On Thursday, The Beast reported Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, paid $900 via Venmo to his political ally Joel Greenberg in 2018. Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, then sent the money in various amounts to three young women. All of the women were over 18, according to The Daily Beast, which reviewed the Venmo transactions, and the funds were marked for “tuition” and “school.”
Greenberg was charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking last year, an investigation that prompted the probe into Gaetz. The Justice Department is also probing whether Gaetz violated sex-trafficking laws and whether he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, The New York Times reported.
Greenberg and Gaetz have both denied the allegations against them. Gaetz has said he has “never” paid for sex or had a sexual relationship with a minor.
Republicans have largely been quiet on the accusations against Gaetz, including former President Donald Trump, of whom the lawmaker was a staunch supporter. Several of Trump’s aides had advised him against publicly defending Gaetz due to the seriousness of the accusations, The Times’s Maggie Haberman said.
The former president broke his silence on the matter Wednesday to dispute reports that said Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon from Trump before he left office.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said in a statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
Two of Gaetz’s aides have abandoned the lawmaker since news of the investigation came out. Devin Murphy, Gaetz’s legislative director, told people he quit because “he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ,” according to The Times.
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the most prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump’s influence over the party, went after the former president again last week.
When Trump called into the Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s nightly show, he continued to push 2020 election-related complaints, but Ingraham pivoted to the deadly January 6 Capitol riot, asking the former president if he’s concerned that the US Capitol has become a “fortress” after attempted insurrection.
“I think it’s disgraceful,” he said. “It’s a political maneuver that they’re doing. It was zero threat, right from the start. Some of them went in, and they are hugging and kissing the police and the guards. They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out.”
He added: “I’ll tell you what. They’re persecuting a lot of those people. Some things should happen to ’em … but why aren’t they going after Antifa?”
Kinzinger rebuked Trump’s minimization of the riot, which included the death of US Capitol police office Brian D. Sicknick.
“He is an utter failure,” he wrote on Twitter. “No remorse and no regret. It’s quite honestly sick and disgusting.”
Kinzinger, who has represented a Republican-leaning congressional district anchored in central and northern Illinois since 2013, has been criticized by his own family in two open letters disparaging him for his vote to impeach Trump earlier this year and for his vocal criticism of the former president.
In one of the letters, Kinzinger’s relatives suggested that the congressman had committed “treason” as a member of the military for openly criticizing Trump and was working with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, whom they labeled a “witch/devil.”
Trump was impeached by the House for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the attack and 57 senators – including seven members of the president’s own party – supported the conviction.
Since the Senate didn’t meet a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, to convict, Trump was acquitted of the charge.
In the wake of the Capitol riots, the myth of the reasonable Republican is on life support.
After suburban voters abandoned the Trump-led GOP in November and the QAnon wing of the party continued to grab power, the supposedly moderate wing of the Republican party has decided the best way to keep the caucus together and try and win moving forward is to elevate the institutional personalities that lend their agenda credibility.
These establishment Republicans are promoting some current lawmakers willing to buck former President Donald Trump in a bid to regain their credibility in the country’s political center. These GOP lawmakers are painted as reasonable, moderate types – despite the fact that their extreme policy positions embody the far right tilt of the GOP in general.
“I think the brave Republicans like Liz Cheney, like Ben Sasse, like Adam Kinzinger – who are standing up to the bullies – are the future of our party,” former GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock told CNN on February 5.
Conservative personalities, sensing the opportunity to continue the brand of center-right heroism that made the Lincoln Project and other so-called “Never Trump” Republicans rich, are pushing the myth that there’s a fundamental split in the GOP between the party’s establishment and conspiracist firebrands like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“Make no mistake: They are outnumbered,” wrote Commentary’s Noah Rothman. “But these politicians act as though they, not their opponents, control the commanding heights. That is both intimidating and inspiring.”
Beltway media is buying it
Their performative courage has won three GOP lawmakers the right to the reins of the party, at least as far as establishment media is concerned. Cheney “became the conscience of Republicans” declared CNN’s Chris Cillizza on January 12; Kinzinger is “now leading Republican resistance to the Trump faction,” said The Independent on February 6; and Sasse has “acted like an adult,” according to the Omaha World Telegraph.
“Progressives need to celebrate these conservatives as heroes,” gushed the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson.
“I never thought I’d have to share a foxhole with some of the nation’s most doctrinaire conservatives,” he added.
But Robinson shouldn’t share anything with them other than his disdain.
All three of the presumed reasonable trio have acted in office to push Trump’s agenda and the far right politics their party has been cultivating for years. Cheney, Kinzinger, Sasse, Trump, and Greene are part of the same far right movement. The only difference is one of phrasing. They all represent the same ideological project and have the same cruel viewpoint that prioritizes brutalizing people at home and around the world.
Anger from the Donald Trump-supporting right against Cheney – after her vote to impeach the former president for his incitement of the riots – culminated in an attempt to remove her from the caucus’ House leadership on February 3. The congresswoman’s defeat of that effort has led to relief from some quarters of the political mainstream that lauded the “inspired” fight from the congresswoman.
Yet just a day later, faced with the opportunity to hold Greene accountable for the freshman’s past statements against democracy and her Democratic colleagues, Cheney declined, voting to keep Greene in place in the House.
Cheney, who was friendly with the birther movement during Obama’s presidency, has been reliably right-wing in the House, voting with Trump about 93% of the time. In fact, the one point at which she has had any substantive difference of policy is on the question of whether or not to impeach Trump a second time for his role in inciting the Capitol riot, a vote that likely owed far, far more to her reverence for the authority of the chamber than to her actual disapproval of Trump’s actions.
As The Nation’s John Nichols put it, she’s “a hate-amplifying liar whose only sin in the eyes of her colleagues is that she got one thing wrong.”
Kinzinger, a Tea Party darling, has made himself one of the faces of “reclaiming” the party from Q and Trump, leading the charge to push back on the former president’s attempts to undo the results of the 2016 election and the takeover of the party by elements like Greene.
While Kinzinger is attempting, and may well succeed at, a rebranding of his image, he’s still a creature of the party’s second furthest right-wing movement of just the last decade – and he’s been a stalwart of that extremist ideology. After entering Congress in 2013, he largely toed the party line on opposing civil rights and taking a pro-war, pro-rich stance on issue after issue. A late-in-the-game Damascus moment came over the summer and increased in volume after the Capitol riots, but the congressman nonetheless voted with Trump about 90% of the time for the former president’s term. This is a difference in rhetoric, not in policy.
Sasse has been praised recently for his vote to convict Trump in the former president’s second impeachment and for his lambasting of the Nebraska Republican Party after it moved to censure him. But while Sasse is delivering conveniently timed “tough talk” and voting to hold Trump accountable for his actions, this new found courage has only appeared weeks into Biden’s term. It echoes his criticism of Trump in 2020. Sasse made a name for himself early on in the former president’s term for being willing to challenge the president on his tone and rhetoric, but cut the critiques down in later 2019 once he was faced by a primary challenger.
Once he obtained Trump’s backing and won the Republican nomination though, he rediscovered his deep, moral issues with the former president and launched back into the attacks. NBC’s Medhi Hasan put it succinctly on February 8-“the senator has more in common with Marjorie Taylor Greene than he might admit. They both hitched their wagon to Trump because they knew that is the way Republicans win.”
Another reset that isn’t really a “reset”
The Republican Party is undergoing a similar sort of reset as it did shortly after being walloped in the 2008 general election.
The GOP in 2009 responded to their defeat by taking a public stance that their number one priority was making Barack Obama a one term president. A radical position of “obstruction at all costs” won them the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, but with that came the rise of a new far right movement that looked to Sarah Palin for inspiration.
In both 2009 and 2020, the electorate rejected the Republican agenda. It was a narrower result in 2020, but even with slim majorities in the House and Senate, the Democrats are once again in full control of the two elected branches of the federal government.
Fast forward 12 years and the proverbial chickens have come home to roost. The Tea Party movement mutated into Trumpism, which in turn begat the zombified QAnon-Trumpist movement that is ascendant in the party base today.
The situation presents a conundrum for the Republican Party’s more serious members. While they’re not devoted to the same level of culture war memery as the rising party is, they knowingly share the same policy priorities, surface level grievance culture aside. But they’re holding onto what could be a rapidly fraying coalition in the face of challenges like a political brand that’s become too toxic for corporations to donate to and the possibility, however slim, that Trump could actually launch his “Patriot Party.”
Conservatives may want to pretend that the current GOP is somehow today different ideologically than in the past, but the rot is just out in the open now. Putting forward a few party members as steady hands in a time of crisis will have the same result it did after 2008 – a brief respite from the increasing insanity that drives the Republican project before lurching even further to the right. Let’s skip the kayfabe this time.
Eoin Higgins is a journalist in New England. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, The Intercept, Vice News, and many other outlets. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s relatives excoriated him as “a disappointment to us and God” and “an embarrassment” to the family in a scathing two-page letter hammering the congressman over his criticism of former President Donald Trump.
Kinzinger, who has represented Illinois’ solidly Republican 16th congressional district since 2013, has made waves as one of the most vocal and forceful critics of Trump beginning during Trump’s presidential campaign.
After stating they believe Trump will be forgiven the God, the letter from Kinzinger’s relatives said: “It is most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name.”
Karen Otto, Kinzinger’s cousin who spearheaded the letter signed by 11 other family members, told The Times that she spent $7 to send the letter via certified mail to make sure that he saw it, adding that she wants to see Kinzinger “shunned.”
Kinzinger, for his part, believes his family members have been subject to “brainwashing” by their churches.
“I hold nothing against them,” he told The Times, “but I have zero desire or feel the need to reach out and repair that. That is 100 percent on them to reach out and repair, and quite honestly, I don’t care if they do or not.”
Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the most vocally critical GOP critics of former President Donald Trump, clashed with the former president as far back as the 2016 election, The New York Times reports.
The Times said that prior to the 2016 presidential election, Trump queried Illinois Republican National Committee Richard Porter about Kinzinger, who had and whether he had an opponent.
After Porter told Trump that Kinzinger did not have an opponent that year, Trump “poked his finger in his chest and told him to deliver to Mr. Kinzinger a vulgar message about what he should do with himself.”
The Times reported that when Porter told Kinzinger of his conversation around Election Day 2016, Kinzinger “laughed and invited Mr. Trump to do the same.”
Kinzinger was one of the few sitting Republican politicians who did not support Trump’s bid for the presidency in 2016 and continued to criticize and speak out against the former president throughout his four years in office, and now in his post-presidency.
“I don’t see how I get to Donald Trump any more,” Kinzinger told CNN in an August 2016 interview, the Guardian reported at the time. “Donald Trump for me is beginning to cross a lot of red lines of the unforgivable in politics.”
Kinzinger was moved to publicly denounce Trump after the ex-president’s insults and attacks on the Khans, a Gold Star family who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, telling CNN in 2016, “I won’t be silent. He can tweet all he wants. I have to do this for my country and for my party.”
Kinzinger recently told Insider’s Anthony Fisher that while he realizes his actions have put him at risk for a primary challenge when he’s up for reelection in 2022, he’s committed to leading the GOP in a new direction.
“So we have to fight like hell to restore the soul of [the Republican Party] and I’m willing to go down doing that because I think when history looks back at this moment, it’s not going to be the people that voted to not certify the election that’ll be written about in history books,” he said.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the 10 Republican lawmakers who crossed party lines to vote for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, asked his congressional colleagues to “learn the lessons of the recent past” and vote to convict the former president.
In an opinion column published in the Washington Post on Monday, Kinzinger wrote that “the future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened” after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Kinzinger argued that the riot “didn’t come out of nowhere” and that it was perpetuated by “four-plus years of anger, outrage and outright lies.”
“Perhaps the most dangerous lie – or at least the most recent – was that the election was stolen,” Kinzinger wrote. “Of course it wasn’t, but a huge number of Republican leaders encouraged the belief that it was. Every time that lie was repeated, the riots of Jan. 6 became more likely.”
Kinzinger has been outspoken against lawmakers who insist that the 2020 US presidential election was ripe with voter fraud. Federal judges repeatedly struck down legal challenges from Trump allies, while a group of Republicans that included Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri continued to entertain unproven allegations of voting irregularities.
“Even now, many Republicans refuse to admit what happened,” Kinzinger wrote. “They continue to feed anger and resentment among the people.”
Kinzinger claimed that despite a vocal minority, a majority of Republicans and Democrats would “reject the madness of the past four years.”
“The better path is to learn the lessons of the recent past,” Kinzinger added in his column. “Convicting Donald Trump is necessary to save America from going further down a sad, dangerous road.”
The column is just one example of Kinzinger’s opposition to Trump and his staunchest allies in Congress. In November, Trump delivered an impromptu speech in which he alleged the election was rigged with “illegal votes.”
Speaking at the White House, Trump claimed without evidence that there was “no question” the election was stolen.
Immediately after Trump’s speech, Kinzinger tweeted that “this is getting insane.”
“We want every vote counted, yes every legal vote (of course),” Kinzinger said in his tweet. “But, if you have legit concerns about fraud present EVIDENCE and take it to court. STOP Spreading debunked misinformation.”
After comments made by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia surfaced in which she fueled wild conspiracy theories about QAnon, Kinzinger voted to remove the outspoken Trump ally from her congressional committee assignments. He joined 10 other House Republicans in the 230-199 vote earlier in February.
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger has launched a new political action committee to push back against Republicans who embrace former President Donald Trump.
“The Republican Party has lost its way. If we are to lead again, we need to muster the courage to remember who we are,” Kinzinger said in a video posted to the new Country First PAC website.
The PAC is intended to put money behind candidates who oppose Trump’s influence over the party.
“We need to remember what we believe and why we believe it,” Kinzinger said. “Looking in the mirror can be hard, but the time has come to choose what kind of party we will be, and what kind of future we’ll fight to bring about.”
Trump was criticized for encouraging the mob and the House has since impeached him on a charge of inciting an insurrection. The Senate will hold a trial and vote on whether to convict the former president during the week of February 8.
The Illinois Congressman also told Fisher he thought Trump should be impeached because: “We’ve got to set red lines. An attack on a branch of government by another branch is a red line. We can’t say that you are immune from any kind of impeachment if you’re within a certain amount of time of leaving office. That’s a terrible precedent.”
“The former president is desperate to continue to look like he’s leading the party. And the problem is until we push back and say, you know, this is not a Trump-first party, this is a country first party,” Kinzinger told Chuck Todd in an interview on Meet the Press on Sunday.
“In some cases, you may support Donald Trump in that effort. But in my case, I believe that that’s a whole new movement,” Kinzinger said. “Until we all kind of stand up and say that, we are going to kind of be chasing our tails here in this situation.”
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Friday criticized the Texas GOP for floating the idea of secession after the Supreme Court rejected a bid to overturn the results of the presidential election.
In a statement, the Texas GOP chairman suggested that “law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said the statement should be immediately retracted and the people involved fired. “My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no,” he said.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Friday criticized the Texas GOP for floating the idea of secession after the Supreme Court rejected a bid to overturn the results of the presidential election.
In a statement, the Republican Party of Texas decried the court’s decision, with Chairman Allen West suggesting that “law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
Kinzinger, who represents Illinois’ 16th District, said in a tweet the Texas GOP “should immediately retract this, apologize, and fire Allen West and anyone else associated with this.”
“My guy Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers already told you no,” he said.
Kinzinger has also criticized President Donald Trump, dismissing his election-fraud claims as baseless.
Brought by Texas, and joined by other Republican-led states, the lawsuit the Supreme Court rejected was the latest attempt by Trump allies to subvert the results of the election. The effort was seen as a legally dubious attempt to have judges interfere with the democratic process.
The loss is the latest in a string of defeats for the Trump campaign and Republican officials, who have not won any of their lawsuits brought since Election Day.