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RNC chief implores Greene to stand down

1 month ago 30

A top Republican National Committee official asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene not to move against Speaker Mike Johnson in a face-to-face meeting Tuesday, as top allies of former President Donald Trump seek to head off what they see as a pointless and distracting internal battle.

The meeting between Greene (R-Ga.) and RNC chair Michael Whatley came just hours after she accused Johnson of cutting a “slimy back room deal” with Democrats and promised to force a vote ousting him.

Whatley, who is less than two months in the job, met with Greene in his office after she had skipped his briefing of House Republicans that morning, where he had emphasized the importance of party unity. He said much the same to Greene.

“He said, one, this is not helpful, and two, we want to expand and grow the majority in the House,” said a person familiar with Whatley’s message to Greene. “He was clear that any disruption to the conference on these efforts — including filing this [motion to vacate], does not help the case for party unity.”

In another era, a directive from the top Republican party official certainly would not go unheeded by a House back-bencher. Even in this era, Whatley’s choice as Trump's handpicked RNC steward has lent him heft inside the MAGA orbit.

But Greene pushed back on Whatley, arguing that the party had time to rebound from a leadership switch before the election. And she told him she’d spoken to Trump himself earlier in the day — leaving the impression that the former president had told her much the same as Whatley had.

Truth was, Greene had backed herself into a corner, and this morning, she’s facing a potential lose-lose situation: back down and look squishy or stand firm and risk a break with Trump.

At a Wednesday morning news conference with fellow Johnson critic Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Greene announced she would call the vote on Johnson next week, saying he had "become a man that none of us recognize."

Johnson fired back, saying the move “is wrong for the Republican Conference, wrong for the institution, and wrong for the country.” The effort is expected to fall on a motion to table, with Democrats voting with most Republicans to keep Johnson in place.

Greene's threats have taken a toll on her standing within the House Republican conference, where more and more lawmakers are growing tired of her self-aggrandizing antics, as Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers write.

Her latest push, for instance, comes as the GOP tries to take advantage of the campus unrest to make a messaging push on antisemitism. But, they write, instead of “going on the offense by attacking Democrats for insufficiently condemning pro-Palestinian protests on campuses, Republicans are now bracing for Greene to drag them into another internal fight that most of them would rather delay until after Election Day.”

The bigger issue is that Greene is defying not just her House colleagues, but also Trump and his hand-picked deputy, who made yesterday’s unusual personal appeal.

Whatley said in a statement that “nothing is more important than party unity and ensuring that we are focused on beating Joe Biden and Democrats in November.”

Others in the Trump-aligned orbit are annoyed, to put it mildly, at Greene’s lack of political discipline. Some noted that she’d kept quiet in recent days until House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other top Democrats made their backing of Johnson public yesterday morning — suggesting Greene got rope-a-doped into sparking another internecine fight.

“Fresh bait always finds a fish,” one senior GOP official said. “Jeffries throwing that out there, it’s chum in the water. Everyone knows what he did.”

A person close with Greene responded to the calls for unity from Whatley and others: “The only person destroying Republican unity is Mike Johnson,” the person said. “Republicans need a speaker who will deliver President Trump’s America First agenda when he’s back in the White House. Democrat-endorsed Mike Johnson isn’t it.”

But another senior GOP official suggested there could be consequences for Greene if she doesn’t start playing team ball, and fast. She could find herself iced out of some parts of MAGA world, where she’s long been adored.

“If she blows everything up … we’re not going to bring her in the fold on anything,” that person said. “She’s on her own.”

The Greene ally rejected the suggestion she might be sidelined, noting her strong support among the GOP's grassroots — and the fundraising abilities to match.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report included an incorrect title for Michael Whatley. He is RNC chair.
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