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House Republicans Bet On Divine Intervention
INSIDE: George Santos ... Janet Protasiewicz ... Kari Lake
A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
‘I’ll Pray On It’
In a bid to appear functional, House Republicans are expected to take at least one step toward possibly, potentially, maybe electing a speaker today. How those procedural votes will actually pan out is anyone’s guess — and the D.C. tip sheets have plenty of ‘em — but plugged-in observers say a rule change vote expected today will serve as a proxy vote on the nominees. Most of the GOP conference is rallying around either House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) or Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH).
House Republicans are expected to meet at 10:00 a.m. ET to try to nominate their candidate for speaker.
This rule-change vote could jam things up: the measure is being pushed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), seemingly with an interest in avoiding the one-million rounds of votes the House endured during Kevin McCarthy’s election in January. Backed by at least 100 House Republicans currently — including Jordan — Roy wants to raise the threshold for bringing a nominee to the floor for a roll call vote.
If that measure passes, a speaker candidate would need 217 votes to advance to an official roll call.
Jordan backs the measure. Scalise does not.
Of course, making predictions about how exactly a lawless party will try to get its ducks in a row is a futile effort. As my colleague David Kurtz pointed out last week, the question of succession is less relevant than the question of whether the new speaker will demand a motion-to-vacate rule change. If not, the new speaker won’t have any more of a real majority than McCarthy did and the hostage-taking will continue.
The very group that orchestrated McCarthy’s ouster has been the most quiet about how exactly things will shake out this week. With the exception of Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), the eight hardliners who voted to strip McCarthy of his gavel haven’t said who they intend to back to replace him.
“You’re not getting anything out of me as far as who I’m supporting,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) told Punchbowl Tuesday.
“I’ll pray on it,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) said.
Santos Indicted For ‘Credit Card Scheme’ First Reported By TPM
In January, TPM broke the story that donors to Rep. George Santos’ (R-NY) 2022 campaign were charged for contributions they didn’t intend to give. On Tuesday, roughly nine months after that story, federal prosecutors in New York charged Santos with credit card fraud and identity theft related to a “scheme” that mirrors the allegations first revealed in TPM’s reporting.
When we first reported on the Santos credit card shenanigans, we also found donors who said they got questionable charges from Tina Forte, a Republican who ran against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (R-NY). Forte, who was among the January 6 rally VIPs and who livestreamed from the U.S. Capitol that day, is running again this year. Her 2022 campaign has multiple links to Santos and his business associates. Forte was paid $14,000 by her own campaign, which also made payments to the Santos-linked companies.
Forte was not named in the indictment though prosecutors said Santos used donors’ credit card information to transfer money to unspecified “other candidates for elected office.” TPM reached out to Forte in the wake of the indictment. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Larry Hogan clings to relevance, says he hasn’t ruled out a 2024 bid: “However I can serve, I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m not walking away,” he said during a Bloomberg event in D.C. “I don’t want to run a race and nibble around the edges. … If I thought there was a path to success to win the race, then I just said I wouldn’t shut the door to that opportunity.”
Kari Lake officially challenges Sinema. The Trump ally officially threw her hat in the ring Tuesday evening in an American carnage-style address to supporters in which she disparaged other politicians and vowed to be the most “pro-America senator in the entire country.”
A particularly dystopian moment: “That’s how we got into the mess we’re in right now because they have surrendered far too many hills. We are on — we’re on the final hill right now, and I’m not surrendering this hill,” she said.
South Carolina, The Supreme Court and 17%
The Supreme Court will hear its first redistricting case of the term on Wednesday in a fight focused on South Carolina’s first congressional district. An explainer from TPM’s Kate Riga:
After the 2020 census, the state had to equalize the population in a couple of districts — district one had too many people, and district six (which Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-GA) has held since 1993) had too few. While you might expect the natural recourse to be state officials shifting some of the district one surplus into district six, just the opposite happened.
The state swept several Republican-heavy areas into district one, only then to deport almost every precinct with over 1,000 Black voters to the safe Democratic seat of district six. Plaintiffs describe the move as “bleaching” Charleston County.
Oddly enough, the Black voter population of district one remained exactly the same throughout the influx and draining — right around 17 percent. From the plaintiffs’ recent filing: “Relying in part on Defendants’ own analyses of the legislative record, the panel found ‘a district in the range of 17 percent African American produced a Republican tilt, a district in the range of 20 percent produced a ‘toss up district,’ and a plan in the 21-24 percent range produced a Democratic tilt.’”
So, South Carolina officials infused district one with lots of Republican voters, then surgically removed enough Black voters until their voting power shrunk to the point where the white Republicans could overcome it. This, South Carolina maintains, was not racial gerrymandering — it was partisan gerrymandering! They wanted to remove Democrats from district one, sure.
“Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey confirmed at trial that partisanship was ‘one of the most important factors’ and the Republican majority was ‘not going to sacrifice the 1st,’” the state senator’s side wrote in a brief.
It may seem odd for a state lawmaker to so candidly acknowledge that his party is plucking and dropping the state’s voters in configurations that artificially heighten its chance of winning. But the Supreme Court, in 2019, said that it and federal courts in general would no longer get involved with partisan gerrymandering cases. So by making the argument that this is partisan — not racial — gerrymandering, the state lawmakers might be able to eke out a win.
Of course, especially in the South, race and partisan leaning are often intrinsically connected — making the distinction the Supreme Court is insisting be made all the more awkward and difficult to prove.
Quote Of The Day
Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) brushing off his newest rival, Tom Suozzi, to TPM’s Hunter Walker: “He pissed off every New York Democrat by running against Kathy and smearing her.”
About five hours later, Santos was indicted for the second time.
Trump’s Time In The Michigan Barrel, Accelerated
Last week, the good government group Free Speech for People sued in the State of Michigan to block Donald Trump from appearing on the ballot.
There are many cases like this around the country, but this one is different. It’s the first time any legitimate group has tried to use Trump’s 2020 coup attempt to keep him off the ballot in a critical swing state. And, per a document TPM’s Josh Kovensky reviewed, it’s set to accelerate. The judge in the case did two things. The first is that he sped up deadlines in the matter. That’s basically a victory for Free Speech, which has a tight deadline before the primaries begin by which to knock Trump off the ballot. This is a fight which will largely play out between now and early 2024, for that reason.
The second is less positive for Free Speech for People, and largely mimics what the Minnesota Supreme Court did in a similar case filed before it last month. The Michigan Court of Claims judge effectively asked parties to the case – including Trump and his presidential campaign – to address threshold questions including:
Whether Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson can disqualify a candidate without judicial review
Whether the Constitution’s Disqualification Clause applies to presidential candidates
Whether Congress 1872 Confederate amnesty applies
The deadlines here are tight. Trump can weigh in by Oct. 23, and all briefing (including replies) is to conclude by Oct. 30. The groups seeking to disqualify Trump want evidentiary hearings to prove their case; the judge here declined to schedule one, only saying that he’d decide after reviewing the briefs this month.
Infowars v. Cheese
Ken Chesebro is set to go to trial later this month in Fulton County, alongside Kraken attorney Sidney Powell. Chesebro, a Harvard Law graduate and former aide to Constitutional law professor Larry Tribe, still maintains a lawyerly sheen of respectability. But his company in the case, as well as those requested to testify against him, tell a different story.
Prosecutors with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office asked a local judge on Tuesday to have both RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Infowars host Alex Jones to testify at Chesebro’s trial. Jones, prosecutors said, communicated with Chesebro, including on January 6 where, CNN reported, Chesebro walked around filming the Infowars mouth breather. Jones, prosecutors said, would testify to Chesebro’s “involvement in the conspiracy.”
We’ll be watching THAT closely.
Cut It Out
At least one of the former justices contacted by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to weigh in on state Republicans’ hysterical efforts to impeach newly-elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz responded this week.
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s advice to state Republicans could be boiled down to: maybe don’t do that.
“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” Prosser wrote to Vos. “Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”
Last month, Republicans in the state legislature suggested they may look into impeaching Protasiewicz if she refused to recuse herself from a case on a redistricting lawsuit, that is seeking to toss egregiously gerrymandered Republican-drawn legislative maps in the state. Republicans argue that her past remarks on the state’s maps being “rigged” justify their overturning of the state’s latest election results. Protasiewicz said Friday she would not recuse herself and the court ruled in favor of hearing the case.
Blinken Will Travel To Israel And Jordan
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the Middle East today as Israel is preparing a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following the attacks by Hamas over the weekend. The State Department has described Blinken’s trip as an effort to “reaffirm” U.S. “solidarity” with Israel and said it will include discussions of “measures to bolster Israel’s security and underscore the United States’ unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The State Department did not detail Blinken’s plans for the Jordanian portion of the trip. Jordan’s King Abdullah, a longtime advocate of a two state solution, has been pressing for international diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the violence.
Blinken’s trip comes on the heels of a speech by President Joe Biden where he condemned Hamas, which he said is holding American hostages taken during the attacks, and promised military aid for Israel. Biden has also pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to minimize civilian casualties. Gaza, which has been under bombardment, is currently without power and under siege, conditions that authorities there have said are creating a humanitarian crisis. The intensified blockade has complicated aid efforts.
In case you missed it, TPM’s Josh Marshall recommends some resources he’s using to navigate the flood of information coming out of the region:
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