With their push to impeach President Joe Biden and their threat to shut down the government, Republican hardliners in Washington made clear this week who’s setting their agenda: Donald Trump.
(Bloomberg) — With their push to impeach President Joe Biden and their threat to shut down the government, Republican hardliners in Washington made clear this week who’s setting their agenda: Donald Trump.
The former president in recent weeks has publicly called on House Republicans to impeach Biden, and he held a private dinner with Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene — a vocal impeachment proponent — at his New Jersey golf club last weekend — just two days before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy began an impeachment inquiry.
Trump also pressed lawmakers, including Florida Representatives Michael Waltz and Carlos Giménez, to hold the line on spending during a discussion last month aboard his private plane en route to the Iowa State Fair. Some conservatives have said they’re willing to force a government shutdown if their spending reduction demands aren’t met, culminating in a heated meeting Thursday.
Despite leaving office three years ago, Trump has continued to influence congressional Republicans. Nowhere is his influence greater than in the House, where the GOP holds a slim majority and his brash style of politicking has earned him strong allies. He has endorsed the primary opponents of Republicans who have crossed him, and played a pivotal role — via phone calls to Taylor Greene and others — in convincing members to vote for McCarthy to become speaker, after a bruising, dayslong standoff.
This week’s developments reinforce Trump’s effort to cast himself as a de facto incumbent already pursuing a general election campaign even with primary voting still months off.
The turmoil that would stem from an impeachment inquiry into Biden’s family finances or from an extended government shutdown also works in his favor, as it could serve as a distraction from his own legal troubles.
The Trump-fueled pressure campaign increases the likelihood of a shutdown Oct. 1 when government funding runs out and also fuels an impeachment inquiry that’s still short on evidence but now taking shape in the House.
Trump’s continued clout in Washington reflects his support among voters. The clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Trump is 43.6% percentage points ahead of his nearest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. DeSantis has steadily lost ground after being seen at the start of the year as a formidable challenger, and no other candidate has emerged as a clear alternative to Trump.
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Taylor Greene said she dined with Trump on Sunday night at his Bedminster golf resort, with the congresswoman briefing the former president on the strategy she’d like to see on impeachment, according to the New York Times.
Last month, Trump and members of Congress aboard his private plane to the Iowa State Fair discussed his indictments and the upcoming spending battle as well as the criminal charges against Biden’s son, Hunter, around which the impeachment inquiry could center, according to two lawmakers.
“We did talk a little bit about the issues that President Biden has, especially with his son and all these revelations coming out,” Giménez said.
Waltz, another Florida Republican aboard the plane, said Trump told the lawmakers to “use the power of the purse” to extract concessions from Democrats on spending.
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In a speech last week in South Dakota, Trump called on congressional Republicans to bar the Biden administration from using federal funding on the resettlement of non-citizens by blocking government spending bills.
Trump has also publicly urged House Republicans to impeach Biden, writing in July on his Truth Social social media platform, “So, they impeach me over a ‘perfect’ phone call, and they don’t impeach Biden for being the most corrupt president in the history of the United States???”
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