Extremist Taylor Greene loses key posts but Republicans slow to censure
In the end, just 11 Republicans voted to discipline Marjorie Taylor Greene, despite the Republican congresswoman having claimed space lasers had started wildfires, suggesting mass shootings didn’t really happen, and supporting the assassination of Democratic politicians.
The vote, on whether to strip Greene of her committee assignments, neatly reflected the dilemma facing Republicans in 2021: does the GOP continue on the unhinged, conspiracy theory-laden path trodden by Greene and others, or return to the staid, conservative outlook of the relatively recent past – potentially alienating Donald Trump’s supporters along the way.
Most Republicans members of Congress chose the former, but Greene was removed from her committee roles anyway, as 230 to 199 representatives voted to leave Greene with little to no power in the House.
The vote came after the Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy, decided against punishing Greene in an internal party meeting this week – a meeting where the congresswoman reportedly received a standing ovation from some colleagues after she apologized for her past remarks.
Those remarks, uncovered by Media Matters, a progressive watchdog, include the claim by Greene in 2018 that a laser beam from space had started a devastating wildfire in California. According to Greene, an executive from “Rothschild Inc” was somehow involved – the Rothschild family have repeatedly been the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
In Facebook posts, Greene also implied that Hillary Clinton was involved in the 1999 plane crash that killed John F Kennedy Jr – Clinton was not – and suggested that Barack Obama deployed MS-13 gang members to kill a Democratic staffer – Obama did not.
In another Islamophobic Facebook screed, uncovered by CNN, Greene that Muslims “want to conquer” the US and aim to mutilate American women’s genitalia.
Greene, who has expressed support for the antisemitic QAnon conspiracy, which has been linked with several violent acts in the US, will now be removed from her positions on the House budget and education and labor committees, although will probably remain a vocal presence outside Congress.
Reflecting the influence of the Trump wing of the Republican party, few GOP members have criticized Greene publicly. In a statement, McCarthy said he condemned Greene’s past remarks, but suggested the congresswoman would hold herself to a higher standard in the future.
“This Republican party is a very big tent,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “Everybody is invited in.”
McCarthy and the GOP faced fierce criticism from Democrats for their stance, including from Nancy Pelosi, who attacked McCarthy for his “cowardly refusal” to discipline Greene. “McCarthy’s failure to lead his party effectively hands the keys over to Greene – an antisemite, QAnon adherent and 9/11 Truther,” the House speaker said.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, has been one of the few to criticise Greene, attacking her “loony lies and conspiracy theories”, and calling her views a “cancer for the Republican party”.
In a sign of the dangers non-conspiracy-minded Republicans face, however, Senator Ben Sasse is facing a censure resolution from his own party in Nebraska, for his criticism of Trump’s role in the US Capitol riot.
Sasse, seen as a relative moderate, responded to the Nebraska Republican party in a video message on Thursday.
“You are welcome to censure me again, but let’s be clear about why this is happening: it’s because I still believe – as you used to – that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude,” Sasse said.
As the vote on her committee assignments loomed on Thursday, Greene addressed some of her past comments, stating that “school shootings are absolutely real”, and that “9/11 absolutely happened”.
By Friday morning, however, Greene seemed unrepentant, as she used a press conference to sum up the intertwining of the Republican party and Trump. “The party is his – it doesn’t belong to anyone else,” Greene told reporters. On Twitter, too, Greene seemed upbeat.
“I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving someone like me free time,” Greene posted.
“In this Democrat tyrannical government, Conservative Republicans have no say on committees anyway. Oh this is going to be fun!”
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump. In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.
The US justice department’s internal watchdog launched an investigation on Friday after revelations that former president Donald Trump’s administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks inquiry related to the Russia investigation into Trump’s conduct.
Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “mental retard” during the 2020 election, a new book says, but was reluctant to attack him too strongly for fear the Democrats would replace him with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Biden went on to beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump deemed a landslide when it was in his favor against Clinton in 2016.
The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died.