GOP's white supremacist problems extend beyond Trump: The Note

Kevin McCarthy's rebuke of Trump's dinner companion is undercut by the past.

November 30, 2022, 6:05 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's far from the first time that Republicans have had to awkwardly explain or outright condemn the actions of former President Donald Trump.

And it's not likely to be the last time that they're forced to confront associations between white supremacists and members of their own party.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was incorrect in asserting to the press on Tuesday that Trump condemned Nick Fuentes after having dinner with him. He was perhaps overly credulous in saying he believes the former president's claim not to have known who Fuentes is.

But McCarthy's own condemnation of one of Trump's dinner companions -- "I don't think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes" -- is undercut by his pledge to restore committee assignments to two of his members who have done just that.

As ABC News' Will Steakin reports, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was the keynote speaker at Fuentes' own event in February in Florida -- where attendees applauded Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., was at a similar gathering a year earlier and was part of a video that aired at this year's America First Political Action Conference.

"There's no place in our party for any of this," McCarthy said after Greene and Gosar's attendance at the Fuentes events were revealed. (The two subsequently distanced themselves from Fuentes.)

But there is a place in McCarthy's conference for both of them. McCarthy has not revisited his promise to place Greene and Gosar back on committees from which Democrats and some other Republicans removed them; and McCarthy is unlikely to cut them off so long as he needs their votes to become House speaker in January.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was sharper than McCarthy in his condemnation of Trump. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he also added a prediction that might be more wishful thinking than prognostication: "Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States."

PHOTO: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attends a roundtable discussion with members of the House Freedom Caucus on the COVID-19 pandemic at The Heritage Foundation, Nov. 10, 2022.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attends a roundtable discussion with members of the House Freedom Caucus on the COVID-19 pandemic at The Heritage Foundation, Nov. 10, 2022.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The House is expected to take up legislation as soon as Wednesday to avert a potential nationwide rail strike that experts say would increase inflation while costing the economy $2 billion per day.

Joe Biden's support for the bill creates difficult political optics for a president who made backing unions a cornerstone policy of his administration, but the pursuit of the legislative effort to force the rail workers into a deal is opening the door to surprising crossovers in Congress.

"We will have a bill on the floor," outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday after a meeting between the top four congressional leaders and the president at the White House.

"I think it will pass, but it's unfortunate that this is how we're running our economy today," McCarthy told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his chamber would follow suit with getting the bill on the floor, and that he and McConnell "agreed we'd try to get it done ASAP."

It is unclear whether the bill has enough support to pass in either chamber; and as congressional leadership appears to side with the option backed by the president, some Republican lawmakers are unexpectedly echoing positions made by some progressives.

"The railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept. But if Congress is forced to do it, I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn't have the support of the rail workers," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote in a tweet.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz similarly lashed out at the Biden administration while saying he believes "the demands of the workers seem very reasonable."

Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia also expressed support for the issues raised by rail workers in the negotiations -- including demands regarding scheduling and sick leave -- while questioning why Congress needed to be involved.

"It's obvious that the Biden administration put this off till after the election and I think some of the railroad workers that I've heard from have a good point about the sick leave issues, and I don't know why we should get involved. That's my initial reaction," Collins told ABC News' Allison Pecorin.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden meets with Congressional Leaders to discuss legislative priorities through the end of 2022, at the White House on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden meets with Congressional Leaders to discuss legislative priorities through the end of 2022, at the White House on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The TIP with Oren Oppenheim

A prolific defier of the election results in Arizona has been vowing action to contest her own race -- but has yet to take concrete steps.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who is projected to lose against Democrat Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state, said in a video posted on social media on Monday night that she has been preparing a formal legal challenge against the results. Lake never conceded to Hobbs.

"I'm working with a team of patriotic, talented lawyers on a legal case ... My team and I realize how important this case is and what is at stake," Lake said in the video. "We will file this case in accordance with Arizona state law. And you'll want to stay tuned for this one, trust me."

But Lake has not announced any specific filings or actions as of yet, even as legal action around the midterm election heats up elsewhere in the state.

After officials in the state's Cochise County voted on Monday to delay certifying election results, in defiance of the state's deadline, Hobbs and outside groups filed suit. Experts told ABC News that they believe the likely outcome is for the courts to compel Cochise County to accept the result, and that the county has not shown concerns related to the vote in their own county but rather in larger Maricopa County, which has certified its results.

PHOTO: Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2022.
Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2022.
Ross D. Franklin/AP, FILE

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Wednesday morning with the possible rail strike. ABC's Mary Bruce explains what the president and lawmakers can do now that more than 100,000 rail workers seem ready to stop work in protest of failed labor negotiations. Then ABC News contributor retired Col. Stephen Ganyard discusses the COVID-19 lockdown protests in China and how President Xi Jinping's government has been responding to the demonstrations in recent days. And, ABC's Jay O'Brien reports on the shortage of officers in police departments across the country. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • At 11:30 a.m. ET, President Biden will deliver remarks at the White House Tribal Nations Summit at the Department of the Interior in Washington.
  • At 5:30 p.m. ET, Biden and first lady Jill Biden as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse. The president will deliver remarks.
  • Outgoing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will attend and speak at An America United's "celebration" of his two terms in office. The event from 7-10 p.m. ET will be held at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland in Hanover, Maryland.
  • House Democrats hold leadership elections on the Hill.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Thursday for the latest.

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