The party agrees it will defend former President Donald Trump, but two factions have formed over how best to do so. One wants to ignore the proceedings altogether. The other wants to mobilize counterprogramming efforts.
Speaking anonymously to NBC News, a Republican National Committee aide said, “I would not expect a full-fledged takedown of what’s going on at the committee hearings. They will draw attention, but at the end of the day our job is to win elections. This doesn’t help us, and we don’t think it helps them either.”
But some Republicans in Congress want to do more. House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and two leaders of the Trump-aligned Freedom Caucus scheduled a conference call with conservative media outlets to discuss alternatives to airing the hearings.
Some commentators are speculating that Trump himself may phone in to Fox News Channel to provide responses as hearings are airing. The channel will not be covering them live, but “as news warrants”. Its sister channel, Fox Business Network, will follow hearings live.
“We’re preparing for all eventualities, including that it’s a big dud,” said Trump ally Matt Schlapp. “I’ve been in touch with the Trump team, and I think that they know what this is all about. They know it’s essentially a Democratic attempt to prevent Donald Trump from ever running for office again.”
Republican leadership is expected to hold a news conference Thursday centered on economic issues in an effort to draw a distinct contrast between the parties: a GOP focused on top voter concerns and the Democrats distracted by an issue most Americans have moved beyond.
“Voters care about the dismal state of the economy, gas prices and crime,” said a senior House GOP aide. “Republicans won’t be giving these hearings no one cares about any air and will stay focused on the issues voters are talking about.”