Loyalty to Trump? ‘It’s all about the money’

By | June 16, 2021

Andy Kroll writes:

A week after the January 6th insurrection, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy rebuked Trump. McCarthy, nicknamed “my Kevin” by Trump, had been one of the many Republicans in thrall to Trump. He held his tongue when asked about the latest Trump scandal, and parroted Trump’s baseless attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election. McCarthy was forced into hiding in the Capitol complex during the insurrection, during which Trump reportedly called him to complain that the rioters were “more upset about the election than you are.” Now, McCarthy demanded Trump ensure a smooth transition to Joe Biden’s presidency and suggested censuring Trump. (Democrats instead impeached Trump for the second time.)

But within days, McCarthy changed his tune. Appearing on Fox News, he mounted a tortured defense of the president’s actions on January 6th. “I was the first person to contact him when the riots” were happening, he said. “He didn’t see it. [How] he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.” (In the same video Trump calls the mob “very special” and says that he loved them.)

This whitewashing quickly spread throughout the GOP, fueled by conservative media outlets such as Fox and Newsmax. Republican lawmakers have sought to recast the whole event — despite the staggering amount of evidence to come out of that tragedy, much of it produced by the insurrectionists themselves — as a bunch of “peaceful patriots” and harmless tourists getting harassed by the police. This mass delusion extends all the way to the top: Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader McConnell filibustered a bill to create a bipartisan 9/11 Commission-style investigation of the events of January 6th. Right on cue, Trump himself came out in opposition to the commission with the solemnity we’ve come to expect from him, blasting the bill as a “Democrat trap.”

“There was an opportunity after January 6th to say, ‘Wow, what happened here?’ ” Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) tells me. “What happened at the Capitol was shameful. . . . We needed to recognize we had led ourselves down a dark and dangerous road.” Instead, he says, the pro-Trump faction clung to the Big Lie of election fraud, saying: “ ‘Well, what are you talking about? We won.’ ”

Over the winter and spring, I spoke to half a dozen moderate Republican members and anti-Trump GOP operatives to understand what had happened. One of them was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an outspoken leader of the small but vocal anti-Trump faction of the party.

“It’s all about the money, man,” Kinzinger tells me. Trump may be underwater in the polls, but his base adores him more than ever, and that’s where the money is. Trump’s 2020 campaign raised nearly $229 million in small-dollar donations. After the election, as Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy over phony election-fraud claims, he raised another $170 million in a few months’ time. The Trump base, in other words, is a spigot of campaign cash. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — she of the Jewish space-laser conspiracy theory — raised more than $3 million in the first three months of 2021 alone, one of the biggest sums of any House member. Kinzinger wasn’t the least bit surprised to see McCarthy visit Mar-a-Lago soon after the insurrection to enlist Trump for the GOP’s 2022 midterm efforts. “The fastest way to get the majority back is to raise money,” Kinzinger says. [Continue reading…]