October 22, 2021
This morning, Jonathan Martin at the New York Times reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has warned Republican political consultants that they may not continue to work for both him and Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), who is vice chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
While Republican lawmakers are trying to sweep the insurrection under the rug, Cheney is calling out the attack and demanding sunlight on what happened. Republican leaders are lining up behind former president Trump in hopes of retaining his loyalist voters, but Cheney is repeatedly, and increasingly clearly, suggesting that the president was responsible for the events of that day.
That McCarthy is trying to make her a pariah indicates a fight over the future of the Republican Party. While one fund-raising company has already cut ties with her, Cheney is not operating from a weak position. Her father is Richard (Dick) Cheney, who was President George W. Bush’s vice president and, perhaps more significant for today’s events, President George H. W. Bush’s secretary of defense. The Cheneys are likely not unaware of what is happening among intelligence officials, which seems likely to involve some current Republican lawmakers.
And Liz Cheney’s stand against McCarthy and Trump is not hurting her politically at home: she has raised more than $5 million for her reelection, compared to the $300,000 raised in the last two months or so by her Trump-backed opponent.
There is an important story behind McCarthy’s attack on Representative Cheney. She presents a threat to the pro-Trump Republican Party not simply because she is standing strong against the former president and the attack on our democracy.
She is offering to women and men in the suburbs a reasonable alternative to those pro-Trump representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) whose pistol packing and aggression gets attention for all the wrong reasons. Trump Republicans have lost the support of suburban women, and Cheney seems to be picking them up and explaining that Trump and his supporters, including McCarthy, tried to destroy our democracy. That McCarthy felt it necessary to try to undercut her this way suggests they see her as a major threat.
McCarthy had another reason to be unhappy today. Longtime readers of these letters may perhaps remember that McCarthy took money from a Ukraine-born U.S. businessman, Lev Parnas.
Parnas worked with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to try to find dirt on Joe Biden’s son Hunter in Ukraine. In 2019, prosecutors said that money was illegal: Parnas had taken $1 million from Ukraine oligarch Dmytro Firtash and had illegally funneled more than $350,000 to pro-Trump political action committees and other Republican lawmakers in 2016.
Today, a jury found Parnas guilty of making illegal campaign contributions.
In other developments that might be making Republican lawmakers uncomfortable, Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department attorney who wanted to help then-president Trump stay in the White House despite losing the election, is scheduled to testify before the January 6th committee next Friday.
According to CNN, Alyssa Farah, who was Trump’s director of strategic communications, has met voluntarily with Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who, along with Cheney, is on the January 6 committee.
It appears there is concern about the mounting evidence before the January 6th committee. In an interview with National Review, John Eastman, who wrote a very clear memo outlining how then–vice president Mike Pence could overturn the results of the 2020 election, called that scenario “crazy.”
Meanwhile, business journalists are suggesting that the new Trump media company is not a failure at all, because it was never actually meant to be a media company so much as a way to siphon money out of investors.
Matt Levine in Bloomberg outlines how a vehicle called a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which is a publicly traded investment company, is designed to merge with a new company that is not yet public, to allow investment in that SPAC based on expectations of future income thanks to the new company. (Someone explained this to me by saying it’s like a sea slug taking over a shell so it can do business as the shell organism quickly and without oversight.)
In this case, the announcement that the new Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) would merge with a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition Corporation (DWAC) sent DWAC’s stock soaring by as much as 160%. It was the most traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange, with more than 260 million shares traded by midday.
The company never has to produce anything. Investors can make money just based on how people think the company might perform—or not—in the future.
The man behind this scheme is the person to whom McCarthy is demanding the Republican Party demonstrate absolute loyalty.