Steve Bannon recruiting rabble-rousers to take on GOP establishment

When Steve Bannon left the Trump administration in August, he said he could do more to shake up Washington from outside the White House than from inside.

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Now, it looks as if Bannon’s plan is coming together.

Bannon has been recruiting and promoting challengers to GOP incumbents and the party’s preferred candidates in next year’s midterm elections.

It’s an insurgency that could give Washington the jolt it needs to end years of stagnation and gridlock — and get the U.S. moving again.

But it could also imperil Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

The emerging Bannon class of rabble-rousers share limited ideological ties but have a common intent to upend Washington and knock out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., standard-bearer of the establishment.

It’s a crop of candidates that unnerves a GOP that lost seats — and a shot at the Senate majority — in 2010 and 2012 with political novices and controversial nominees and fears a stinging repeat in 2018.

“The main thing that binds them together is a rejection of the Republican Party establishment, a rejection of the political elites, the financial elites and the media elites,” said Andy Surabian, a former Bannon aide and senior adviser to the pro-Trump PAC Great America Alliance.

“The main thing that binds them together is a rejection of the Republican Party establishment, a rejection of the political elites, the financial elites and the media elites.”

– Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump political action committee

Bannon helped elevate twice-suspended Judge Roy Moore, who won an Alabama runoff over McConnell’s pick, Sen. Luther Strange.

Moore was removed from office for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama’s judicial building and then suspended for insisting probate judges refuse same-sex couples marriage licenses.

Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in a December election where polls show a single-digit lead for the Republican, a remarkable development in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ heavily GOP state.

“We don’t have leadership. We have followership,” Moore said Friday at the Values Voter Summit where he argued for scrapping the health care law with no replacement.

In West Virginia, the grassroots conservative group Tea Party Express endorsed Patrick Morrissey, also a Great America Alliance choice, over establishment favorite Rep. Evan Jenkins in a competitive race to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Senate Republicans had been upbeat about adding to their 52-48 majority, especially with Democrats defending more seats in 2018, including 10 in states Trump won in last year’s presidential election. But the Bannon challenge could cost them, leaving incumbents on the losing end in primaries or GOP candidates roughed up for the general election.

Consider Mississippi, where state Sen. Chris McDaniel lost to veteran Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014, but is weighing a bid next year against Roger Wicker, the state’s other senator in the national legislature.

McDaniel misdefined “mamacita,” the Spanish word for mommy as “hot mama,” and said he would withhold his tax payments if the government paid reparations for slavery. He also was forced to denounce a supporter who photographed and posted an image of Cochran’s bed-ridden wife.

He argued in court that his 2014 loss was due in part to African Americans fraudulently voting in the primary. He’s back again and speaking in Bannon terms.

“They will do anything, they will say anything, to just maintain a hold on power,” McDaniel said in an Associated Press interview about McConnell and his allies.

He’s already envisioning the theme of a challenge against Wicker.

“On one side, a liberty-minded, constitutional conservative. On the other side, Wicker and McConnell,” he said.

In Arizona, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Trump antagonist Sen. Jeff Flake, remains known for entertaining the debunked theory that jet aircraft are used to intentionally affect the weather or poison people.

In 2015, she gave conflicting answers about her beliefs after holding a public hearing she said was to answer constituents’ questions. But John McCain used it to marginalize her in his winning GOP Senate primary against her, and McConnell reprised it in August in a web ad which referred to her as “chemtrail Kelli.”

Former New York Rep. Michael Grimm, who spent eight months in prison for federal tax evasion, is challenging two-term Rep. Dan Donovan — with the encouragement of Bannon.

In announcing his candidacy, Grimm was apologetic for his conviction. Still out there are viral videos of him famously telling a television reporter during an on-camera interview at the U.S. Capitol after a question he didn’t like: “You ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this (expletive) balcony.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is sticking with the incumbent: “I support Dan Donovan, plain and simple,” Ryan said this week.

But he stopped short of suggesting Bannon stand down. “It’s a free country,” he said.

In Nevada, Bannon is encouraging Republican Danny Tarkanian in his challenge to GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Tarkanian, son of famed basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is zero-for-five in state and federal elections.

These outsiders share strong opposition to increasing the nation’s debt even if it means an economy-rattling default and unsparing criticism of congressional Republicans, especially McConnell, for failing to dismantle the Obama-era health care law, an unfulfilled seven-year-old promise.

In Wyoming, Erik Prince, founder of security contractor Blackwater, is considering a Republican primary challenge to Sen. John Barrasso, a senior member of the Senate GOP leadership team. Bannon has urged Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to run.

Bannon has given at least one Senate incumbent — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — a pass, but others are in his cross-hairs.

“Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them,” Bannon said during a Fox News interview Wednesday. “And we’re going to win.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Courtesy: Fox News

RNC chairwoman rips Michelle Obama for ‘false’ claim GOP is ‘all men, all white’

The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee blasted former first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday for her suggestion that Republicans are essentially “all men, all white.”

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“It’s unfortunate Michelle Obama would disregard the contributions of conservative women and people of all backgrounds with one sweeping, false accusation,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News on Thursday.

The former first lady spoke at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on Tuesday and said it was important to have different types of people to gather different perspectives, saying “we should be working actively to mix it up.”

Obama recalled visiting Congress for State of the Union addresses, and drew a stark contrast between the two sides of the aisle.

“What you can see is this real dichotomy—on one side of the room, it’s a feeling of color,” Obama said. “On one side of the room, it’s literally gray and white. Literally, that’s the color palette on one side of the room.”

FILE - In this July 12, 2017, file photo, former first lady Michelle Obama presents the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Obama said at a women's conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 3, 2017, that the lack of diversity among some segments of the political landscape is a reason that “people don’t trust politics.” (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

File picture of Michelle Obama during the ESPYS  (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

MICHELLE OBAMA SLAMS WOMEN WHO VOTED FOR TRUMP

She continued, “On the other side of the room, there are yellows and blues and whites and greens. Physically, there’s a difference in color, in the tone. … Because one side—all men, all white. On the other side – some women, some people of color.”

Obama pointed to that scene and said, “No wonder people don’t trust politics.”

Not only is the head of the RNC a woman, but dozens of women and minorities are Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Mia Love of Utah and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

In the 115th Congress, there are 14 minority Republicans in the House and four in the Senate. There are currently 24 Republican congresswomen and five female Republican senators.

The Obama comments came after the former first lady also angered Republicans by criticizing women who voted for President Trump

“Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” Obama told the audience during a talk at a marketing conference last month in Boston, according to Boston.com.

She was taking a swipe at a large swath of the population — according to exit polls, 41 percent of women voted for Trump in November.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Courtesy: Fox News

Steve Bannon hints at war within GOP, lashes out at Bush administration ‘idiots’ and mainstream media

Steve Bannon, in his first extensive interview since he left the White House last month, hinted at a looming war not with the opposing Democratic Party, but within the GOP itself.

“The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election,” Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who helped lead Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, told CBS News’ Charlie Rose in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday. “[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, and to a degree, [House Speaker] Paul Ryan. They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious. It’s very obvious what they are trying to do.”

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Bannon went on to assert that such Republican leaders don’t support the President’s “program,” nor do they want to “drain the swamp” because it has been a “successful business model” based on donors and lobbyists, for some 50 years. He also expressed dismay that in the immediate aftermath of the election win, they chose to “embrace the establishment.”

“You might call it the original sin of the administration,” Bannon said. “Our whole campaign was a little bit [like] the island of misfit toys. So [Trump] looks around and I’m wearing my combat jacket, I haven’t shaved, my hair’s down to here, and he is thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got to put together a government. I’ve got to really staff up something.’”

Of the recent announcement by Trump that Congress had six months to sort out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that provides legal protections for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, Bannon argued that the program should be abolished once and for all. He also said he was worried that Republicans would lose the House as a result of DACA.

“It will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013. And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely unwise,” he said, before illuminating the need to “focus on American citizens” and encourage immigrants to “self deport” by not renewing their work permits as they expire. “There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.”

BANNON: CHRISTIE FROZEN OUT FROM CABINET FOR ‘ACCESS HOLLYWOOD’ TAPE RESPONSE

Bannon, who has since returned to running the conservative news website Breitbart, refers to himself as a “street-fighter” who will continue to advocate for the president from outside federal government constraints and “make sure his enemies know there’s no free shot on goal.”

Throughout the interview he also took aim at the George W. Bush administration and what he called the president’s “idiot” security apparatus – including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell – for allowing China to ignite economic war with the U.S. and embroil the U.S. in the Iraq war.

He also dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation, and the extent of Moscow’s impact on the 2016 election, as a “waste of time.” When Rose asked him why Trump “finds it so hard so criticize Russia,” Bannon argued that Trump “knows the Russians are not good guys” but doesn’t see the point of “picking another fight.”

STEVE BANNON SAYS HE DISAGREES WITH TRUMP’S DECISION ON DACA

Bannon ended the interview with a lashing out at the mainstream media, defending President Trump’s rampant and often controversial use of Twitter to communicate his views.

“What he does on Twitter is extraordinary. He disintermediates the media. He goes above their heads and talks directly to the American people,” Bannon added. “I don’t think he needs the Washington Post, the New York Times and CBS News. And I don’t believe he thinks that they’re looking out what is his best interest… He knows he is speaking directly to the people who put him in office when he uses Twitter. And sometimes it is not custom and tradition of what the opposition party deems appropriate… And he’s not going to stop.”

Republicans float new ObamaCare replacement plan

House Republicans are shopping around a new ObamaCare replacement plan, amid pressure to deliver a legislative win as President Trump nears the end of his first 100 days.

“We’re very close,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday at an event in London.

Fox News is told they hope to have revised legislative text in the coming days, and lawmakers are set to discuss the proposal on a conference call this weekend. But it’s unclear when such a plan could hit the House floor or what level of support it might have – Congress is currently on recess, and lawmakers won’t return until next week.

Fox News is told that leaders have not yet tried tallying support for the document on Capitol Hill.

“The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House and the answer isn’t clear at this time,” a senior GOP aide said. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on.”

A White House source said they could potentially have a vote by the end of next week, though they put the chances at 50-50.

The failure in March to pass an earlier replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, amid widespread criticism of the plan, marked a major setback for Trump’s early presidency. He has since turned his attention to foreign affairs – especially the Syrian crisis – but continues to press for a new health care plan, blaming a bloc of House conservatives for the March meltdown.

Complicating any renewed efforts, however, is next Friday’s deadline for Congress to pass a new budget measure. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration likely will have to court Democrats to avoid this scenario. Further, the timetable is tight, with the House not set to return until Tuesday night.

Interestingly, the government shutdown drama and health care could be directly linked.

Just days ago, Trump declared he would yank subsidies known as “cost-sharing reductions” from ObamaCare programs. The government directs the CSR payments to insurers who grant coverage to low-income people. A dried-up subsidy could force insurers to drop ObamaCare and spike premiums for the poor.

Trump views the ObamaCare subsidies as leverage to force Democrats to the table on health care. Democrats contend the president is holding the health care assistance “hostage” and imperiling those who aren’t well off.

“The spending bill cannot be done by one party alone,” opined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before the recess. “These bills can’t pass without a reasonable number of Democratic supporters in the Senate.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and John Roberts contributed to this report. 

Ex-Freedom Caucus member: Some in the group ‘would vote no against the Ten Commandments’

Dylan Stableford 15 hours ago

Senate Democrats may seek deal with GOP to confirm Gorsuch, stave off ‘nuclear’ option

As Judge Neil Gorsuch breezed through the home stretch of confirmation hearings Thursday, Senate Democrats’ struck a defiant public posture while looking behind the scenes for a possible deal that could set up the next Supreme Court nomination battle.

Gorsuch, the 49-year-old 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge, came through three days of grueling hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee largely unscathed. With confirmation by the full Senate looming, sources told Fox News Democrats were weighing a number of strategic options — including a stand down in exchange for a GOP pledge to not go “nuclear” on a future nomination by President Trump — despite their public statements.

“He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday, referring to the threshold for ending a filibuster and preventing the minority party from blocking the confirmation.

Judge Gorsuch’s nomination will face a cloture vote & as I’ve said, he will have to earn sixty votes for confirmation. My vote will be “No.”

But after even Gorsuch’s critics conceded the squeaky-clean, Harvard-trained jurist deftly parried his Democratic critics’ questions and came off as likeable and intelligent, Schumer’s vow is likely more bargaining stance than threat, sources said. Gorsuch was nominated January 31 to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee will conclude, but the nominee finished his testimony on Wednesday.

Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the upper chamber, have the option of changing Senate rules so that a filibuster can be ended with a simple majority vote. Democrats, when in the majority during the Obama administration, made the rules change effective for all non-Supreme Court nominations.

Democrats are leery of pressing the ongoing confirmation process to the point Republicans invoke the so-called nuclear option, as it would make a subsequent Trump nomination a fait accompli. But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed doubt that any Democrats would vote to confirm Gorsuch, a strong signal the Kentucky Republican is ready to change the rule.

“It does sound like he’s laying the groundwork for the nuclear option,” Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin said of McConnell. “Let’s wait and see how this evolves.”

Trump Adviser for the Supreme Court Leonard Leo scoffed at the idea Republicans could be pressured into withholding the nuclear option in exchange for Gorsuch’s confirmation.

“This absurd ‘deal’ would prolong an environment in which Democrat Supreme Court nominees get up or down simple majority votes and Republican nominees get filibustered — that’s not a deal, it’s a unilateral disarmament,” Leo said.

Democrats from states that supported Trump in the presidential election could find themselves under pressure from voters to not appear obstructionist, especially to an appealing nominee. But Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is up for re-election in 2018, said Thursday he would not vote for Gorsuch.

“After considering his nomination seriously and without pre-judgment, and mindful of the awesome responsibility of passing judgments on nominees to the highest court in the nation, I do not believe Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach will ensure fairness for workers and families in Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “I have concluded that Judge Gorsuch is not the right choice to fulfill this commitment — I will not support his nomination.”

The vote could take place as early as Monday, but Democrats are expected to ask for a one-week delay, pushing the Committee vote to April 3, and then immediately to the Senate floor.

Top Senate Republicans said they would do what they needed to do to get Gorsuch through to the bench.

And McConnell is confident.

“We’ll confirm him before we leave for the April recess.”

Fox News’ William Mears contributed to this report.

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

For G.O.P. Candidates, Renouncing Donald Trump Carries Dire Risks

Photo

A supporter of Donald J. Trump outside a rally featuring Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump’s running mate, on Monday in Charlotte, N.C. CreditTravis Dove for The New York Times
Paula Barche Rupnik, a Republican from Scottsdale, Ariz., was planning to vote for Senator John McCain in his re-election campaign this year. But she changed her mind this weekend, after he rescinded his support for Donald J. Trump.
Instead, she plans to split her ticket, voting for Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, but for Mr. McCain’s Democratic challenger, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick.
She has never voted for a Democrat before.
“I want to send a message to John McCain,” said Ms. Rupnik, 58, a consultant for an essential oils company. “If he doesn’t get elected, the American people that support Trump are going to blame it on those Republicans who didn’t support him.”
Ms. Rupnik’s punitive impulse captures the dilemma confronting Republican leaders as they head into the final four weeks of the campaign.
Sticking by Mr. Trump after the surfacing of a 2005 recording in which he could be heard speaking about women in vulgar terms and bragging about being able to get away with sexual assault would subject Republican candidates to devastating and, quite possibly, career-ending attack.
But disavowing Mr. Trump, whose supporters make up the largest share of the Republican base, risks alienating those voters, potentially a no less lethal choice for Senate candidates in key races. And if Mr. Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, as polls now indicate is likely, the loss of those Senate contests could be crushing for a party that was already teetering and counting on a chance to rebuild after the election. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted just before the debate showed Mr. Trump’s support cratering, with Mrs. Clinton assuming an 11-point lead nationally.
Still, Mr. Trump has die-hard supporters who have shown they will stay with him through every controversy he has sparked or endured. His populist, outsider message may be at odds with his background and even with some of his policy proposals, but it has taken hold with many voters, particularly working-class Republicans who are disenchanted with the party’s elite and deeply unhappy with President Obama’s stands on health care and immigration.
“The establishment is trying to hold on to their power, and McCain is one of them,” Ms. Rupnik said.
That was a common theme in interviews with Trump supporters on Sunday in Arizona and New Hampshire, two states with close Senate contests. Many spoke witheringly of incumbent Republican lawmakers who have renounced their support for the party’s presidential nominee.
Stephen Cotta, 61, a Navy veteran who owns a cannabis testing lab in Tempe, described Mr. McCain as a “traitor” and echoed Mr. Trump’s view that he was “not a hero.” Mr. Cotta said he, too, would vote for Ms. Kirkpatrick.
“If you can see McCain and Hillary aren’t that far apart on their philosophies, O.K., that’s why they can stand up so adamantly to Trump,” Mr. Cotta said.
Photo

A supporter waving a campaign sign during a Donald J. Trump campaign rally at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Pa., this month. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times
Vera Anderson, 75, of Phoenix, said she had voted for Mr. McCain before, but made up her mind to oppose him when she learned of his rejection of Mr. Trump.
“I was really on the fence of voting for McCain,” she said. “I don’t want to, didn’t want to, but this made up my mind: I will not vote for him in the general election.”
She was dismissive of the outrage over the 2005 recording that surfaced on Friday.
“Nobody likes to hear anything like that, but to me that’s not the important issue, so I absolutely, just — I’m not paying attention to it,” Ms. Anderson said. “You know, to me, that is men’s locker-room talk. And I’m sure that if anybody wants to criticize that, let them look at themselves first.”
There was similar disgust among Mr. Trump’s supporters in New Hampshire, where Senator Kelly Ayotte — locked in a tight re-election battle against Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat — became the first senator to disavow Mr. Trump after the recording’s publication.
“I think the Republican Party is out for itself,” said Buddy Greene, a 48-year-old stonemason from Center Harbor, N.H., who said he supported Mr. Trump in the Republican primary in February. “They are not looking at issues of regular folk in the country.”
As he watched the New England Patriots play on television at the Frog Rock Tavern in Meredith, N.H., Mr. Greene said Ms. Ayotte had lost his support. But he said he had already come to see her as overly politically motivated.
“It does not surprise me with her,” Mr. Greene said. He said he planned to leave his ballot blank for the Senate contest.
As Mr. Trump becomes more isolated from the Republican Party, elected officials risk being isolated from their own voters.
Mr. Greene said he admired Mr. Trump’s speaking style and trusted that there would be “checks and balances” to prevent him from doing anything rash as president.
“I don’t believe any president has absolute control,” he said. “It’s not his fingers on the bomb.”
When a young boy listening pointed out that Mrs. Clinton had more political experience, Mr. Greene smiled. “That’s why I like Trump,” he said. “Because he has no experience. I want change.”
For Mr. McCain, the decision to break with Mr. Trump is cushioned by the knowledge that he is on course to win re-election. Ms. Ayotte is in a tight race with Ms. Hassan, and her choice was fraught with more peril.
Some Trump supporters in New Hampshire said they still planned to vote for Ms. Ayotte, but grudgingly, and more out of dislike for Ms. Hassan.
One of them was Eric Granfors, a 44-year-old truck driver from Nashua, who had harsh words for Ms. Ayotte and her reasoning.
“To see Kelly Ayotte coming out and saying that she doesn’t endorse him now? I think she’s a sellout,” Mr. Granfors said. “You know he’s said a lot of bad things along the way. And now with another sound bite, she says this is the one where she isn’t going to endorse him?”

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