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Eric Adams calls for Santos to step down



Adams has repeatedly called on the federal government to address the migrant crisis, which has stretched city resources with the arrival of over 41,000 asylum seekers since last year.

Earlier this month, Adams stopped short of urging Santos to step down, despite calls from the congressman’s own party to resign over false claims he made about his background from his Jewish ancestry to his investment banking career.

“I don’t think my opinion matters here,” Adams said when asked about Santos at a Jan. 12 press conference about the city budget. “We’re not leaving any stone unturned on who we should be sitting down with to make sure New Yorkers get the resources that they need.”

Santos is staring down the barrel of multiple investigations as a new poll showed a majority of New Yorkers want him to resign.

“I think the voters have to make that determination,” Adams said Friday on CBS 2, “but personally, I believe it’s time for him to leave.”

Adams was scheduled to meet with Santos on Dec. 13, according to a report in the Daily News, roughly a week before the bombshell story about the freshman lawmaker’s many lies. Members of Santos’ team cancelled the meeting the day before, however, during a back-and-forth with a mayoral scheduler.

A City Hall spokesperson said Friday the mayor likes to meet with lots of newly elected officials. But he has never spoken with Santos.



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Three men indicted in plot to kill Iranian-American journalist on U.S. soil


The men — Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev — were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in a Tehran-backed plot to kill Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist, on U.S. soil. One of the defendants has been detained since his arrest last July, another is in custody of foreign partners pending extradition, and the third is in U.S. custody and will be presented today in court, Garland said.

Alinejad responded to the news in a video posted on Twitter shortly after the press conference, expressing gratitude for the law enforcement teams who thwarted the plot to kill her, and calling on the U.S. government to respond to the regime’s violent crackdowns on protesters.

“Let me make it clear: I am not scared for my life. Because I knew that killing, assassinating hanging, torturing, raping, is in the DNA of the Isalmic Republic,” Alinejad said. “And that’s why I came to the United States of America. To practice my right, my freedom of expression, to give voice to brave people of Iran who say no to [the] Islamic Republic.”

Alinejad added she is “thankful” for the work of the FBI and U.S. law enforcement, but called on the U.S. government to continue to take “strong action” against Iran. “This is the time that we have to pay attention to innocent people in Iran who don’t have any protection,” she said.

“The law enforcement action today is the latest U.S. disruption of plotting activities against this victim and other Americans,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in statement. “It follows a disturbing pattern of Iranian Government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate into silence activists for speaking out for the fundamental rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world. Today’s announcement by the Attorney General should serve as a warning about the long reach of the U.S. Government in defense of Americans everywhere”.

Earlier this week, the U.S. and its allies hit Iran with new sanctions targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, five of its board members, four senior IRGC commanders and Iran’s deputy minister of intelligence and security.



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Memphis releases videos showing fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols



Body-camera footage showed police catching up with Nichols and kicking and punching him several times while pepper spraying him.

In an aerial view of the surveillance footage recorded Jan. 7, a group of police officers surround Nichols, 29, for about three minutes. Many times throughout the beating, during which officers used their hands, feet, batons and pepper spray on him, Nichols is heard crying out for his mom.

Nichols died three day later from injuries sustained in the attack. The officers were all fired from the department last week and have been charged with murder and other crimes related to Nichols’ death.

President Joe Biden on Friday said he was “outraged” and “deeply pained” after watching the video.

“It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said.

The president’s response came less than 30 minutes after the lengthy footage was publicized. As the video was met with a wave of outrage across the country, Biden again joined Nichols’ family in urging Americans to “not resort to” violence.

Protesters gathered in multiple cities, including Memphis, though reports of violence were few. Dozens of protesters in Washington, D.C., gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. At least three protesters were arrested in New York City amid a standoff with police in Times Square.

Earlier Friday, Justice Department and FBI leadership cautioned against violence in protest over the Memphis officers’ actions.

“Expressions of concern when people see this video, we urge that they be peaceful and nonviolent,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland at a DOJ press conference. “That’s what the family has urged, and that of course is what the Justice Department urges as well.”

Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ mother and stepfather, Friday afternoon. The president said he told them he would push Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled out in 2021 after bipartisan negotiators couldn’t break through concerns about union involvement or qualified immunity.

After the bill failed, the president signed an executive order aimed at reforming police practices, but on Friday night, he acknowledged the shortcomings of his office.

“We should get this under control,” Biden said. “I can only do so much in an executive order at a federal level.”

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told CNN Friday morning that the video shows “acts that defy humanity” and “a disregard for life” — namely, the officers using what she said was a group-think mentality to exert an “unexplainable” amount of aggression toward Nichols. She added the video is “about the same if not worse” than the graphic video of Los Angeles police officers brutally attacking Rodney King in 1991.

“I was outraged. It was incomprehensible to me. It was unconscionable, and I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly,” Davis said. “I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything of that nature in my entire career.”

Garland on Friday said though he hasn’t seen the video, he’s been briefed on its contents and called it “deeply disturbing” and “horrific.” FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was also at the briefing, said he was “appalled” by the video.

“I have seen the video myself, and I will tell you I was appalled,” Wray said. “I’m struggling to find a stronger word, but I will just tell you I was appalled.”

Wray added that all of the FBI’s field offices have been alerted to work closely with their state and local partners, particularly in Memphis, “in the event of something getting out of hand” during protests over the weekend. U.S. Capitol Police have beefed up security on the Hill — with bike-rack style security fencing erected overnight — as police departments across the country are also bracing for protests related to the footage.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way in this country to express being upset or angry about something, and we need to make sure that if there is that sentiment expressed here, it’s done in the right way,” Wray said.

The White House on Friday echoed the calls for peaceful protests ahead of the video’s release. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing that the White House has been “in coordination with the relevant agencies to ensure they prepare if protests become violent.”

“We understand the outrage people have currently, and how hurt and painful this is, but we are going to continue to say, violence, but violence is unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said.

Many lawmakers took to Twitter, mourning the loss of Nichols and expressing that action needed to be taken.

“Although Senate action on policing reform has proven difficult, from the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to more targeted reforms, I will never stop working to build a broad coalition to enact the changes that will make our nation safer, stronger, and more just,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said.

“We must support the efforts of local, state, and federal authorities as they continue their investigation into Mr. Nichols’ death. And elected officials must continue taking steps to create a justice system that is truly equal for all. I’m committed to working with Senator Booker and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally achieve critical reforms,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “Tyre Nichols should still be here today. We must change the culture that perpetuates these tragedies and bring those accountable to justice.”

Rep Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said on Twitter that “police who break the law by brutalizing and murdering citizens endanger the social contract and become outlaws.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the “inhumanity” of the officers’ actions was “intolerable by anybody, but especially by people whose job and responsibility it was to protect him.”

“The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Julia Marsh and Shia Kapos contributed reporting.



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New video, audio show attack on Paul Pelosi in excruciating detail



Prosecutors say DePape broke into the Pelosis’ San Francisco home in late October and struck Paul Pelosi on the head with a hammer after demanding to know the whereabouts of the congresswoman, who was in Washington, D.C. A bevy of state and federal charges could send him to prison for life.

A press coalition that includes POLITICO sought the release of body camera footage from responding San Francisco Police Department officers, audio of Paul Pelosi’s 911 call, surveillance footage from the Pelosi home and audio of DePape’s police interview.

The body camera footage shows Paul Pelosi and DePape both grasping a hammer when officers arrived at the Pelosi residence in the early morning hours of Oct. 28. Officers order the men to drop the hammer, and DePape says “nope” before turning it and swinging at Paul, after which both men topple to the floor and an officer calls for a medic.

In footage from a Capitol Police surveillance camera, DePape can be seen taking a hammer and what appears to be a handful of zip ties out of the bags he brought with him. DePape told officers he intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi. At the end of the video, DePape can be seen repeatedly swinging the hammer against the exterior of the Pelosi residence and then climbing inside.

In a police interview shortly after the attack, DePape describes his anger toward Nancy Pelosi as “leader of the pack” of political figures who were “lying on a consistent basis,” including by seeking to undermine former President Donald Trump. He planned to kidnap the congresswoman and break her kneecaps if she did not tell him the truth.

He accuses Democrats of “spying on a rival campaign” and “submitting fake evidence” to advance that effort, in a seeming reference to an investigation into the Trump campaigns ties to Russia.

“The person who was on the TV lying every day was Pelosi,” DePape said.

DePape is calm and lucid in the interview, although he appears to fight tears when describing his animosity toward Democrats. He said he knew officers would be on the way after the 911 call but decided to stay anyway, likening himself to American revolutionaries. “When I left my house, I left to go fight tyranny,” he said. “I did not leave to go surrender.“

Officers were summoned to the house after a call from Paul Pelosi. In audio from that call, Paul Pelosi says “there’s a gentleman here just waiting for my wife to come back, Nancy Pelosi.” He says he does not know DePape and ends the call shortly after noting DePape is telling him “not to do anything” and “to just put the phone down and do what he says.”

One of the responding officers testified in December that he saw Paul Pelosi lying face down with a “pool of blood” blooming around his head. The 82-year-old underwent surgery for a skull fracture and injuries to his head and arm. Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Chris Wallace this month that her husband was still working to “get back to normal” after the head injury.

The break-in and attack stunned San Francisco and reverberated through national politics, punctuating a torrent of violent rhetoric directed at Nancy Pelosi and other elected officials.

DePape, who entered a not guilty plea, said he targeted the congresswoman because she was second in line for the presidency and that she embodied “evil in Washington,” revealing his plans to break her kneecaps, according to prosecutors’ evidence.

He also told police he wanted to go after others including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

DePape’s online history shows him becoming immersed in extremist and Trump-aligned narratives like the QAnon conspiracy theory. He is being held without bail pending a trial, with a date likely to be set in February.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s office and DePape’s public defender sought to prevent the evidence from being released to media organizations by asserting it could undermine his ability to get a fair trial. They argued it could be manipulated and foment conspiracy theories.

“The evidence of the crime could easily, once released into the public, be changed so that members of the jury pool would see an inaccurate piece of evidence from this trial before the trial even starts,” assistant district attorney Phoebe Maffei argued.

Judge Stephen M. Murphy disagreed, saying such arguments amounted to “speculation.”

“I fail to see, in this case, how release of these exhibits will impact the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Murphy said.

Conspiracy theories have shrouded the case from the beginning, as unsupported assertions about a coverup or an undisclosed third person in the home proliferated on social media.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has warned about misinformation, and DePape’s attorney Adam Lipson on Wednesday lamented “the myriad of false conspiracy theories that have been propagated regarding this case already.”



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Facebook was a cash cow for Trump. It could end up being a ‘bronze goose.’



“I’ll be curious to see if the Trump team runs into a similar situation,” she added.

Trump was suspended from Facebook for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot in early 2021. But the suspension wasn’t permanent and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said earlier this week that it would be lifted soon.

“President Trump should have never been banned, so getting back on this platform allows the campaign access to that universe once again,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement. “We are getting closer to the full spectrum of building out the operation and dominating at every level, which we have already been doing based on poll numbers.”

The platform Trump is rejoining, however, is different from the one from which he was exiled. And how his team manages those changes could go a long way in determining the success of his efforts for a second term as president.

For starters, Facebook placed notable restrictions on ad targeting for political clients at the beginning of last year. And in 2021, Apple turned off ad tracking on their phones for users by default.

Those alterations represented a seismic shift for the advertising world. It also had profound impacts on political campaigns. Digital operatives from both parties say the changes have made it less valuable for campaigns to advertise on the social media behemoth.

One Republican who worked on statewide campaigns in recent cycles, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal fundraising metrics, said there was a notable dip in campaigns’ return on investment. “In 2020, [return on investment] on a really good day would be 200 percent. The minimum was 150 percent in 2020,” the operative said. “In 2022, it would be 90 percent or 80 percent. We would celebrate it when 110 [percent] came in.”

A Trump adviser close to his campaign acknowledged that the change in targeting would make Facebook less effective, but still said that that lack of access had been “a huge hindrance from a fundraising standpoint.”

“You’ve gone from an area where you’re able to be very certain about how your return on ad spend is taking effect, to a little bit more fuzzy,” said Mark Jablonowski, the president and chief technology officer of DSPolitical, a major Democratic digital ad firm. “It’s not that it doesn’t work anymore, but it definitely has made it harder to prove its efficacy.”

There was a noticeable retrenchment on political Facebook ad spending during the midterms, particularly among major Republican candidates and organizations. Statewide Republican campaigns and groups rarely cracked the list of top political spenders on the platform, even as Democratic statewide candidates still poured in money.

“Candidates struggled to raise money online” in the midterms, said Eric Wilson, a veteran GOP digital operative. “The playbook for fundraising on Facebook has changed and the Trump campaign, like any other candidate, is going to have to adapt to that. And no one has quite figured that out yet.”

Facebook, Wilson allowed, could be “more of a bronze goose now” for Trump than the golden one it once was. That may be especially true as Facebook has signaled that it would close off Trump’s access again if he were to exhibit the behavior that got him banned in the first place.

Even those GOP entities that continued to bet big on Facebook found the payoff lacking. The National Republican Senatorial Committee poured money into the platform in 2021 and early 2022 in hopes of building up a sustainable small dollar program. But that high profile bet ended up crumbling under its own weight.

Trump’s political operation also significantly scaled back its advertising on the platform during the midterms. While Trump himself was banned from Facebook, his fundraising arms were still allowed to advertise — with notable restrictions, including not posting in the voice of the former president.

But it was much more muted from when Trump was actively campaigning for higher office. Between June of last year — when his committees resumed advertising after his ban — and the launch of his campaign in mid-November, Trump’s leadership PAC Save America and affiliated fundraising committees spent over $2 million on ads on Facebook and Instagram.

By contrast, from May 2018, when Meta made political spending data public, and the Nov. 2020 election, Trump’s political operation spent over $113 million on advertising on his main Facebook page alone. That total doesn’t account for the tens of millions his presidential campaign spent on affiliated pages. His president’s political operation was the most prolific advertiser on the platform during the cycle.

Since launching his third bid for the White House, Trump’s political campaign has not spent any meaningful money on ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Few other would-be 2024 Republican candidates have spent a sizable amount on Facebook to date either. Over the last 30 days — from Dec. 25 through Jan. 23 — just two potential primary challengers to Trump have spent five figures on the platform: Nearly $62,000 for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appears to be running a significant campaign to build up his supporter list, and just over $10,000 for former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Trump’s team argued to POLITICO shortly after his launch that, given that the campaign was just beginning, “resources are better spent on other platforms and programmatically across the internet.”

But after the reinstatement, those in the former president’s orbit said they expected it to play a bigger role. “The enormity of it can’t be understated and you can talk to so many people and you can target people,” said the adviser.

“I’m not saying it’s a silver bullet,” the adviser added, stressing that “If you become too reliant on one mode of fundraising, you write your own obituary.”

Meredith McGraw and Sam Stein contributed to this report.



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Campaign finance regulator asks Santos to clarify who’s in charge of his political accounts



Santos told CNN on Wednesday that he had no involvement with the amended filings, saying he “[did] not touch any of [his] FEC stuff.” It was still not clear on Friday who actually filed the Wednesday amendments that bore Datwyler’s electronic signature, although the number of people who would typically have access to a congressional campaign’s system for submitting filings to the FEC is small.

Neither Santos’ attorney nor Marks responded to multiple inquiries this week about who is currently serving as the campaign’s treasurer.

Campaigns are required to have a treasurer in order to carry out most functions, including accepting contributions. Santos’ campaign was still listed as accepting contributions via WinRed, the widely used Republican fundraising platform, as of Friday. WinRed processed more than $1 million in transactions for his campaign during the 2022 cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC data.

The company did not respond to inquiries about Santos’ use of its platform this week. But NBC News reported on Friday that the company had reached out to the Santos campaign over its reports, which show the committee paying more than $200,000 in fees to WinRed. That’s a greater total than would be expected based on the campaign’s total fundraising on the platform.

Santos, who was sworn into Congress earlier this month just weeks after The New York Times reported he had fabricated much of his biography, is also facing several campaign finance complaints before the FEC.

Complaints filed by nonprofits including the Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United allege Santos may not have had the personal funds to loan his campaign the $700,000 it reported receiving from him last year, and the complaints also allege that his campaign may have misreported components of its spending. The Santos campaign reported dozens of transactions charged at exactly $199.99, just 1 cent below the threshold that required the campaign to keep receipts detailing the expenditures. Federal and local prosecutors are also investigating Santos’ finances, but he has not been charged with a crime.

The FEC has sent more than two dozen letters to Santos’ campaign and affiliated groups in the past two years. While the agency frequently sends such letters to campaigns to correct mistakes in filings, Santos’ political groups have received more of the notices than is typical.



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Petr Pavel to become next Czech president – POLITICO



Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, will become the next president of the Czech Republic after resoundingly beating his opponent, billionaire and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, in elections that culminated on Saturday, early results showed.

With more than 90 percent of the country’s ballots counted, Pavel had secured 57 percent of the votes compared to 43 percent for Babiš.

Current Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala congratulated the former general — and staunch ally of Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia — in a press conference in Prague, calling Pavel a “civic candidate.”

“The values that he represented won — and that’s a very important message in these internally and economically complicated times,” Fiala told the audience in Prague, according to local media reports.

The 61-year-old incoming president ran as a political independent and promised to reduce polarization in an Eastern European country that has been split along increasingly cultural and political dividing lines.

While most of the political power resides with the Czech prime minister, Pavel has been a vocal supporter of closer ties with the European Union, including the adoption of the euro.

Before diving into domestic politics, he was chief of the Czech army’s general staff between 2012 and 2015, and then served as chairman of NATO’s military committee from 2015 to 2018.





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US lawmakers press to remove oil boss from leading COP28 climate talks – POLITICO



A group of U.S. lawmakers wants the Biden administration to ask the United Arab Emirates to remove the oil company chief the country chose to lead the next U.N. climate talks — or at a minimum “seek assurances” that the UAE will promote an ambitious COP28 summit.

In a letter to Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry, 27 members of the House and Senate called for him to “urge” the UAE to withdraw the appointment of UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to lead the COP28 discussions, which start November 30 in Dubai. The company is one of the world’s largest oil producers.

“The appointment of an oil company executive to head COP 28 poses a risk to the negotiation process as well as the whole conference itself,” said the note, which was shared exclusively with POLITICO.

“To help ensure that COP 28 is a serious and productive climate summit, we believe the United States should urge the United Arab Emirates to name a different lead for COP 28 or, at a minimum, seek assurances that it will promote an ambitious COP 28 aligned with the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit,” the lawmakers added.

Kerry — along with other climate diplomats, including the EU’s Frans Timmermans — has repeatedly defended Al Jaber’s appointment in recent weeks, calling him a “terrific choice” in an interview with the Associated Press. Kerry also said ADNOC understood the need to shift its business away from fossil fuels. Kerry’s office was not immediately available to comment on the letter.

A COP28 spokesperson, who had not seen the letter, defended Al Jaber’s record “as a diplomat, minister, and business leader across the energy and renewables industry.” They highlighted his role as founder of renewables company Masdar, calling it “one of the world’s largest renewable energy company with clean energy investments in over 40 countries.”

“His experience uniquely positions him to be able to convene both the public and private sector to bring about pragmatic solutions to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement,” the spokesperson said.

But the U.S. lawmakers noted the long history of fossil fuel industry interference in climate talks.

“Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world’s most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy. It risks undermining the very essence of what is trying to be accomplished,” they wrote.





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AOC in line to become her party’s No. 2 on Oversight panel



Should Ocasio-Cortez become vice ranking member, she’s also likely to take on more responsibility in helming Democrats’ messaging and strategy on a panel that’s stocked with some of the House GOP’s most rhetorically rowdy conservatives, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). That’s in part due to the cancer treatment that Oversight’s current ranking member, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) is currently undergoing.

“I have the greatest admiration for her skill, and I’m sure we’re going to be able to deploy her to maximum effect on the committee, along with all these other amazing new members,” Raskin said in an interview about her position on the committee, declining to directly address whether Ocasio-Cortez would become his No. 2.

A Democratic aide noted that Ocasio-Cortez would be able to sit in for Raskin on the committee if he’s absent during hearings, a role typically played by the No. 2 member on any panel but one that other panel members are also able to assume.

Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin worked closely together during the last Congress, particularly on the Oversight subpanel he then chaired overseeing civil rights issues. The younger New Yorker had served as the subpanel’s vice chair, and the duo’s close relationship had fueled speculation among some Democrats that Ocasio-Cortez would follow Raskin as he rose on the committee.

Committee Democrats are expected to meet on Monday to organize for the next two years, two party aides told POLITICO. Democrats will likely use the meeting to finalize internal leadership positions like the one Ocasio-Cortez is under consideration for. The “vice ranking member” position was created by Democrats back in 2017, when they were last in the minority after failing to flip the House in 2016, in order to elevate more junior members.

Ocasio-Cortez’s potential ascension comes as the Oversight Committee’s work is preparing to kick into high gear after Republicans have spent months conducting behind-the-scenes planning.

The full committee will hold an organizational meeting on Tuesday and its first full committee hearing on Wednesday, focused on coronavirus relief funding.

Oversight panel chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) is also setting the stage for two high-profile hearings early next month: He’s invited Border Patrol officials to testify during the week of Feb. 6 and will hold a hearing on Feb. 8 related to Twitter’s handling of a 2020 New York Post story on Hunter Biden. Comer has invited three former Twitter officials to appear at the latter hearing, with a GOP committee aide saying those witnesses are expected to testify.

“I think I’m going to have a lot of fun on this committee,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters generally earlier Friday after her formal naming to the panel. “Of course, [Republicans are] going to be calling hearings on horrible things, but our job is to protect the people and protect the vulnerable communities that they seek to attack … it gives us an opportunity and a platform to de-legitimize a lot of the disinformation that they’ve been advancing.”



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Ronna McDaniel wins RNC chair race that grew very messy by the end



“We need all of us,” McDaniel told committee members after calling Dhillon and Lindell to join her onstage. “We heard you, grassroots. We know. We heard Harmeet; we heard Mike Lindell… [W]ith us united and all of us joining together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024.”

Speaking to a swarm of reporters after the vote, Dhillon said she is committed to working toward repairing fractures in the party, but that party unity won’t come overnight.

“We did not expect this to become a national grassroots movement,” she said. “So I’m committed to healing and coming together with folks, but at the end of the day, if our party is perceived as totally out of touch with the grassroots — which I think some may take away from this outcome — we have some work to do.”

The committee meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach, a luxury seaside resort, illustrated the tense division within the Republican ranks that continue to exist months after the 2022 elections.

Dhillon, whose firm represents former President Donald Trump, raised her profile over the last year with regular appearances on Fox News’ evening programs — garnering support in her bid for chair from a prominent cast of conservative commentators. That list included Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Charlie Kirk, who helped mobilize an army of grassroots activists to call and email RNC committee members, urging them to oppose McDaniel’s reelection. But those high-profile figures were not always a value add.

On multiple occasions, on-the-fence members told Dhillon and her allies that they would be open to supporting her if Kirk weren’t one of her surrogates, said Oscar Brock, the national committeeman from Tennessee who was part of her team. Dhillon had assured concerned members that Kirk, a firebrand conservative figure, wouldn’t be part of RNC staff, should she win. But there was never a conversation among her whip team about asking Kirk to dial down his support.

“There probably should have been,” Brock said. “But there wasn’t.”

In an interview Friday, Kirk called McDaniel’s victory “a direct insult to the grassroots people that they send 10 emails a day to, begging for money.”

“I think the RNC is going to have a lot of trouble raising small-dollar donations, a lot of trouble rebuilding trust,” Kirk said. “Going into 2024, the apparatus that should be a machine and clicking on all cylinders and firing on all cylinders is going to be in a trust deficit.”

Kirk wasn’t the only Dhillon ally whose aggressive advocacy ended up turning off members of the committee. Caroline Wren, who most recently ran Kari Lake’s gubernatorial campaign in Arizona, got into a heated exchange with Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones on Thursday night in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.

According to three people familiar with the confrontation, Wren, who has been Dhillon’s top adviser in her campaign for chair, told Jones: “Everyone knows you’re here fucking whipping votes for Ronna.” She proceeded to call him a “fucking sell out,” adding that, “the grassroots will never support you again.”

A person familiar with the conversation said Wren had also approached Jones two other times this week, once while he was speaking with an RNC member, during which she called him “the fucking enemy,” and another time as Jones was speaking with Lake, during which she called him a “sellout.”

Wren confirmed she was frustrated with Jones because he had previously been a public supporter of Dhillon. But she downplayed the tenor of Thursday night’s conversation, saying she did not use profanity and adding that she even laughed at one point. Asked Friday about the encounter, Jones smiled and shrugged, saying “there’s not much more to say.”

In addition to relying on prominent conservative figures, Dhillon’s whip team also held calls once or twice weekly, said Brock. But several committee members in recent days said that calls and emails from Dhillon’s team had become too much, eventually solidifying their support for McDaniel.

“I think Harmeet could have taken a different approach and said, ‘The RNC, it isn’t where we want to be. And here’s what it will be like when I become chair,’ without, you know, calling into question the motives of all the people that are a part of the organization,” said Paul Dame, the Vermont Republican Party chair who joined the committee in fall 2021. After remaining undecided for much of the chair race, Dame put his support behind McDaniel this week.

Dhillon drew a last-minute nod of support from Ron DeSantis on Thursday, though it’s unclear whether it swayed any votes. The Florida governor’s decision to weigh in on the race stood in contrast to Trump.

Despite choosing McDaniel as his RNC chair after his 2016 victory, the former president publicly stayed out of this year’s contest, though Dhillon said he sent her a text message through one of his advisers on Wednesday. In the text, Trump joked about disliking one of her endorsers (she declined to say who). Prior to that message, Dhillon hadn’t spoken with the former president since shortly after she announced her chair bid. She said that when she told Trump she was running, he remarked that McDaniel had also announced a campaign.

“He said, ‘OK, well, that’ll be interesting,’” Dhillon recalled. “‘Good luck.’”

Despite calling for wholesale reforms to the party moving forward, Dhillon declined on Friday to answer whether she supports Republicans moving on from Trump in 2024, saying it was inappropriate for an RNC committee member to influence voters in the primary process.

While Trump stayed mum, his top aides were privately supporting McDaniel’s reelection bid — though advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles disputed the notion that they were whipping votes for her while meeting with members at the Waldorf Astoria in recent days.

Ultimately, McDaniel’s team, with the help of allies, convinced members that a fourth term was earned even after the lackluster midterms. It left Dhillon’s supporters exasperated.

“Ya got me,” said Bill Palatucci, the national committee member from New Jersey, about why his colleagues on the committee overwhelmingly backed McDaniel, despite multiple cycles of GOP disappointments. “That has been my speech to these people on email and via phone calls and meetings here. We just had this terrible midterm cycle, and you guys don’t want to make a change? For whatever reason, they have their heads buried in the sand.”

McDaniel’s bid for a fourth term was a fight before it officially started.

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in New York whose race drew national attention for being closer than expected, floated his name for RNC chair shortly after the midterms. (He received one write-in vote on Friday.) And Palatucci — upset by what he described as McDaniel’s brief “disaster” of a call with RNC members on Nov. 9 — emailed top RNC staff and some members his concerns. In the note, he wrote that McDaniel’s remarks “showed incredible unwillingness to face the reality of what happened last evening,” adding that he and other members “want a real, honest assessment of what happened.”

When she formally announced her bid on Nov. 14, McDaniel held a lengthy call with members — taking questions and making her case for why she should continue in the role. McDaniel had previously told members in 2021 she would not seek another term after her third.

By the end of the week, McDaniel had assembled a list of more than 100 members publicly supporting her. Just after Thanksgiving, she announced she was launching a “Republican Party Advisory Council” to “review” the party’s electoral performance in 2022.

Last week, McDaniel sent members a document she called her “Vision for Unity,” which included plans to improve Republicans’ “legal ballot collecting” efforts, find new tactics for small-dollar fundraising that has suffered in recent years, and boosting the youth vote. In the document, first reported by POLITICO, McDaniel made an appeal to members who were inclined to support Dhillon, saying she would work with Dhillon and Lindell over the next two years in an effort to unite all corners of the GOP.

“I look forward to uniting once again as a Party and working together, alongside Harmeet and Mike, to heal as a Party and elect Republicans,” McDaniel wrote.

The event at the Waldorf Astoria drew an assortment of Republican officials, from Lake and Jones to former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a likely 2024 presidential contender who could be seen meeting with reporters in the hotel lobby on Wednesday and Thursday. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — another presidential hopeful, though he did not attend the meeting — left stacks of his new book on a check-in table for attendees.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made an appearance Friday morning, posing for photos with attendees before an RNC security guard at one point asked to see her credential lanyard.

Rachael Bade contributed to this report.



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