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Just Who Is Welcome in the GOP?
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Just Who Is Welcome in the GOP?

Plus: Nancy Pelosi gets her select committee to investigate January 6.

Good morning and happy Friday. We wish you a glorious Independence Day celebration. To get your patriotic weekend started, here’s a speech from America’s favorite former president. Now, let’s get right to the news.

Just Who Is Welcome in the GOP?

Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican from Arizona, has long been criticized for his friendliness to the fringiest elements of the new right. Back in February, Gosar spoke at an “America First Political Action Conference” organized by Nick Fuentes, the young activist and leader of the online youth faction known as the “Groypers.” 

The association brought shouts of outrage. Fuentes and his fans style themselves the defenders of true Trumpian nationalism—protecting white America’s cultural heritage by slashing both legal and illegal immigration. Fuentes himself has a long history of controversial and xenophobic remarks, including sneering, half-ironic monologues denying the Holocaust, waving off a mass shooting in El Paso, insisting that America was better off under Jim Crow. At the AFPAC event, Fuentes followed Gosar with an openly white nationalist speech that bemoaned the country losing its “white demographic core.” He said: “this country wouldn’t exist without white people, and white people are done being bullied.”

Following the outcry, Gosar shuffled away from the association: “I denounce when we talk about white racism,” he told a CPAC panel later that month. This week, however, the controversy reared up again after Fuentes announced he would be holding a fundraiser with Gosar. 

Was the event real? Fuentes is a troll, but the flyer circulating included a Gosar campaign email and claimed to be “authorized by Gosar for Congress Committee.” On a Monday night livestream, Fuentes insisted the fundraiser was happening, calling Gosar “really, honestly, hands down the best congressman in America.”

If white nationalists—or anybody, really—claim they’re holding official campaign events with a lawmaker, you’d expect that lawmaker to set the record straight quickly. Instead, as news of the event spread, Gosar scoffed at his critics: “Not sure why anyone is freaking out,” he said in a tweet. “We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances, and efforts.”

Gosar has a history of amplifying conspiracy theories and embracing unsavory characters. In a video recorded before the January 6 assault on the Capitol, alt-right provocateur Ali Alexander thanked Gosar and two other GOP representatives for their help in organizing the “Stop the Steal” rally. “I was the person who came up with the January 6 idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and then Congressman Andy Biggs,” Alexander said in the video. “We four schemed up of putting max pressure on Congress while they were voting so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body hearing our loud roar from outside.” Gosar later denied the claims.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with Gosar on Tuesday. The conversation apparently cleared up any concerns for McCarthy: “He says he doesn’t have—that it’s not real. That he doesn’t have anything on his schedule,” McCarthy told reporters. Gosar himself started backpedaling too, telling CNN he didn’t know “what’s going on,” adding that “there’s no fundraiser that I know of on Friday.” 

In a statement to Breitbart News, Gosar defended himself from charges of antisemitism in particular: “I have the best record in Congress supporting America First, and Israel as our greatest ally abroad,” he said. “Our country is being divided by critical race theory/anti-white propaganda … I continue to condemn racial supremacy, ethnic nationalism, and antisemitism and I do not accept them as part of America First. Such talk is nonsense and my record is clear on this.”

Nevertheless, the whole kerfuffle has been a reminder of one of McCarthy’s least pleasant tasks in the current Congress: Trying to rein in his caucus’s loose cannons without turning them into MAGA martyrs. 

“It used to be party leadership held you in line for doing stupid things [like] catering to white nationalists, and say we’re going to censure this person,” Ryan Burge, a professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, told The Dispatch. “But now they don’t want to do that. … Why do they not want to censure someone who pals around with white nationalism?”

It’s not unheard of for Republicans to move to censure their own who are out of step with the conference. In 2019, McCarthy moved to strip Iowa Republican Steve King of his committee assignments for racist remarks, following pressure from other House Republicans.

McCarthy also suggested at a press conference in February that the House GOP caucus did not move against another Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, for her spreading of conspiracy theories because she made them before her election to Congress, but that a higher standard would now apply to lawmakers: “Now that you’re a member of Congress, now it’s the responsibility of our conference to hold people accountable,” McCarthy said. “We removed Steve King when he made comments as a member of Congress.”

And more recently, McCarthy supported an ultimately successful effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, then the third-ranking House Republican, from her leadership post for her criticism of former president Donald Trump.

McCarthy told Fox News at the time that Republicans needed to be on the same page, something Cheney’s criticism of Trump had apparently violated. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority,” he said.

So now Cheney is out. Yet Gosar has avoided a similar fate. He remains on two committees, multiple subcommittees, and a variety of caucuses within the party, including the House Freedom Caucus.

Why would Republicans vote to strip Cheney of her leadership position for criticizing Trump but refuse to discipline Gosar for his continued embrace of a racist white grievance hustler? “At some point it’s hard to avoid the elephant in the room, which is that one is more acceptable than the other,” Burge said.

Rank-and-file lawmakers have sought to avoid weighing-in. After Greene’s controversial remarks, including casting doubt on 9/11 and the Parkland shootings, 11 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of Greene losing her committee seats. The Dispatch emailed those members to see if they would favor a similar outcome for Gosar. No one wanted to comment. Instead of weighing in on the story, Laura Hernandez, a spokeswoman for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office asked: “Can you send me the link to your story asking Democrats about Rep. Omar’s comments comparing Israel to terrorist groups?”

McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar also responded to questions from the Washington Post about Gosar with a whataboutism: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s avoidance and even acceptance of reoccurring antisemitism within her caucus would normally warrant the same inquiry you and your peers constantly give to McCarthy’s interactions with his members.” McCarthy’s office has not responded to repeated inquiries from The Dispatch for comment on Gosar.

Jeremy Adler, communications director for Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, told The Dispatch: “Rep. Cheney has been extremely vocal in condemning racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other hate speech whenever an elected official—from either party—spreads it.” He also sent a link to Cheney’s former condemnation of Gosar’s participation in the AFPAC event.

The National Republican Congressional Committee did not respond to a request for comment on whether it will support Gosar in upcoming elections.

Some outside Congress were quicker to condemn the remarks.

The Republican Jewish Coalition in a tweet called the event “reprehensible” and “inexcusable”: 

Alyssa Farah, former Trump White House communications director, tweeted, “this kid literally compared the deaths of Jews in the Holocaust to baking among other insane/hateful/bigoted takes. What on earth, [Rep. Gosar]?” She added: “If you need his support to win, I can assure you your congressional seat is not worth it.” 

Former Rep. Reid Ribble, a Wisconsin Republican, told The Dispatch the episode shows that the GOP has become more comfortable with unsavory elements in the caucus: “With Steve King it was, we’re removing you from the committees. We don’t want to be associated with that. They were really worried about how that would affect the Republican brand. … Kevin McCarthy and the leadership, they’ve got to clamp down on this, otherwise they owe Steve King an apology. But I’d say right now they owe America an apology.”

Ribble added: “McCarthy is making a calculated effort to go quiet on it. It’s tragic for democracy; it’s tragic for the Republicans … It makes it so easy for the other side to paint them all racist. That’s just not true. But [the GOP] has got a few bad actors that want to pander to the worst of ourselves and the worst of who we are as Americans.”

“What’s the line?” Burge asked. “I thought campaigning with a white nationalist would be over the line. Apparently it’s not. What would get someone kicked out of the party right now, besides going against Donald Trump?”

Cheney Joins January 6 Select Committee

After repeated attempts from Democrats and a few Republicans to form some type of investigative body to look into the events of January 6, this week the House passed a resolution that would form a select committee to do just that. 

The resolution establishing the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol passed the House on Wednesday on an almost exact party-line vote—222-190. Two Republicans, Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney, bucked their party and voted with Democrats. Both said they would have preferred a bipartisan commission (of the sort previously spiked by Republicans) to a select committee on any type of January 6 investigation, but voted in favor of it anyway. 

Most Republicans cited the partisan makeup of the select committee as the reason they opposed it. The committee, according to the resolution, is supposed to have 13 members, eight of whom would be appointed by Democratic leadership and five by Democratic leadership in consultation with Republican leadership. The select committee will not have bipartisan subpoena power, meaning that Democratic Chairman Bennie Johnson can subpoena whomever he chooses. Plus, there is no end date on the committee, meaning it may continue well into 2022, with a potential impact on the midterm elections. 

“When I spoke on the House floor in favor of the independent, evenly split, bipartisan commission it was because I wanted to prevent something like this from happening,” Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan told The Dispatch on Thursday.

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who like Meijer, Cheney, and Kinzinger voted to impeach President Trump earlier this year over his role in inciting the riot, expressed the same concern on The Dispatch Podcast. “The choice—which people didn’t seem to get—wasn’t between a commission or no commission,” he said. “The choice was between a bipartisan, independent commission—which is the one I supported—or a Pelosi commission.”

The Republican picks are supposed to be decided by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she consults and obtains suggestions from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. 

However, those suggestions may never come. 

As we reported in Thursday’s TMD, McCarthy has made clear he expects House Republicans to reject any prospective invitations to work on the committee and oppose all of the committee’s efforts. Punchbowl News reported that in a closed-door meeting with freshman House Republicans on Wednesday, McCarthy said any Republicans who accept a committee appointment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be prepared to get all of their committee assignments from her. 

Reporters and lawmakers alike interpreted McCarthy to mean that he would strip any Republican who accepted such an assignment from their own committees, although McCarthy later denied the insinuation.

In a press conference Thursday, when asked if he would name Republicans to the committee McCarthy simply said, “When I have news on that I’ll give it to you.” 

For her part, Pelosi has suggested she’s not going to wait around should McCarthy drag his heels on offering Republicans, telling reporters “we have a quorum,” implying that she’s not going to wait for the minority leader. 

McCarthy could not keep his entire conference in line, though. Speaker Pelosi announced that Cheney will serve on the committee, along with seven Democrats. In a statement shared with The Dispatch, Cheney said, “I’m honored to have been named to serve on the January 6th select committee. Congress is obligated to conduct a full investigation of the most serious attack on our Capitol since 1814. … Our oath to the Constitution, our commitment to the rule of law, and the preservation of the peaceful transfer of power must always be above partisan politics.”

The other members of the committee will be Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Peter Aguilar, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Jaimie Raskin, Rep. Elane Luria, and, as mentioned, Rep. Bennie Thompson will be the chair. 

On the Floor

Next week, both chambers are out for the Fourth of July recess. House committee work will resume July 12, with the chamber coming back into session on July 19. The Senate will be back in session on July 12.

Key Hearings

  • On July 12, the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a 10 a.m. hearing on the “importance of a diverse federal judiciary.” The hearing will highlight the selection and confirmation process. More information can be found here.

  • The House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight will hold a July 14 hearing at noon on outbreak investigations on COVID-19 and future infectious diseases. Information can be found here.

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Harvest Prude is a former reporter at The Dispatch.

Ryan Brown is a community manager for The Dispatch. He previously served as a researcher and production assistant for Meet the Press.