The RNC Put Its Jan. 6 Policy in Writing—and It’s Officially Pro-Coup

Most Republican senators either refused to condemn the RNC’s “legitimate political discourse” resolution or criticized it only as ineffective politics. 
Ronna Romney McDaniel speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Aug, 24, 2020.
Ronna Romney McDaniel speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., on Aug, 24, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The following content is from the latest installment of our Breaking the Vote newsletter, a weekly roundup by VICE News' Deputy D.C. Bureau Chief Todd Zwillich. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

We didn’t get the email.

That’s the excuse several members of the Republican National Committee shopped to reporters this week after America had a chance to digest that RNC resolution. The one calling the Jan. 6 riot and coup attempt an example of “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” 

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The story, you see, is that the resolution censuring Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating on the January 6 select committee was edited late at night. A few committee members said they never saw the emails notifying them of the changes because they went to spam

Why the excuses? Because the WTF alarms went off on non-right-wing TV and online, where it’s easy to pair the words “legitimate political discourse” with images of rioters beating police, parading with Confederate flags, scaling the Capitol’s parapets, and smashing its windows. 

In a healthy, conservative, and Constitutionally-oriented GOP, you’d expect unified condemnation and instant demands for correction. But this is not a healthy GOP. All the national party did was catch up Donald Trump’s valorization of the violent riot and the coup attempt to overturn the 2020 election.  

Just days before, former Veep Mike Pence publicly split with Trump on the coup attempt, a mere 13 months after it happened. Pence said Trump was “wrong” to say that Pence could have—and should have—overturned the election on Jan. 6.

After the resolution, RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel got a few urgent texts from Uncle Mitt, who then made his disapproval known to reporters. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who doesn’t talk to Trump, took a whole day to rebuke the RNC and brand Jan. 6 “a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.” Less than a half dozen other GOP senators condemned their party’s embrace of political violence. 

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And thus ended the resistance. Most Republican senators either refused to condemn the RNC’s resolution or criticized it only as ineffective politics

Then there was the House, where the pro-coup Trumpist Freedom Caucus and soup-fearing patriots like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are rocketing up the power curve. House GOP #3 Rep. Elise Stefanik cheered on the RNC’s condemnation of Cheney and Kinzinger. She got Trump’s endorsement for reelection two days later. 

And House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy? First he walked fast, then he danced, then slowed down to call the violence of Jan. 6 wrong. “No one would disagree with that,” McCarthy said. You’re wrong, Kevin: Ted Cruz would! 

(The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake put it best: The Trumpists can derail McCarthy’s dream of becoming Speaker of the House, and after the RNC resolution, he has no idea what to do.) 

Still, the news media was circling on a meaty story of an outlandish RNC resolution instead of covering skyrocketing inflation or President Biden’s lousy poll numbers. Some cleanup was needed at RNC HQ. 

McDaniel lashed out at the news media for ignoring the proper context of “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” The phrase referred to Republicans subpoenaed who weren’t even in Washington on Jan. 6, she said. 

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So, best-case scenario, according to McDaniel: “Legitimate political discourse” refers not to rioters but to officials who signed fraudulent elector slates and sent them to Washington. To have such people testify is “persecution.”

Who will win this fight? Cheney and Kinzinger, aided by a small band of the GOP’s old guard? Or Donald Trump’s coup-promoting, violence-embracing juggernaut intent on stealing 2024 if they have to?

The number of Americans who think Donald Trump bears “a lot” of responsibility for Jan. 6 is dropping. Nearly six in 10 Republicans say Trump bears no responsibility “at all” for the Capitol attack. 

The RNC’s resolution didn’t just celebrate Trump’s authoritarianism and condemn its critics; it showed that it’s working.

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 T.W.I.S.™ Notes

This Week in Subpoenas, former Trump aide and shouty coup designer Peter Navarro got an invite to go under oath and tell what he knows about the plot. By Navarro’s own description, that’s a lot! Navarro’s placed himself at the center of finalizing what he called the “Green Bay Sweep”, shorthand for the plan to have lawmakers object to electors from swing states Trump lost, have Mike Pence reject them, and send all of them back to the states so that Republicans could overturn the results.  

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At the White House, Navarro was a big fan of yelling at public health experts about hydroxychloroquine. He also appears to be a critical link between Trump and Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, and the other coup plotters at the Willard Hotel up to and on Jan. 6. Navarro had a response for the committee. Do click

Give unto seizure

Weeks before plans to use national security agencies in the coup plot reached Trump’s desk in 2020, America’s Mayor Rudy Giuiliani was already hard at work trying to seize voting machines in Michigan. The Washington Post caught up with Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter, who says Rudy and his team tried to capitalize on an initial counting error to get him to commandeer the machines. Rossiter says he had no authority to do so without probable cause.

The Post quoted Rossiter saying, “legal scholars said it was unusual and inappropriate for a president’s representatives to make such a request of a local prosecutor. I never expected in my life I’d get a call like this.”

La-la land 

Last week we introduced you to Arizona GOP State Rep Mark Finchem, the Q-adjacent conspiracy theorist who wants to run elections as Arizona’’s next secretary of state (yup, the guy who “La la la’d!” VICE News Tonight’s Liz Landers). Finchem’s back with another bid to prove his quality: He’s trying to decertify election results in three Arizona counties… from 2020. Venture as far as you dare into Finchem’s legislative world, but the point is that he already has something every Trumpist with higher aspirations yearns for: Donald Trump’s endorsement. 

Enter Tim Ramthun, a Wisconsin state rep who’s been pushing for decertification of that state’s 10 electors. Wisconsin is a roiling shitstorm of election subversion these days, never more so than when right-wing propaganda blog Gateway Pundit falsely claimed that the Legislature had finally approved Ramthun’s decertification effort. It hadn’t, but it still caught Trump’s Sauron-like eye for disinformation that helps him.

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Days later, Ramthun, relaxing at home, got a call on his cell from Trump himself. The message: “Well done, you’re my kinda guy.” (BTW, guess who gave Ramthun the legal opinion that decertifying electors was very cool and very legal? It was revealed this week, none other than John Eastman, the legal mind behind Trump’s plan to have Mike Pence help steal the election on Jan. 6.) 

Here’s the kicker: Now Ramthun appears to be parlaying his Gateway Pundit–fueled fame into the Wisconsin GOP primary for governor. VICE News’ Cam Joseph has the story. Here’s his brand-new campaign website, featuring a “The election was stolen” platform guaranteed to catch Trump’s eye. The only question now is, does Ramthun get Trump’s endorsement? He’s got an event planned tomorrow, where MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is expected to appear. I called and texted Ramthun to find out but didn’t hear back.

Check out VICE News’ Liz Landers and Elizabeth Mendez’s dispatch from their road trip with Trump’s Big Lie candidates for secretary of state… including “La la la!” Mark Finchem

Ominous ruling for voting rights

Fights over the size and shape of congressional districts can be a little hard to follow. That’s what helps make them such an effective way to seize political power and disenfranchise voters. But this week’s actions at the conservative-dominated Supreme Court have fair-voting advocates alarmed. 

Justices reversed a lower court ruling that ordered a new congressional map in Alabama. The state currently draws its districts so that Republicans easily hold six House seats and Democrats hold one. A three-judge appeals court panel—including two Trump appointees—said the map illegally dilutes the influence of Alabama’s Black voters, who make up 27 percent of the state’s population. It ordered the state to make a map with two Black-represented districts. 

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SCOTUS blocked that decision 5-4, meaning the map with just one Black Democratic district stands for the 2022 election. The thing about gerrymandering is that yes, both parties do it for partisan advantage, but only one side consistently attempts to disarm minority communities for leverage.

What’s got SCOTUS experts most worried here is that the court said it’ll fully review the case in its next term. That signals that this conservative court, which already dismantled key protections against racial discrimination in the Voting Rights Act, is preparing to deal the landmark law yet another blow.

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Kevin McCarthy just empowered his greatest enemy. Because he thought she would go away, and I gotta tell ya, she ain't going away. And instead, he looks like a feckless, weak, tired man that is doing the bidding of whatever Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks is gonna raise her money that day." - Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on McCarthy’s refusal to stand up for Rep. Liz Cheney before House Republicans ousted her from leadership.

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Urban doubtfittersGreg Sargent at the Washington Post spotted a gross trend among GOP candidates running on the election-lies platform for their 2022 primaries: claiming that voter fraud in their states is confined to the urban centers. That’s where—you guessed it—minorities are more likely to be voters. The trend is alive in swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, as well as in Ohio. But there’s a new twist: Some of the candidates pair their urban innuendo with rural virtue. Take Nevada GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, who said: “The votes are being counted in Elko County. These elections here are legitimate… Clark County [where Las Vegas is]? We got major problems down there.” They’re baking an anti-democratic layer cake where GOP votes are pristine, while Democratic votes are automatically suspect. 

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Florida. Man. — Florida is like a breakfast buffet of voter suppression these days.

  • The GOP has launched yet another round of voting restrictions, even as it defends last year’s slate of laws in a federal lawsuit. The Legislature just advanced a new measure making it harder to vote by mail. It also creates Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Election Crimes and Security” force, which he says will police election fraud that last year he said didn’t really exist. 
  • As I point out all the time, DeSantis praised Florida’s election in November 2020 for its fairness and accuracy. This year, competing for influence in a Trumpist party where election lying is a ticket to entry, he’s pushing voting crackdowns in the name of integrity. Now members of civil society of long standing warn that they’re being intimidated out of their voting registration work. 
  • Meanwhile, Republicans in Miami-Dade County may have the Election Crimes unit’s first hot case. More and more elderly voters are complaining that their party affiliations were switched from Democratic to Republican without their consent. It seems to be the work of third-party voter registration drives working on behalf of the local GOP. Look what happened when a local TV reporter knocked on the door of one of the GOP workers who apparently switched an 80-year-old woman’s party ID. 

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Richmond receipts — The deputy attorney general in charge of election issues in Virginia resigned this week after reporters discovered Facebook posts in which she praised Jan. 6 rioters as “patriots” and espoused a bunch of stolen election theories. Monique Miles stepped down as a top deputy to the attorney general, though she blamed “character assassination” and “liberals” with “daggers out for black conservative females.” Miles said a lot of new information has come to light since the election, and she now believes Joe Biden won. The AG’s office in the new administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin said it was unaware of the posts when Miles was hired. 

Meanwhile, in Colorado — Tina Peters, the Mesa County, Colorado, election official allegedly involved in a QAnon-connected theft of voting equipment, got herself arrested this week. The run-in with cops had nothing to do with Peters’ involvement in a voting machine security breach. Instead, police served a warrant on Peters’ iPad because a judge suspected her of recording an unrelated court proceeding despite the judge’s orders not to. Recall that Peters is suspected of aiding in a security breach that led to QAnon personality and Arizona congressional candidate Ron Watkins publicizing voter data. 

A source in the Grand Junction, Colorado, P.D. told VICE News’ David Gilbert that Peters told her arresting officer that they were “assisting Merrick Garland” and that “she continued talking about something pertaining to the election as I closed the patrol car door, but this was indiscernible as she was almost whispering once in the car.” 

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From the New York Times: Michael Flynn is still at war.

From the Washington Post: Opinion: Of course Trump Republicans are attacking the January 6 committee.

From Vanity Fair: The Supreme Court just moved the Voting Rights Act from life support to deathbed.