Analysis | Rusty Bowers said Trump’s 2020 push was illegal. But he’d vote for him again in 2024. – The Washington Post

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The big idea

Arizona speaker’s testimony about Trump was damning. But not, to him, disqualifying.

Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers testified this week that President Donald Trump wanted him to take illegal, immoral, unprecedented and unconstitutional steps to overturn the 2020 election results in his state. And Trump never provided a shred of evidence for his false claims of voter fraud.

Speaking to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Bowers described Trump’s team as “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (except “tragic,” not comic) and detailed a systematic campaign of pressure and harassment after he bucked the president.

But the lifelong Republican, who campaigned and voted for Trump, also declared this week he would cast his ballot for the former president again in 2024.

The same Associated Press interview in which he said Trump’s evidence-free attacks on the legitimacy of the election had proven “very destructive” to Americans’ trust in democracy also includes this: “‘If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,’ Bowers said. ‘Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”

‘A tenet of my faith’

Normally, there’s something a little tedious about the “Trump Supporter Still Supports Trump” genre of journalism. But Bowers’ comments are remarkable because of all of the ways his testimony was damning for the former president.

He effectively called Trump a liar. Asked about the former president’s claim Bowers privately assured him the Arizona election had been rigged, he replied: “Anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true.”

And he spoke in deeply personal, religious ways about how the Trump team’s various requests ran “counter to my oath, when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it” and how he told them “I will not break my oath.”

  • It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired, of my most basic foundational beliefs. And so, for me to do that, because somebody just asked me to, is foreign to my very being. I will not do it,” Bowers told the committee.

And he read a passage from his diary: “I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will as I believe he led my conscience to embrace.”

(My colleague Yvonne Wingett Sanchez’s exquisite portrait of Bowers includes this, about him facing primary challengers: “He thinks that judgment by voters is trivial compared to eventual judgment from his maker.”)

Bowers described weekly protests outside his house by bullhorn-wielding people angry he didn’t do what Trump wanted, “proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician.”

Bowers says Trump and his team pressured me to take unconstitutional, unprecedented, illegal, immoral steps and their attacks have damaged faith in elections — but when the next one rolls around I’ll vote for him? It’s a lot to process.

The thing is, Bowers is hardly alone.

The Trump-is-a-threat-but-I’ll-vote-for-him crowd

In video from his deposition, shown by the committee, former attorney general William P. Barr said Trump seemed “detached from reality” when he made his “crazy” claims of voter fraud after Election Day 2020, piling up a mountain of “bulls—” stories that he’d been cheated out of a second term.

Back in March, though, Barr told NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie he hoped someone else would get the Republican presidential nomination. But if Trump got it?

  • “Because I believe that the greatest threat to the country is the progressive agenda being pushed by the Democratic Party, it’s inconceivable to me that I wouldn’t vote for the Republican nominee,” Barr said.

And of course there was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who cited constitutional concerns to explain why he voted to acquit Trump of the charge of inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection but went on to blame him directly for the violence.

“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said in a withering speech.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said, “and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”

Not two weeks later, McConnell said he’d vote for Trump in 2024. And in an April interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan, he seemed to deny he could choose otherwise. (He also got flustered when Swan pressed him on his “moral red lines” in politics.)

“I don’t get to pick the Republican nominee for president,” he said. “They’re elected by the Republican voters.”

What’s happening now

Supreme Court finds N.Y. law violates right to carry guns outside home

“The Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans generally have a right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense and that a New York law requiring special need for such a permit is too restrictive. The vote was 6 to 3, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority and the court’s three liberals in dissent,” Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow report.

Biden administration will protect trans students, college sexual assault survivors in new Title IX rules

“On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Biden administration proposed sweeping changes to the landmark law that would bar schools, colleges and universities from discriminating against transgender students, a move that comes as the battle over transgender rights moves to the front lines of the culture war,” Moriah Balingit, Nick Anderson and Laura Meckler report.

FDA orders Juul e-cigarettes off the market, citing insufficient and conflicting data

“Juul, the once-booming Silicon Valley start-up widely blamed for igniting the youth vaping epidemic, was grounded Thursday by federal regulators who ordered its e-cigarette products off the market, a move so sweeping that it surprised even some anti-tobacco advocates,” Laurie McGinley reports.

Panel to focus on Trump’s pressure on Justice Department to overturn election

“The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is holding its fifth hearing of the month on Thursday, with a focus on President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help overturn the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden,” John Wagner reports.

More: What to expect at Thursday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Greitens’s violent ad sets off GOP scramble to stop his Senate bid

“Republican operatives and donors in Washington and Missouri are privately working to undercut the Senate campaign of Eric Greitens, the ex-governor who resigned in disgrace four years ago, after he released an ad that graphically dramatized hunting down members of his own party,” Isaac Arnsdorf, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig report.

“The opposition is split among factions backing different rivals in the Aug. 2 primary and over disagreements on who should attack Greitens or how, according to people involved in the discussions…Some are concerned that intervening in the race could play into Greitens’s hands by feeding his anti-establishment posturing — or even prompting former president Donald Trump to endorse him.”

Fear over recent shootings has some avoiding crowds, businesses

“Reeling from high-profile mass shootings at a Buffalo supermarket and Uvalde, Tex., elementary school, some have expressed heightened concern that they could be the next victim of random gunfire. In the D.C. area in recent days, two instances of gunshots in crowded public spaces — at the festival on U Street and at a Fairfax County mall — reinforced that no one is immune from violence,” Justin Jouvenal and Emily Davies report.

… and beyond

Text ‘A’ for abortion: How a Texas group targets pregnant women online

“Anti-abortion organizations have existed for decades, setting up so-called crisis pregnancy centers near Planned Parenthood clinics, and advertising on billboards and in the Yellow Pages. Human Coalition helped shift the battle to people’s phones and computers, where it relies on search engine optimization, targeted digital ads and an arsenal of websites that look like local health clinics to find women searching for abortions across the country — including in places where it will remain legal if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade,” the New York Times‘s Emma Cott, Nilo Tabrizy, Aliza Aufrichtig, Rebecca Lieberman and Nailah Morgan report.

The latest on monkeypox

U.S. to expand monkeypox testing at commercial labs as outbreak grows

“The Biden administration announced Wednesday it is authorizing commercial laboratories to conduct monkeypox tests in an attempt to dramatically expand testing as the United States confronts a record outbreak that experts fear is far larger than the official count of 156 cases,” Fenit Nirappil, Lena H. Sun and Dan Diamond report.

The Biden agenda

As Biden touts gas tax pause, even some of his own officials balk

“Top Treasury Department officials expressed doubts about the gas tax holiday, and at least two top White House economists also privately conveyed reservations, according to two people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive conversations,” Tyler Pager, Jeff Stein, Tony Romm and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report.

Biden’s hunger summit echoes Nixon’s, but faces new challenges

“The Biden administration’s plan to hold a hunger summit, more than 50 years after President Richard Nixon convened a similar one, will put a spotlight not only on shortcomings in the current programs but also on issues that emerged over the decades since,” Roll Call‘s Ellyn Ferguson reports.

Mission Not Yet Accomplished: Biden heads to Europe hoping to keep Ukraine coalition intact

“Biden heads back across the Atlantic for a pair of summits with a new assignment: to keep the continent committed to the cause as the invasion settles into a grueling, bloody battle of attrition that could last for many more months and cause continued global economic strain,” Politico‘s Jonathan Lemire reports.

Poll: Biden approval falls fourth straight week, tying record low

“Biden’s public approval rating fell for a fourth straight week to 36% matching its lowest level last seen in late May, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Wednesday,” Reuters‘s Rose Horowitch reports.

Fed chair acknowledges that higher interest rates could cause a recession

“The remarks were among the bluntest yet from the Fed chair about recession risk, although he maintains that there are still paths to avoid a recession. Economists are increasingly expecting a new recession as the Fed rushes to slow the economy, especially since the central bank ultimately has no control over many of the forces driving inflation today,” Rachel Siegel reports.

How many Americans support Title IX, visualized

While two-thirds of Americans say they know “not much” or “nothing at all” about the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex at schools that receive federal funds, there is broad support for its mandate, with 85 percent saying they believe colleges and universities should be required to award the same number of athletic scholarships for women as they do men, Liz Clarke, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report.

Hot on the left

The Dem governors who could run in 2024 if Biden doesn’t

“Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker trekked to New Hampshire last weekend to rally Democrats for abortion rights. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s allies launched a federal super PAC and a nonprofit, which have aired $2 million in TV ads about Murphy’s inflation-fighting efforts,” Politico‘s Elena Schneider reports

“And California Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed himself the Democratic pugilist-in-chief, calling his party too timid and joining Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, to challenge Republicans on their own turf.”

Hot on the right

As Jan. 6 committee targets Trump, his consternation at McCarthy grows

“Former president Donald Trump has said privately for months that McCarthy’s decision to pull pro-Trump Republicans from sitting on the Jan. 6 select committee was a mistake, one that has become clearer as Trump watches the hearings that are working to build the case that he should be criminally charged for conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” Marianna Sotomayor, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany report.

“According to a close adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, Trump has made it clear to anyone who will listen that ‘there’s no one to defend me’ on the dais before, during or after the hearings. The blame is falling squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders, according to some Republican congressional aides and advisers close to the former president.”

Today in Washington

The president has no public events scheduled this afternoon.

In closing

Everybody say congrats, Trumpet!!

“A floppy-eared bloodhound named Trumpet was awarded Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show finale Wednesday night, the first of his breed to take the competition’s top award,” Lateshia Beachum and Kendra Nichols report.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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