payroll

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Yet More Argle Bargle From the Oval Office

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump on the Republican health care bill today:

“I want it to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now,” he said during an Oval Office interview Monday with Bloomberg News. “It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.”

The latest version of the House GOP bill, which Republican leaders are trying to figure out whether they have the votes to pass this week, wouldn’t live up to that promise and would weaken those protections.

What does this mean? Just the usual argle bargle? Has Sean Spicer already repudiated it? Hold on, let me check….

I guess not. Spicer says “we’re not there yet,” but he was talking about votes, not the legislative language. I can’t tell for sure, but it doesn’t look like anyone even asked Spicer directly about whether Trump planned to ask for further amendments to the bill.

Just argle bargle, I guess. Does anyone on Capitol Hill even pay attention to Trump’s aimless word spasms anymore?


Yet More Argle Bargle From the Oval Office

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Jason Chaffetz Is Fleeing Scandal—But Maybe Not His Own

Mother Jones

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Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family.

“I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins,” he said in a statement. “I have the full support of Speaker Paul Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”

His surprise announcement has fueled speculation of a possible scandal, though Chaffetz told Politico there’s nothing to the rumors about a skeleton in his closet: “I’ve been given more enemas by more people over the last eight years than you can possibly imagine… If they had something really scandalous, it would’ve come out a long, long time ago.”

Top House Republican Won’t Respond to Call to Probe Trump’s Conflicts of Interest

Chaffetz, who on Thursday said he might not finish out his term, has been considered a contender for Utah governor in 2020 and perhaps one day for the presidency. But the early days of the Trump administration haven’t been easy for him. The once-brash congressional inquisitor has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to explain why he hasn’t been investigating President Trump, the most conflict-ridden commander-in-chief in modern US history. And the 50-year-old congressman has experienced an unexpected level of outrage in his own deep red district.

By heading back to the private sector Chaffetz risks lowering his public profile, which could impede any gubernatorial effort. No one knows this better than Chaffetz, who sought the spotlight in DC and who built a career in public relations before running for Congress in 2008.

But Chaffetz’s rise in politics was hardly conventional, and it was aided by a publicist’s eye for reputational pitfalls and opportunities. His curious retreat should not lead any political observers to count him out of future contests. In fact, it’s probably best interpreted as a sign that he’s very carefully planning his political future—not abandoning it.

From the beginning, Chaffetz didn’t chart an obvious path to political power. The great-grandson of Russian immigrants, he was born in California and raised Jewish. He converted to Mormonism during his college years at Brigham Young University, the Mormon Church-owned school where he played on the football team as a place kicker.

Chaffetz majored in business and minored in communications, and after graduating he went to work for a local multilevel marketing company—think Amway—called Nu Skin, where he worked in PR. At the time that he joined, the company had some pretty significant public-relations needs. It was facing class-action lawsuits and investigations by state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission, all related to allegations that the company was operating as a pyramid scheme. (The company has been Chaffetz’s biggest campaign donor.)

Chaffetz spent more than a decade at Nu Skin before leaving the company abruptly in 2000 without any obvious next stop. He worked briefly in the coal industry, unsuccessfully applied to join the Secret Service, and eventually started a marketing firm with his brother called Maxtera.

In 2004, when Jon Huntsman Jr. ran for Utah governor, Chaffetz volunteered for his campaign; Chaffetz, whose mother died of breast cancer in 1995, says he was impressed with the work Huntsman had done to advance cancer treatment. Huntsman eventually asked Chaffetz to become his campaign’s communications director, and then his campaign manager. When Huntsman won the election, he appointed Chaffetz as his chief of staff. But Chaffetz only lasted a year in the job.

For the next two years, Chaffetz doggedly laid the groundwork to challenge Chris Cannon, a six-term incumbent Republican congressman—a politician whose campaigns Chaffetz had previously volunteered for. Cannon, who hailed from a well-connected political family, was conservative, but he was firmly in the Republican camp that supported immigration reform. This stance put him in the crosshairs of anti-immigration activists, as well as the grassroots agitators who would become members of the tea party. Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin dubbed Cannon a “shamnesty Republican.”

Chaffetz saw an opening, and he was aided by the somewhat arcane system through which Utah Republicans, until recently, selected their congressional candidates. Districts elected about 4,000 delegates, who in turn voted for their desired candidates at the state party’s convention. The top two winners moved on to the primary, unless one marshaled 60 percent of the vote, in which case that person became the GOP nominee. The system, it turned out, was well suited to a poorly funded upstart like Chaffetz, who could initially concentrate on winning a small group of delegates rather than tens of thousands of voters.

When Chaffetz decided to run, he invited Kirk Jowers, then the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, to breakfast. Jowers was a veteran of dozens of GOP campaigns and Chaffetz asked him if he’d help with his long-shot race against Cannon. “I said no,” Jowers recalls. “He then asked, ‘Would you be willing to be part of the campaign in any capacity?’ I said no. He said, ‘Do you think I have any chance to win?’ and I said no. He said, ‘Do you mind if I just give you a call to talk about politics and policy?’ and I said no. I couldn’t have been worse to him,” Jowers says with a laugh.

But Chaffetz persisted, calling Jowers every two weeks for the next year and a half to update him on his progress. The former place-kicker campaigned largely on a harsh, anti-immigration platform. With an army of volunteer staffers, he worked each delegate heading to the convention—twisting arms and otherwise persuading them to vote for him, though he refused to succumb to the long-standing tradition of plying them with free food. Jowers slowly realized that the determined upstart actually had a shot.

Chaffetz’s lobbying blitz was overlooked by most polls, which until the GOP convention put him at a mere 3 percent in the race, a number so small he didn’t qualify to participate in the GOP’s televised debate. When the moderator asked Jowers afterward how he thought the debate went, Jowers responded, “It was great, except you didn’t have the one who was going to win.”

Jowers was right: Chaffetz won the convention, gaining nearly 60 percent of the delegate vote and very nearly knocking out Cannon in the first round. He went on to handily beat Cannon in the primary, even though the incumbent had a more than 4-to-1 spending advantage and had been endorsed by virtually the entire Republican establishment, including then-President George W. Bush. The loss so angered Cannon that he reportedly refused to talk to Chaffetz during the transition.

Barely had Chaffetz been elected to his first term in the House when he registered a new domain name: ChaffetzforSenate.com.

Even before he was sworn in, Chaffetz managed to vault himself from the House’s backbench into the national spotlight, albeit through an unusual route: leg wrestling Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. The goofy segment—the type of unscripted moment that politicians typically avoid—was the beginning of a media charm offensive that would make Chaffetz popular among journalists, whom he cultivated assiduously by passing out his personal cellphone number to reporters and accepting almost any interview request. It’s all about “old-fashioned human relationships,” he told National Journal in 2015. “You’ve got to get out there and invest the time. Work with the media!” (Apparently that rule doesn’t apply to Mother Jones. Chaffetz told me twice that he’d be happy to sit for an interview for this story but then never made himself available.)

The freshman congressman also scored an early PR coup by starring in a short-lived show, Freshman Year, produced by CNN on incoming members of Congress. He was shown unfolding a cot in his office, a sign of his commitment to living in Utah rather than Washington, DC, where he refused to rent an apartment.

Even as he courted reporters and TV bookers, Chaffetz warned the GOP establishment that his election was a warning sign. In the online diary that accompanied the CNN show, Chaffetz recounted how, during his first weeks in office in January 2009, he had gotten up before a House Republican strategy session and told the assembled members, “I am your worst nightmare.” He explained how the advent of social media had allowed him to bypass the mainstream media and, with very little funding, knock off an establishment candidate.

Chaffetz’s reading of the political winds proved prescient. His election foreshadowed the rise of the tea party movement that took over the GOP in 2010, prompting the ouster of many more incumbent Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

Watch Jason Chaffetz Tell Poor Americans to Choose Between iPhones and Health Care

By 2011, it looked like Chaffetz was going to need that ChaffetzforSenate.com web address. He was talking openly of challenging his state’s most venerable senior statesman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, currently the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. Despite his powerful position in Washington, Hatch was vulnerable at home. Polls showed Chaffetz had a decent chance. And another upstart tea party conservative, Mike Lee, had just knocked off the state’s other elder Republican senator, Bob Bennett, by challenging him from the right.

For months, Chaffetz held meetings and events that gave every impression he planned to challenge Hatch. The Salt Lake Tribune declared that Chaffetz had even picked a date to unveil his candidacy, September 27. But shortly before Labor Day, Chaffetz hastily organized a press conference and announced that he would not run for Senate. He said the race would be a “multimillion-dollar bloodbath” and that he’d rather spend the next 18 months doing the job he was elected to do. Still, even as he put himself out of contention, he jabbed Hatch, declaring the Utah congressional delegation “dysfunctional” and lacking leadership from the senior senator.

Tim Chambless, a University of Utah political-science professor, says the announcement caught many in Utah off guard. “That has been mystifying to us.” It suggested that something in Chaffetz’s well-laid plans had gone seriously awry.

Ultimately, Chaffetz may have underestimated Hatch, whose mild-mannered exterior belies a ruthless political operator. There’s a reason he’s served longer than any Republican senator since Strom Thurmond. Cherilyn Eagar a conservative Republican activist and local talk radio host who lives in Chaffetz’s district, echoes what various sources told me. She says Utah political insiders suspect “the Hatch campaign had gotten heavy-handed. There was a bit of information they were going to disclose if he ran. Things were going to get ugly.” (Hatch’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

Instead of running against Hatch, Chaffetz stapled himself to Mitt Romney, serving as a regular campaign surrogate for the failed GOP presidential nominee, whom he endorsed over his former mentor, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Chaffetz, now running for reelection in 2012, quickly found other ways to nab the spotlight. Before the FBI had secured the Benghazi compound following the September 11 attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Chaffetz demanded to visit the scene in his capacity as the chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign operations. He dashed off to Libya less than a month later—without any Democrats, as the oversight committee’s policy dictates—to supposedly conduct an independent investigation.

The closest he got to the crime scene was Tripoli, 400 miles away. Chaffetz, who had previously voted to cut $300 million from the State Department’s budget for embassy security, claimed the purpose of his trip was to discern whether the Obama administration had denied requests for more security for the Benghazi compound. He uncovered little of substance, other than discovering that the State Department was a bit lax in allowing neighbors to throw trash over the embassy wall in Tripoli. The overeager gumshoe also managed to disclose the existence of a secret CIA base on the Benghazi compound during a subsequent hearing on the attacks.

Chaffetz’s Benghazi grandstanding helped to make him a right-wing hero, but it didn’t earn him the spot he desired on the select committee created by the Republican-led Congress in 2014 to investigate the Benghazi attacks.

By then, Chaffetz had already set his sights higher. He launched a campaign to win the chairmanship of the House oversight committee, then run by the bellicose Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose term on the panel was expiring in 2015. Issa had seen potential in Chaffetz and had helped him early in his congressional career by making him the chairman of the national security subcommittee. Chaffetz wasn’t in line for the oversight job by seniority, so launching a bid for this plumb post—a platform for politicians seeking to grab headlines—took some chutzpah.

Within the Republican caucus, Chaffetz campaigned for the chairmanship as the anti-Issa, implicitly critiquing the oversight chairman’s combative style and suggesting that he could bring to the committee an element of media savvy that Issa lacked. Once again, Chaffetz stabbed a mentor in the back and won. In 2015, he became one of the most junior members of the House ever to chair the high-profile committee.

“Do Your Job!” Hundreds of People Shout Down Jason Chaffetz Over Lack of Trump Probe

After assuming the chairmanship, one of his first moves was taking down the portraits of past chairmen, including Issa, that hung in the hearing room. Issa was not pleased. “It’s not a big deal, but it’s just indicative of what his mindset was and how self-centered he is,” says Kurt Bardella, who worked for Issa as the committee’s spokesman. Fellow lawmakers, Bardella notes, were repelled that “Jason would be so willing to throw under the bus someone who really tried to help mentor him, for his own gain.”

Running over people who helped him on the way up was becoming something of a pattern for Chaffetz. He’d chaired the oversight committee for less than year before launching an audacious bid for speaker of the House when John Boehner retired. Aside from being a very junior member of Congress, Chaffetz’s bid for the speakership also meant he would be running against his friend and former champion, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. As House Majority Leader, McCarthy had helped to launch Chaffetz’s rise in the House, dispensing with old seniority rules and working to promote telegenic young legislators, including Chaffetz. Hearing the news about the Chaffetz challenge, Jon Huntsman tweeted: “.@GOPLeader McCarthy just got “Chaffetzed.” Something I know a little something about. #selfpromoter #powerhungry

Chaffetz dropped his bid for speaker after Rep. Paul Ryan was cajoled into entering the race. He returned to his oversight committee work with a renewed zeal, threatening to impeach the head of the IRS over his handling of the nonprofit status of tea party groups and suggesting there might be grounds to remove President Barack Obama from office over Benghazi. He devoted a portion of the oversight committee’s website to enumerating the bureaucrats he claimed to have gotten fired—Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly described this list as a “trophy case.”

Not all his targets have gone quietly into the night. In 2015, Chaffetz launched an investigation into problems with the Secret Service after a pair of drunk senior agents crashed a car into a White House barricade. Not long afterward, the Daily Beast reported that Chaffetz had been a wannabe agent himself prior to his career in politics but his application had been rejected in favor of a “BQA,” or “better qualified applicant”—a revelation leaked from inside the agency. Chaffetz told the Daily Beast that he believed he was rejected because he was too old. (He was in his mid-30s at the time, and the agency cutoff for agents was 37.)

A later investigation found that more than 45 people within the Secret Service had taken a look at his protected personnel file. Referring to the file, then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery emailed another director that March, saying, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The election of Donald Trump seriously interfered with Chaffetz’s plans.

During the campaign, Chaffetz couldn’t make up his mind about the GOP nominee. After audio of Trump bragging about sexual assault during an Access Hollywood taping was published, Chaffetz disavowed the real estate mogul. “I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine,” Chaffetz said. “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.” But Chaffetz soon reversed his stance, writing on Twitter that he’d still be voting for Trump. “HRC is that bad,” he wrote. “HRC is bad for the USA.”

HRC, a.k.a. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would have been good for Chaffetz’s political fortunes, however. He had been expecting to use his remaining tenure on the oversight committee, which expired in 2019, tormenting President Clinton. The month before the 2016 election, Chaffetz told the Washington Post that Clinton had provided him with “a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up.”

But after Trump won, Chaffetz seemed slow to acclimate to the new political environment. The day of Trump’s inauguration, Chaffetz Instagrammed a screen grab from Fox News, showing him shaking hands with Clinton at the ceremony. Under the photo he wrote, “So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.”

The post—which earned him widespread scorn—may have been the first sign that Chaffetz was misreading the national mood and especially the attitudes of his largely Mormon constituents. While they largely disliked Clinton—she won a mere 23 percent of the vote in his district—they also harbored concerns about Trump, whose ethical conflicts and curious associations with Russia were rapidly piling up.

On February 9, Chaffetz got a wake-up call when he returned to Utah for a town hall, where he was besieged by a hostile, heckling crowd, shouting “Do your job,” and “We want to get rid you.” These listening sessions are typically subdued affairs, but this one drew hundreds of angry constituents, who demanded to know why the chairman of the House oversight committee was not doing more to investigate President Trump. (A pair of Utah Republicans recently bought a billboard on the highway to Chaffetz’s Utah office that asks, “Why won’t Chaffetz investigate the Trump-Russia connection?”)

So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.

A post shared by Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) on Jan 20, 2017 at 12:31pm PST

Chaffetz, who during the Obama administration reveled in launching headline-grabbing investigations, suddenly seemed reluctant to unleash his committee’s typically aggressive investigative powers. Trump’s conflicts of interest, he claimed, fell largely outside his jurisdiction. “I know it’s surprising and frustrating to Democrats, but the president is exempt from these conflicts of interest,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. As for the Russia connections, particularly those related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Chaffetz said there was no need to further probe Flynn because he’d been fired. “It’s taking care of itself.”

“He is in an unenviable position,” Chris Karpowitz, a political-science professor at Brigham Young University, told me weeks before Chaffetz’s surprise announcement that he was giving up his seat. “He’s still trying to figure out what his role is in a government in which Republicans control everything. I think he used the fact that he could investigate an administration of an opposing party to his advantage during the Obama years that allowed him to be in front of the cameras repeatedly, and to be seen as pursuing the interests of the Republican Party. But I think what has people, or at least some people, in his district concerned is the appearance of a double standard, that he was very eager to investigate Hillary Clinton and has been extremely hesitant to pursue serious questions about the Trump administration.”

Chaffetz’s district is one of the reddest in the nation, and he’s used to being popular at home. He was reelected last November with nearly 75 percent of the vote. But after four easy reelection campaigns, his poll numbers have plunged to their lowest levels ever. Before he announced that he would not seek reelection, opponents on his left and the right were lining up to take him on. Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell recently donated $2,700—the maximum allowed by law—to Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent, Kathryn Allen, giving her fledgling campaign a Twitter boost that has helped Allen rake in more than $500,000 in contributions. The former independent presidential candidate, Evan McMullin, who launched his anti-Trump effort in Utah, had suggested he might consider challenging Chaffetz or Hatch.

Even so, Chaffetz would likely prevail in a reelection bid. But that doesn’t mean the next two years would be a breeze for the ambitious congressman.

“I told him on election night that he just miraculously had gone to having the best job in America to the worst job in America, and that has been prophetic,” says Utah political expert Kirk Jowers, who now serves as a corporate vice president for doTERRA, a Provo-based multilevel marketing company. “He has almost the perfect rainbow of hate. Liberals will never think he’s doing enough in that position. And of course the alt-right may think anything he does against President Trump is feeding into this frenzy against their president. It has put him in a place where it’s very tough to do right by anyone.”

The current political atmosphere, in which Republicans control Congress and the White House, mainly holds downsides for Chaffetz, who has flourished as an opposition figure. Historically, the president’s party often suffers big losses in midterm elections, and early signs show that Democrats are gaining momentum in unexpected places, including deep-red Kansas.

Chaffetz, a canny political operator, has surely read the tea leaves, wagering that it is in his best interests to sit out the bruising political fights of the Trump administration’s first term lest Trump bring Chaffetz down with him. Given Chaffetz’s talent for self-promotion, it’s likely that he won’t veer too far from the public eye. Talk on Capitol Hill is that he may take the path of other high-profile members of Congress and nab a lucrative contract with one of the networks, where he can maintain his visibility, build up his bank account, and bide his time for the right moment to get back in the political game. Chaffetz has been less than subtle in hinting he’s interested. “I’d be thrilled to have a television relationship,” Chaffetz told Politico on Thursday.

But even as he announced that he was stepping away from politics, Chaffetz and his supporters seemed to be quietly planning his political future. In early April, his campaign committee registered the domains Jason2028.com and JasonChaffetz2028.com.

Original article:  

Jason Chaffetz Is Fleeing Scandal—But Maybe Not His Own

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“The Republican Party Is a Party Without a Purpose”

Mother Jones

Philip Klein unloads on the GOP in the pages of the conservative Washington Examiner, calling Obamacare repeal “the biggest broken promise in political history”:

What’s so utterly disgraceful, is not just that Republicans failed so miserably, but that they barely tried, raising questions about whether they ever actually wanted to repeal Obamacare in the first place.

Republicans for years have criticized the process that produced Obamacare, and things certainly got ugly. But after having just witnessed this debacle, I think Paul Ryan owes Nancy Pelosi an apology.

One has to admire the commitment that Democrats and Obama had to delivering something they campaigned on and truly believed in. They spent 13 months getting the bill from an initial concept to final passage, and pressed on during many points when everybody was predicting doom. They had public hearings, multiple drafts of different bills, they kept negotiating, even worked into Christmas. They made significant changes at times, but also never lost sight of their key goals. They didn’t back down in the face of angry town halls and after losing their filibuster-proof majority, and many members cast votes that they knew risked their political careers. Obama himself was a leader, who consistently made it clear that he was not going to walk away. He did countless rallies, meetings, speeches — even a “summit” at the Blair House — to try to sell the bill, talking about details, responding to criticisms of the bill to the point that he was mocked by conservatives for talking so much about healthcare.

The contrast between Obama and Democrats on healthcare and what just happened is stunning. House Republicans slapped together a bill in a few weeks (months if we’re being generous) behind closed doors with barely any debate. They moved the bill through committees at blazing speed, conducted closed-door negotiations that resulted in relatively minor tweaks to the bill, and within 17 days, Trump decided that he’d had enough, and was ready to walk away if members didn’t accept the bill as is…

There was a big debate over the course of the election about how out of step Trump was with the Republican Party on many issues. But if anything, this episode shows that Trump and the GOP are perfect together — limited in attention span, all about big talk and identity politics, but uninterested in substance.

Failing to get the votes on one particular bill is one thing. But failing and then walking away on seven years of promises is a pathetic abdication of duty. The Republican Party is a party without a purpose.

Go read the whole thing.

Trump, Ryan, and McConnell’s total lack of commitment to repealing Obamcare really does stand in stark contrast to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid’s total commitment to passing it in the first place.

On the eve of the House ACA vote in 2010, Obama went to Democrats and implored them to cast a vote many knew would be political suicide.

Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn’t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college. I went to work in neighborhoods, working with Catholic churches in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, trying to figure out how people could get a little bit of help. And I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now. Because my working assumption was when push comes to shove, all too often folks in elected office, they’re looking for themselves and not looking out for the folks who put them there; that there are too many compromises; that the special interests have too much power; they just got too much clout; there’s too much big money washing around.

And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn’t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn’t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who’d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn’t have health care and you said something should change.

Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don’t just look out for ourselves, that we don’t just tell people you’re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community — (applause) — and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class. That’s why you decided to run. (Applause.)

And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you’ve been away from families for a long time and you’ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can’t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.

But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better.

And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.

Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.

With Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, Democratic voters had representatives who were as committed to their goals as they were. Republican voters should realize today that they are not so lucky.

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“The Republican Party Is a Party Without a Purpose”

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On Health Care, Republicans Are Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Mother Jones

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The New York Times reports that the Koch brothers are about to unleash the hounds. They. Have. Had. Enough:

Saying their patience is at an end, conservative activist groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and other powerful interests on the right are mobilizing to pressure Republicans to fulfill their promise to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act.

….The sudden caution of the Republican Party leadership, as it grapples with the enormously complicated challenge of replacing the Affordable Care Act, has baffled conservatives who have been fighting the health law for years. In the House, Republicans have voted dozens of times to dismantle the law, and it has been a primary issue in congressional races since 2010. Repealing the law, many conservative lawmakers believe, is the one clear mandate they have from voters.

….The repeal effort by the conservative groups is intended to sway members of Congress who may be hesitating because of public pressure back home. That pressure, conservatives said, is no reason to renege.

Talk about clueless. Sure, constituent pressure is having an effect, but it’s nowhere near the biggest issue here. The biggest issue is that after voting to dismantle Obamacare dozens of times when they knew it was just a symbolic protest vote, Republicans suddenly have to think about what will happen if they dismantle it in real life. Answer: they now have to admit that they can’t dismantle the whole thing. They never fessed up to that before, so it’s no wonder the base is confused, but the House and Senate leadership have always known it. They can only dismantle the parts related to the budget because Democrats can filibuster the rest. And if Republicans dismantle only half the law, it will probably destroy the individual insurance market.

Oops. That would be bad, even by Republican standards. Plus there’s the fact that millions of people would lose coverage, which is bad by centrist voter standards, even if Republicans don’t really care about it. In other words, the GOP leadership is finally having to face up to the fact that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a tough nut to crack. Centrists will abandon them if they cause chaos, but hardliners will abandon them if they spend too much money. That’s why they’ve agreed to modify their current plan to exclude subsidies for the well-off:

The concession on tax credits is a middle ground between what conservatives were demanding and what leadership wanted. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and RSC Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) in recent weeks came out against the GOP plan to replace Obamacare tax subsides with advanceable health care tax credits.

They preferred a tax deduction that would not allow those who don’t pay taxes to receive a check in the mail, calling such “advanceable” credits a “new entitlement.” At the crux of their concerns is the price tag, which they worry would increase the deficit.

A tax deduction, of course, would be useless to the poor and working poor, the very people who need help the most. But the Freedom Caucus doesn’t care about that. Luckily for them, their leadership understands just what a political disaster that would be.

In any case, the Freedom Caucus is right about one thing: advanceable tax credits are a new entitlement. Or, more accurately, a continuation of an old entitlement. There’s really not much difference between Obamacare’s subsidies, which are paid directly to insurance companies, and Ryancare’s tax credits, which are paid to the taxpayer, who then pays the insurance company.

As for the deficit, well, Ryan’s plan will only increase the deficit if Republicans also repeal all of Obamacare’s taxes and then decline to pass any new ones. Which they will. So that’s a legitimate complaint too.

As usual, it all comes down to money. That’s really the only thing that matters.

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On Health Care, Republicans Are Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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This young girl just wants to know if Congressman Jason Chaffetz believes in science.

The industry is growing so fast it could become the largest source of renewable energy on both sides of the Atlantic.

In America, wind power won the top spot for installed generating capacity (putting it ahead of hydroelectric power), according to a new industry report. And in the E.U., wind capacity grew by 8 percent last year, surpassing coal. That puts wind second only to natural gas across the pond.

In the next three years, wind could account for 10 percent of American electricity, Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a press release. The industry already employs over 100,000 Americans.

In Europe, wind has hit the 10.4 percent mark, and employs more than 300,000 people, according to an association for wind energy in Europe. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and Lithuania lead the way for European wind growth. In the U.S., Texas is the windy frontier.

“Low-cost, homegrown wind energy,” Kiernan added in the release, “is something we can all agree on.”

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This young girl just wants to know if Congressman Jason Chaffetz believes in science.

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John Cornyn Promised . . . Absolutely Nothing Today

Mother Jones

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Sen. John Cornyn, the #2 Republican leader in the Senate, took some questions today about the GOP replacement for Obamacare. TPM’s Lauren Fox reports:

When Cornyn was asked if he was concerned about people who’ve benefited from Medicaid expansion losing coverage, he said it was a shared concern. “We’re all concerned, but it ain’t going to happen,” Cornyn said. “Will you write that down… It ain’t gonna happen.”

Reporters followed up. “You’re saying nobody’s going to lose coverage?” one asked. “Nobody’s going to lose coverage,” Cornyn said. “Obviously, people covered today will continue to be covered. And, the hope is we’ll expand access. Right now 30 million people are not covered under Obamacare.”

When you’re dealing with Republicans and health care, you have to be mighty careful. Cornyn didn’t say that people covered by Medicaid would continue to be covered by Medicaid. He just said they’d be “covered.” This could mean anything. It could mean giving the poor a $1,000 refundable tax credit they can use toward buying coverage on the open market, which would be useless. It could mean giving the poor access to tax-favored HSAs and catastrophic coverage, which would also be useless. It could mean keeping them on Medicaid but instituting a 50 percent copay to make sure they have “skin in the game.”

Reporters need to step up their game. If they’re going to ask about stuff like this, they have to demand enough detail for the answer to mean something. Cornyn may sound like he promised something here, but he didn’t. And I assure you he chose his words very carefully.

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John Cornyn Promised . . . Absolutely Nothing Today

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Nearly all coral reefs will be ruined by climate change.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has announced that 2016 will be the warmest year in recorded history — by a lot.

The Arctic had an especially warm year, and experienced the sharpest rise in temperatures, while Africa and Asia also felt unusually high temps. Globally, surface temperatures climbed to an average 58.6 degrees F, 2.3 degrees F higher than before the Industrial Revolution, when humans got serious about burning fossil fuels.

The warming temps continue a well-established trend: Last year was also the hottest year on record at the time, and 2014 was the hottest year on record before that. In fact, 10 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 1998.

This warming trend has name — it’s called climate change, if you weren’t aware — and these rapidly accelerating temperatures come with severe consequences, including worsening storms, wildfires, droughts, and other extreme weather events. And climate change isn’t just scary — it’s expensive.

Despite all the evidence, the incoming president and much of the GOP-controlled Congress either ignore climate change or thinks it’s a giant ruse created by Al Gore. As for how they explain another hottest year of record — well, maybe it’s the just heat from the burning dumpster fire that was 2016.

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Nearly all coral reefs will be ruined by climate change.

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ERP Blogstorm Part 1: Income Inequality

Mother Jones

ERP? Yes indeed. That’s what the cool kids call the Economic Report of the President. The 2017 edition is out, so this weekend I’m going to highlight a few of the charts that caught my eye. These are not necessarily the most important topics in the report. They just happened to strike me as interesting and worth sharing more widely. I’m mostly going to present them without much commentary.

In previous times, I would have called this a series of blog posts. Today I suppose I should call it a blogstorm. Gotta keep up with the lingo, after all. Our first topic is income inequality. Here’s the impact of the 2009 stimulus bill and the Making Work Pay tax credit:

And here’s the impact of changes in tax policy (primarily the effects of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, which renewed the Bush tax cuts for all but high-income taxpayers):

And finally, here it is all put together: stimulus, tax changes, and Obamacare:

The lowest-income folks saw their after-tax income increase by about 18 percent. The after-tax income of the top 1 percent declined by about 5 percent and the top 0.1 percent declined by about 10 percent.

Not bad. Sadly, nothing infuriates Republicans more than reducing income inequality, and they will do everything they can to reverse this and then some over the next four years. The rich can never be too rich and the poor can never be too poor in GOP land.

Continued – 

ERP Blogstorm Part 1: Income Inequality

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Republicans of Color Who Opposed Trump Find Themselves on the Margins

Mother Jones

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If the presidential election had gone according to expectations, Donald Trump’s loss might have been a win for one group of Republicans. Prominent Republicans of color who had been critical of Trump’s racially divisive campaigning and poor minority outreach efforts were positioned to become powerful voices in the party, working to pull it back onto the path outlined in the 2012 post-election “autopsy” report that called for increasing its appeal to nonwhite constituencies.

But with Trump’s surprise victory, these potential leaders now find themselves standing on the margins, wondering how or even if they should engage with a party whose voters delivered the presidency to a man who often appeared hostile to the concerns of minorities.

“If he governs the way he campaigns, then I will have no part of that,” says Charles Badger, a black GOP political strategist who worked on Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign as director of coalitions, leading its outreach efforts to African Americans, Asian Americans, and issue-based voters. “If that is the future of the Republican Party—if it’s going to be protectionism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and discriminatory acts from voting rights to policing—if that’s what it’s going to be, then I’m having no part of that whatsoever. I’ll just be a man without a party if I have to.”

Trump’s unorthodox presidential campaign disrupted much of the Republican Party, but for Republicans of color, the damage was considerably worse, fully exposing the racism, xenophobia, and bigotry the GOP had once said it would leave in the past. As the general election approached, some nonwhite Republicans became outspoken opponents of the Republican presidential nominee, arguing that he would damage the GOP for years to come.

Badger was among them, criticizing Trump on social media and joining Republicans for Clinton in 2016 (R4C16), a grassroots network urging conservative voters to pick Hillary Clinton over Trump. Even Michael Steele, the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee, couldn’t bring himself to vote for the party’s presidential nominee, announcing at a Mother Jones forum in October that he wouldn’t back Trump.

“I think that Trump’s victory makes addressing the GOP’s approach to race even more stark and important,” Steele says now. “The electorate of this country is changing. The demographic makeup of this country is changing, and the party had better get on the front end of that change and lead it as opposed to following it.” He says Republican critics of Trump must continue to apply pressure if they want to see the president-elect change his tone. But Steele, who led the national party from 2009 to 2011, could find himself with limited influence under the famously vindictive Trump.

Hughey Newsome, a black Republican, attended the 2012 Republican National Convention and was heartened by the party’s outreach to minority voters. This year, he was so disgusted by Trump’s campaign that he voted for a third-party candidate and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post after the election explaining why he was leaving the party. “I can no longer associate with a party that supported such a man and such an indifferent campaign,” he wrote.

“He isn’t willing to communicate with me, communicate with people that think like me,” Newsome says. He believes the Trump campaign worked to intensify white Americans’ fears of minorities. “Instead of addressing those things and wiping them out of the party, they’ve placated those feelings to make sure those people don’t feel ostracized. In my mind, those feelings need to be ostracized.”

Prominent Latino Republicans feel just as frustrated with the direction of the party. Artemio Muniz, the chairman of the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans, criticized Trump’s call to deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants and build a wall on the Mexican border. “During the election period, the rhetoric absolutely was a concern,” he says. Trump’s actions since winning the election have hardly been reassuring. Muniz says that Trump’s decision to include Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—a prominent immigration hardliner—on the presidential transition team has heightened his concerns that the administration will follow through on Trump’s aggressive campaign promises. (On Monday, Kobach was photographed outside of Trump’s New Jersey golf club holding copies of a plan that would broaden the definition of “criminal aliens” during Trump’s first year in office.)

Despite his concerns and his continued opposition to Trump’s position on immigration, Muniz is cautiously optimistic that Congress will be able to keep Trump in line. If Trump moderates his position on deporting undocumented immigrants without criminal records, Muniz would be open to working with him. But Muniz also says that if the Republican Party doesn’t change its stance on immigration soon, it will suffer the electoral consequences of alienating large numbers of Hispanic voters.

Badger doesn’t see any signs that the Trump administration will be more receptive to minority concerns than the Trump campaign.

“My initial reaction to the election result was disbelief,” he says. “Two weeks later, my disbelief hasn’t waned very much.” He was particularly dismayed by Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon previously ran Breitbart News, which he proudly described to Mother Jones as “the platform for the alt-right,” the fringe movement dominated by white nationalists.

But Badger also acknowledges that Trump’s rise was facilitated by the Republican Party. “Trump is the GOP’s chickens coming home to roost,” he says. “When you spend 40 to 50 years doing racially coded stuff in your campaigns, Trump is the illegitimate child that’s born of that. He is the logical consequence of a lot of this coded language and dog-whistle stuff.”

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Republicans of Color Who Opposed Trump Find Themselves on the Margins

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