Republicans

Trump Using Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills

President Trump “is using money donated to his reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election,” Reuters reports.

“The U.S. Federal Election Commission allows the use of private campaign funds to pay legal bills arising from being a candidate or elected official.”

“While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump would be the first U.S. president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.”

Republican Governors Launch a ‘News’ Site

Associated Press: “The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.”

“Only after the Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.”

Trump Backers Blame Republicans First

Washington Post: “These churchgoers are at the heart of the dilemma nagging Republican leaders as they struggle to forge a path between the Grand Old Party and the Party of Trump. These voters don’t consider themselves Republicans. They are first and foremost supporters of the president.”

“They are quick to explain away the compromises the former real-estate developer and reality TV star has made and the inconsistencies in many of his positions. They describe Washington as a swamp and speak of Democratic and Republican congressional leaders with the same levels of frustration and disappointment — while describing Trump as if he were a longtime neighbor. They have high hopes for his presidency, but they also fear he might be held back by his party. And they don’t expect their devotion to the president to waver, even a tiny bit, any time soon.”

GOP Establishment Fights to Win Back Control of Party

“Deep-pocketed supporters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other GOP leaders have resolved to fight a protracted battle over the next year for the soul of the party in congressional primaries,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the task will not be easy. Strategists from both sides of the party’s divide say recent focus groups and polling have shown that the frustration within the Republican base has only grown since the 2016 election, stoked by an inability to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health-care law. President Trump, meanwhile, has continued to cast his presidency in opposition to the current ways of Washington, which could encourage primary voters to buck the system in a way that endangers House and Senate incumbents.”

GOP Feels Betrayed By Trump

Politico: “While GOP leaders were able to brush off the debt pact as no big deal, after Thursday they were reminding the president that they — not the Democrats — run Congress. Though they differed on whether to bill it as a deal, Trump and Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi agreed in some fashion that they want to shield so-called Dreamers from deportation and beef up border security, leaving the fight over the border wall for later.”

“That left Republicans grappling with a frightening new potential reality: that Trump will cut controversial deals with Democrats and leave them to pick up the pieces.”

The Empty Shell of America’s Two Party System

Edward Luce: “There was a time when the US had two functioning parties. That is no longer the case. I can now count four. Since Mr Trump has no fixed membership, the tally has risen temporarily to five. In last year’s primaries, the right populist and left populist candidates, Mr Trump and Mr Sanders, took more than half of the votes between them. If that were translated into seats, America’s traditional two parties would be in a minority. The picture would be closer to Emmanuel Macron’s France, where the Gaullists and Socialists are on the sidelines.”

“But American politics is doomed to limp on with the shell of two parties. Their contempt for each other is exceeded only by their antagonisms within. Neither of each party’s warring factions is strong enough to claim the whole. But they have enough clout to stop their rivals from doing so.”

“If Mr Trump were another person, he could orchestrate this chaos to his ends. No president has inherited better conditions to realign US politics. But Mr Trump has the attention span of a goldfish.”

Is the GOP Finally at a Breaking Point?

“The Republican Party likes to think of itself as a big tent — not always a harmonious one, but full of all types,” the New York Times reports.

“In the minds of many, however, it’s grown too full, and badly needs an excision. Now more than at any point in its modern history, the party has reached such a breaking point that historians, political analysts and Republicans themselves say it faces the possibility of splintering and spawning a third party.”

Historian Michael Beschloss said the conditions were so ripe for a split: “I’ve been startled that this has not happened.”

Bannon Declares War on the GOP

“Stephen Bannon — President Trump’s former chief strategist who left the White House in August — declared war Sunday against the Republican congressional leadership, called on Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, to resign, and outlined his views on issues ranging from immigration to trade,” the Washington Post reports.

“Bannon, in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) of ‘trying to nullify the 2016 election.’ … He blamed them for failing to repeal and replace former president Barack Obama’s signature health-care law and made clear that he would use his Breitbart perch to hold Republicans accountable for not helping Trump push through his agenda.””

Trump Upends 150 Years of Two-Party Rule

New York Times: “Although elected as a Republican last year, Mr. Trump has shown in the nearly eight months in office that he is, in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.”

“In recent weeks, he has quarreled more with fellow Republicans than with the opposition, blasting congressional leaders on Twitter, ousting former party officials in his White House, embracing primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers who defied him and blaming Republican figures for not advancing his policy agenda.”

Republicans Struggle to Control Their Own Agenda

Politico: “The debt and spending bill approved by Capitol Hill on Friday averted imminent fiscal disaster, but it’s added more misery for a Republican Party whose agenda has floundered even with unified control of Washington for the first time in a decade. It’s also given Democrats significant leverage to imperil tax reform, the GOP’s best hope at a major legislative victory.”

“Rather than dictating the agenda of Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers oftentimes find themselves at the whims of a capricious White House, Democrats in the minority and a calendar that’s getting increasingly packed ahead of campaign season next spring. Speaker Paul Ryan predicted in January that tax reform, Obamacare repeal and a border wall would all be done by now. Instead, Obamacare repeal may be completely dead at month’s end, there are just broad strokes on tax reform and many Republicans oppose the border wall being pushed by their own president.”