There is no better representative of the moral slide of the Republican Party in the Trump years than House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
This congressman from California, as the ranking House Republican, excoriated Donald Trump after the January 6 insurrectionist assault on the Capitol, declaring that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” He also declared at that time that Joe Biden had won the 2020 election, challenging Trump’s false and dangerous claim that victory had been stolen from him by an evil cabal of Democrats, the media, and Deep State schemers. Yet soon after—when it became obvious that the GOP base was sticking with Trump despite (or because of) his lies and incitement of violence—McCarthy scurried to Mar-a-Lago and made nice with Trump. Ever since he has been another GOP Trump zombie, offering excuses for and defending the now twice-indicted former president who leads the polls in the 2024 GOP presidential race.
One reason—perhaps the paramount reason—that McCarthy bent the knee was that he realized a tussle with Trump would harm GOP fundraising efforts. With Trump maintaining a magnetic hold on many GOP voters and low-dollar donors, disavowal of Trump from the Republican establishment would likely prompt a Trump retaliation that would cause a sharp decline in contributions to various Republican organs. So McCarthy cowardly dropped all talk of Trump and January 6 and kept the spigot open. His pursuit of the speaker’s gavel led to greater groveling, as he looked to win the support of MAGA Republicans, most of all, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the promoter of assorted bonkers conspiracy theories who once amplified a call to assassinate Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and who last year spoke at a white nationalist conference led by an admitted fan of Hitler.
So it should come as no surprise that this week McCarthy is fundraising off Trump’s 37-count felony indictment on federal charges of retaining classified material, obstructing justice, and lying to investigators.
In an email soliciting donations for his own campaign fund, McCarthy proclaimed Tuesday a “dark day in the United States” and repeated Trump’s lies about the case. He huffed, “It was unconscionable of President Joe Biden to INDICT the leading candidate opposing him as he himself kept classified documents for DECADES.”
This was Trumpish BS. It was not Biden who indicted Trump; it was a grand jury of Florida citizens. And as countless legal experts have pointed out, there is no comparison between Biden’s retention of documents and the Trump case. Biden, for instance, turned over a handful of classified documents once they were found in his vice presidential papers and did not try to block government efforts to retrieve them, as Trump did.
McCarthy was particularly wrong to suggest that Biden held on to secret documents for decades. Biden left the vice presidency only six years ago. McCarthy was apparently referencing one of Trump’s main lies these days about Biden. Trump has repeatedly stated that Biden is hiding 1850 boxes of his papers. These are records from his 36-year-long career as a US senator. But they are not hidden. They are archived at the University of Delaware, and the FBI has conducted at least two searches of the material looking for classified records. So far, according to public reports, no classified documents have been found. Moreover, congressional records are not part of the system of classified records maintained by the executive branch. Senators and representatives own the papers from their stints in Congress and can do whatever they want with them after they leave office. Yet in the right-wing echo chamber, a favorite talking point is that Biden has been sitting on nearly 2000 boxes of classified material for decades.
McCarthy knows that is not true. Just as he knows it was absurd for him to defend Trump’s storage of boxes with classified documents in a bathroom at Mar-a-Lago: “A bathroom door locks.” Yes, the second-in-line to the commander-in-chief said this.
In his fundraising email, McCarthy lays it on thick: “Every American who believes in the rule of law should stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. You may be sitting at home wishing that you could do something. I understand the feeling—but I am also here to tell you that there IS something that you can do.”
So what is it that you folks at home can do? You can send McCarthy money.
That’s not exactly how he puts in the note. Instead, he tells recipients: “We need every patriot reading this message to GO ON THE RECORD to defend the ideals that make this country great. Take 2 minutes to add your name to stand with House Republicans to END the witch hunts against President Trump.” This makes it seem as if McCarthy is asking Trump supporters to sign a petition declaring their disgust. And there’s a big button: “ADD YOUR NAME.”
Yet if someone clicks on that, he or she is transported to a page requesting a contribution to McCarthy’s campaign committee. You have to read the fine print to know this money is going to McCarthy. There is no way to “add your name” without making a donation.
On Wednesday, Trump’s campaign announced that it had raised $6.6 million since news of his federal indictment broke. As always, Trump has been able to profit off his perfidy (or alleged perfidy). And McCarthy and other Republicans want in on this gold rush. This is a reminder that the GOP stands with Trump for the money. The party’s base is an important source of campaign cash, and it has been radicalized over the past few decades and, most recently, Trumpified.
The GOP establishment cannot break with the Trumpsters. That would be bad for business. For McCarthy, the federal indictment of Trump is not a serious matter to ponder and discuss responsibly. It is a craven opportunity to echo Trump’s disinformation in order to fatten his own campaign’s bank account.