Kevin McCarthy Struggles To Deliver On Promised Hostage-Taking

INSIDE: Abby Grossberg ... E. Jean Carroll ... Harry Belafonte
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. During his news conference, McCarthy di... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. During his news conference, McCarthy discussed a range of topics including recent classified documents found inside an office used by U.S. President Joe Biden after his time as vice president and committee assignments for Rep. George Santos (R-NY). (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

It’s Hard Being A Cipher

In a sign of how badly things are going for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House Rules Committee went into the wee hours of this morning before it coughed up a debt-ceiling hostage-taking package that the GOP leadership thinks might be able to win the support of its conference.

McCarthy was forced to make changes to the bill to get it through the committee, something he had vowed he would not do.

A lot of the coverage is focused on the intra-GOP stakeholders holding out for this or that concession, like the Iowa delegation on ethanol subsidies. But I don’t want to get lost in the weeds on this. This is McCarthy’s hand-crafted, top-down, avoid-the-committee-process, limit-amendments proposed bill that he must get passed in order to pursue the House GOP’s debt-ceiling hostage-taking dream.

Even if McCarthy succeeds in getting this bill through, the fact that he is struggling with a proposal that gives GOPers everything they want and more tells you all you need to know about the burn-it-all-down, wreck-the-world-economy political ambitions of the Republican Party.

This is like a test-tube incubation of the worst tendencies of the House GOP. McCarthy is playing to all of them and still isn’t assured of passing the bill.

We’ll have a better handle on things this morning after the House GOP conference meets. Leadership had hoped to get the bill to the floor as early as today. Not clear whether that will happen. It could get pushed until tomorrow. The House calendar means it has to pass this week.

Abby Grossberg is Dragging EVERYONE Down

Abby Grossberg, the former Fox News producer for first Maria Bartiromo then Tucker Carlson who sued the right-wing news network, is turning out to be a pivotal figure. Her lawsuit and the audio recordings she made while at Fox quickly complicated Fox’s defense of the Dominion defamation lawsuit, and she’s since been subpoenaed in the Smartmatic defamation case against Fox.

Now there’s more (this is more video than I usually urge you to watch but it’s all relevant here):

  • Grossberg’s lawyers provided MSNBC’s Ari Melber with audio recordings she made of Ted Cruz talking to her and Bartiromo just days before Jan. 6. Melber had a field day with it last night on his show:

For his part Cruz says he was consistent in couping publicly and privately:

  • Grossberg’s lawyer says Special Counsel Jack Smith has contacted them for access to her audio recordings:
  • Grossberg did an extended interview with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace yesterday. Judge for yourself:

E. Jean Carroll Trial Underway

Opening statements in the civil trial of E. Jean Carroll’s rape and defamation claims against Donald Trump were completed Tuesday, and Carroll could take the stand as early as today. As for whether Trump himself will testify, Carroll doesn’t plan to call him but he’s playing coy about whether he’ll testify in his own defense. The judge in the case has had enough of the gamesmanship and demanded to know this week whether Trump will testify: “Fish or cut bait.”

MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin was in attendance for opening statements:

Proud Boys Trial Goes To the Jury

Closing arguments were completed Tuesday in the four-month-long seditious conspiracy trial of the Proud Boys. The jury is set to begin deliberations today.

Bragg v. Trump

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is citing former President Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified info as grounds for asking the judge to limit Trump’s access to certain information in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.

2024 Ephemera

  • Trump issued his own competing video response to the Biden launch video:
  • Trump threatens to boycott GOP presidential debates.

Supreme Court Ethics Watch

  • Chief Justice John Roberts declined the invitation of Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) to testify to the committee about ethics rules for the Supreme Court.
  • Durbin, you’ll recall, doesn’t have a majority on the committee to issue a subpoena to Roberts (or to Justice Clarence Thomas) because of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s absence due to health issues.
  • Perhaps in light of Durbin being stymied, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) is getting in on the action, sending a request to billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow for information about his gifts to and real estate transactions with Thomas.
  • The disclosure lapse by Justice Neil Gorsuch – who failed to list the buyer of a vacation property he co-owned – originally reported by Politico was picked up by many other major outlets: NYT, WaPo, CNN. The buyer turned out to be the CEO of a major national law firm and his wife.

Total Shitshow In Montana House

I’ve been remiss in not flagging this to your attention sooner. The first and only transgender member of the Montana House has been under sustained attack by Republicans since she called them out a week ago for a proposed ban on gender-affirming care.

In retaliation for what Republican members claimed was her “hateful rhetoric,” House Speaker Matt Regier (R) has refused to recognize state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), essentially silencing her in the body to which she was elected. You know the reverse victimization move by heart now. Republicans hatefully attack transgender people but label any criticism of them for doing it as itself “hateful.”

The speaker cancelled yesterday’s session after a Monday protest in the chamber by supporters of Zephyr, 34, led to seven arrests.

Republican members are set to consider censure or other disciplinary action against Zephyr today.

Devin Nunes Defamation Suit Tossed

Former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), now the CEO of Trump’s Truth Social, lost his defamation suit over a 2018 Ryan Lizza’s story in Esquire. The judge in the case ruled that the article’s claims were “substantially, objectively true.”

Washington State Enacts AR-15 Ban

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) signed into law an immediate ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons, making it the 10th state to do so.

Nate Silver Out At FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver is leaving FiveThirtyEight, the site he famously founded in 2008 and later sold to ESPN, where it was eventually folded into ABC News.

Harry Belafonte, 1927-2023

Chris Hayes had a lovely remembrance last night of Harry Belafonte, as both artist and activist:

Let’s end on a more whimsical note:

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