So it was a little … startling? … to hear House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who joined a majority of his Republicans in voting to overturn President Biden’s victory in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, say this after an Oval Office meeting yesterday:
“From that point of view I don’t think that’s a problem,” McCarthy added.
One charitable interpretation is he was speaking for himself and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and having his own McConnell moment of trying to refocus the party on the reality of a Biden presidency.
We’ll know in short order whether his comments reflect the GOP’s direction.
Trump, who remains the party’s center of gravity, has been uncharacteristically quiet about McCarthy’s apparent repudiation of his unfounded election claims. Meanwhile, Republicans’ wildly divergent messages — with some, mainly senators, governors, and mayors, willing to work with Biden, and others screaming he is illegitimate — give the impression of historic disarray.
That’s not just a semantic point or a curious footnote in modern political history. The GOP’s election falsehoods have underpinned the most consequential Republican post-election project: A systematic effort in dozens of states to pass new laws to curtail or end voting practices they blame for Trump’s defeat.
On Wednesday morning, House Republicans fired Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as their No. 3 leader after she repeatedly repudiated Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and blamed him for the deadly Capitol riot.
(Oddly, for him, Trump omitted his usual false claims of 2020 election fraud from his barrage of emailed statements exulting over her removal.)
“ 'If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy,’ Cheney told her Republican colleagues Wednesday morning, according to a person familiar with her remarks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.”
One of the most talked-about likely successors to Cheney, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has regularly parroted Trump’s false claims.
McCarthy's comments weren’t even close to the most surreal comments from GOP members on Wednesday, as the party told Americans to reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, apparently an essential command.
For months, some Republicans have denied the riot — which suspended the certification of Biden’s victory, sent Vice President Pence scurrying for his life, left 140 Capitol Police injured, offices ransacked, doors and windows broken — was carried out by Trump supporters.
On Wednesday, at a House Oversight Committee hearing, some denied the violence qualified as an “insurrection,” and one — Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) — likened the storming of Congress to “a normal tourist visit.”
Clyde “downplayed the events of Jan. 6 as ‘acts of vandalism’ and suggested it was a ‘boldfaced lie’ to call what happened that day an ‘insurrection.’
‘Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,’ Clyde said. ‘You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.’”
Would you though?
Clyde’s district touches North Carolina and Tennessee and encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where tourists might indeed show up with bear mace, though it’s unlikely they’d spray it at police.
Colby also noted:
“Once inside, rioters attempted to break into the House chamber, punching and busting glass, resulting in the death of Ashli Babbitt, whom police shot when she attempted to climb through a shattered glass door.”
Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) “said Babbitt had been ‘executed.’ Babbitt defied police warnings not to attempt to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, which connects to the House floor. The officer who fatally shot her was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.”
At the Associated Press, Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo also reported on the hearing:
“ 'It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,’ said Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, downplaying the violent tactics used by loyalists to the president, including spraying officers with pepper and bear spray.
One Capitol Police officer who was injured while confronting rioters suffered a stroke and died a day alter of natural causes. Dozens more were severely injured, some of whom may never return to duty.”
Asked about his colleagues' comments during a visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Thursday, McCarthy initially replied: “There’s time for politics and there’s time for not.” Pressed, the GOP leader responded: "When I look at the rioters who came in, those people should be held accountable to the rule of law, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
What’s happening now
Colonial Pipeline says operations will be fully restored by noon. Still, “much of the Southeast was still awaiting for relief Thursday from the panic buying that cleaned out more than half the gas stations in Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas,” Taylor Telford reports. “The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company warned that it could be a few days before kinks in the supply chain are worked out.”
“Nearly 900,000 Americans in Alabama, Mississippi and 11 other Republican-led states are set to see their unemployment checks slashed dramatically starting in June, as GOP governors seek to restrict jobless benefits in an effort to force more people to return to work,” Tony Romm and Eli Rosenberg report. “The looming cliff reflects an emerging campaign on the part of GOP leaders to combat what they see as a national worker shortage.”
Israeli jets struck Gaza and Hamas launched rockets as Israeli ground troops stand by. “Diplomats from the region, Europe and the United States scrambled to broker a cease-fire even as Israel said it had three brigades of ground troops on standby near Gaza, raising the potential for a devastating escalation of the conflict,” Steve Hendrix, Shria Rubin and Michael Miller report. “Violence also continued to spread beyond the aerial assaults. In street riots that erupted for a third night, bands of Arab and right-wing Jewish Israelis fought each other, police and bystanders in towns across Israel. ...
“Air raid sirens blared through the night across Israel as militants fired 130 rockets from Gaza overnight. Hamas launched around 100 into southern Israel continuously throughout Thursday morning. ... At least one projectile struck a suburb of Tel Aviv, causing injuries and significant damage. ... In Gaza, residents awoke on the normally joyous Eid al-Fitr holiday to pillars of smoke rising from sites bombed by Israeli forces. ... Gaza’s Health Ministry said 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, had been killed by noon Thursday. It said 487 people have been wounded.”
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn expected to answer House committee questions ‘as soon as possible,’” by Ann Marimow: “McGahn will appear before the House Judiciary Committee, the court filing states, after House Democrats sued to enforce a subpoena for his testimony about whether Trump obstructed justice in [former special counsel Robert] Mueller’s Russia investigation. A transcript of the interview, which will be closed to the public and the media, will be ‘promptly provided to all involved parties’ for review before it is released publicly, according to the court filing.”
- “Derek Chauvin qualifies for a longer sentence in George Floyd’s murder, judge rules,” by Holly Bailey: “In a ruling made public Wednesday, Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill found state prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt four of five aggravating factors in Floyd’s killing that they argued should result in a tougher prison sentence for the former Minneapolis police officer.”
- “U.S. has entered unprecedented climate territory, EPA warns,” by Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis: “The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying, the EPA said in its report. The assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming.”
… and beyond
- “‘A perpetual motion machine’: How disinformation drives voting laws,” by the New York Times’s Maggie Astor: “Lawmakers in at least 33 states have cited low public confidence in election integrity in their public comments as a justification for bills to restrict voting. ... In several states — including Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Iowa — the bills have already been signed into law, and legislation in Texas is very close to passage.”
- “The perfectly legal hogtying death of Marcus Smith,” by the Assembly’s Ian McDowell and Anne Blythe: “While Smith’s case echoes other cases in that its critics say police used unnecessary and deadly force, it also highlights a practice distinct from other high-profile cases: Smith was restrained with a technique that some police forces banned more than 20 years ago, but that remains legal in North Carolina and other places throughout the country. “
- “Mysterious ailments are said to be more widespread among U.S. personnel,” by the Times’s Julian Barnes, Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt: “Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than 130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.”
The Biden agenda
Biden will meet with Senate Republicans today, with no clear bipartisan path forward on infrastructure.
- The president will meet privately with a half-dozen Republican senators who are involved with their party’s alternative offer to the White House’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) are expected to attend.
- “The session comes ahead of a critical Memorial Day deadline the White House set for ‘progress’ — which also has yet to be really defined — on advancing Biden’s jobs and infrastructure plan,” Seung Min Kim and Tony Romm report.
- Capito “said she plans to focus the negotiation primarily on what the two sides actually want to spend money on. How to pay for it, she said, will come later,” our colleagues write. “Capito, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and virtually all other Senate Republicans have warned that they won’t touch the 2017 tax overhaul, drawing fresh criticism from Democrats that the GOP is unwilling to compromise.”
- “As Biden engages in high-profile meetings with Republicans, lawmakers are working on advancing at least some infrastructure provisions through existing routes, such as legislation that reauthorizes the nation’s surface transportation programs.”
Influential leaders on the left have a message for Biden: Drop the Republicans.
- “They are sounding the alarms that compromising with Republicans on a scaled-down infrastructure bill — and spending the time that such a deal might require — could make it increasingly difficult to pass the rest of Biden’s sweeping agenda,” Politico’s Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago report. “‘It’s a risky strategy,’ John Podesta, the founder of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, [said].”
- Podesta is “among more than a dozen liberal leaders and groups who signed a letter urging the White House and congressional leaders to act quickly on his massive $4 trillion infrastructure proposal.”
- “Peggy Shepard, co-founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said she feared that if the White House reached an infrastructure-only bill with Republicans, it would leave less incentive for moderates like [Joe] Manchin [D-W.Va.] to then also sign onto a more expensive, Democrat-only bill that Republicans are sure to cast as part of a ‘socialist agenda.’ A source with knowledge of the White House strategy said if the package is broken into two bills, there would be incentives for Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema [D-Ariz.] to support both.”
Capito is facing a fraught path to a deal.
- “Capito was juggling visits across her state and preparations to tee up a potential infrastructure deal when she learned that [McConnell] had described himself as '100 percent focused’ on stopping Biden’s agenda,” the Times’s Emily Cochrane reports. “Privately, Ms. Capito said ... Mr. McConnell is ‘telling me to move forward, he’s telling me to negotiate in good faith.’ But his public remark ‘did sound a little…,’ she trailed off with a chuckle. ‘I thought, now I’m going to go into the president and go, ‘Well, here we are to negotiate!' ”
The future of the GOP
In the wake of Cheney’s ouster, over 150 prominent Republicans announced they were forming a new political movement.
- “Among the signers are four former governors, including Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; 27 former members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Barbara Comstock, Charlie Dent and Paul Mitchell; and one former Senator, David Durenberger. Other prominent names include attorney George Conway. ... [Former] White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci; former Department of Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann; and former DHS general counsel John Mitnick,” per the Deseret News, which published the manifesto.
- The group’s “statement of principles” was organized by Evan McMullin, former CIA operations officer, and Miles Taylor, former government official in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations.
- “We cannot wait for the GOP to clean up its act. So we’re creating an alternative movement,” write former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), former Transportation secretary Mary Peters, former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), former RNC chair Michael Steele and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in a Post op-ed.
McCarthy says he'd like to meet with the Capitol Police officer hurt in the riot.
- “McCarthy said he would honor a request to meet with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who was dragged down the U.S. Capitol steps, beaten and Tasered by rioters on Jan. 6.” New body-camera footage of the attack on Fanone shows a rioter celebrating as the officer was beaten. “I got one!” rioters yelled triumphantly.
Quote of the day
“I think he is not leading with principle right now,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I think that it’s sad, and I think that it’s dangerous.”
The 2020 census
The Census shows us how America’s “places to be” have shifted over the past 100 years.
- “The story of the U.S. population is one of fluidity. Of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, more than half jumped ahead or fell behind others this year, despite state population totals that showed the nation’s slowest population growth since the 1930s. Compared with a century ago, the shifts are even more significant, with states rising by as many as 33 positions or falling by as many as 16,” Harry Stevens and Nick Kirkpatrick report. “In broad terms, states in the South and the West have experienced the biggest gains in the past century, with many rising in the past decade. Meanwhile, those in the Northeast and the Midwest have steadily declined.”
Population changes across the U.S.
Census data shows 2020 election turnout was up across nearly every part of the electorate.
- “The new data confirms an uptick in voting rates among Americans young and old, male and female and of different racial backgrounds and education levels,” Scott Clement and Daniela Santamariña report. “Unlike exit polls that are limited to voters, the census survey interviews both voters and nonvoters, providing a clear look at what percentage of different groups turned out to vote, and how that compared with previous elections.”
- “Overall, vote tallies show 66.8 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2020, up from 60.1 percent in 2016 and the highest turnout rate since 1900. The turnout boost was especially large among groups who have historically voted at lower rates. That suggests the 2020 election not only inspired high turnout overall, but also drew broader participation than previous elections.”
- There was a big breakthrough in youth turnout: “After decades of efforts to get young Americans to vote, usually followed by lackluster turnout, they broke new ground in 2020, with 53 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds casting ballots, the first time turnout reached a majority in census surveys dating to 1988.”
- Turnout among Asian Americans jumped the most: “Turnout rose among all racial and ethnic groups in 2020, although Asian Americans saw the largest increase, from 48 percent turnout in 2016 to 62 percent in 2020. The rise is extraordinary given that Asian turnout had consistently lagged the national average in presidential elections, ranging from 41 percent to 48 percent since the 2000 election.”
- “Turnout among Black voters grew to 66 percent in 2020, up from 61 percent in 2016, albeit slightly lower than 2008 and 2012 when Obama was on the ballot.”
- Those with “some college” did a lot more voting: “The biggest shift came among those in the middle of the educational spectrum with some college education or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree. Turnout rose from 63 percent to 72 percent among this group from 2016 to 2020. Turnout grew to 90 percent among postgraduates and to 84 percent among those with a bachelor’s degree.”
Turnout by educational groups since 2000
- Men and women voted more, but the gender gap persisted: “Women maintained their long-term advantage in overall turnout rate, with 70 percent casting ballots compared with 66 percent of men.”
Turnout by gender since 2000
Hot on the right
George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and Jeb Bush’s son, re-upped an attack on Cheney in a tweet that referred to Trump, not Biden, as the president.
Trump, meanwhile, mocked comparisons of Biden to Jimmy Carter.
Hot on the left
Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.) told a female Environmental Protection Agency nominee that if she did not "behave," then "I'm going to talk to your daddy." “The awkward exchange was during Radhika Fox's confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to be the assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water. Fox currently serves in the role on an acting basis and is the Office of Water's principal deputy assistant administrator,” CNN reports. “The senator's communications director, Leacy Burke, told CNN in a statement that ‘Sen. Inhofe is always moved by the family stories of nominees, and was especially touched by Ms. Fox's tribute to her father during the opening remarks.’”
The Colonial Pipeline attack, visualized
Biden will address the nation today on the attack on the Colonial Pipeline that has led to panic buying and fuel shortages, John Wagner reports. “The speech comes as the White House tries to limit political fallout from a ransomware attack that forced the company to shut down its pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey, creating a panic that prompted drivers to fill up out of fear the country could run out of gas. In a statement early Thursday morning, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that a decision announced by Colonial Pipeline to resume operations ‘means there’s an end in sight for the supply disruptions that have affected States across the Southeast.’ ” Yesterday, Biden signed an executive order aimed at shoring up the federal government’s digital defenses as his administration grapples with several cybersecurity crises, including the attack that led to the shutdown of the pipeline.
Today in Washington
Biden will deliver remarks on the Colonial Pipeline incident at 11:50 a.m. At 1:30, he and Vice President Harris will meet with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Capito, Sen. Barrasso, Sen. Blunt, Sen. Crapo, Sen. Toomey, and Sen. Wicker. Harris will meet with the task force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment at 5:15 p.m.
First lady Jill Biden will travel to West Virginia with Manchin and actress Jennifer Garner. At 3 p.m., the three will visit a vaccination center and deliver remarks. At 4:30 p.m., the first lady and Manchin will greet members of the West Virginia National Guard.
Trevor Noah talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, noting that people forget it is ongoing until there are flare-ups, like what we're seeing right now:
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told Stephen Colbert that the GOP is “eating itself”: