Steve Scalise Gets His Turn In The House GOP Wringer

INSIDE: Donald Trump ... Steve Scalise ... George Santos
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) stands next to his wife Jennifer Scalise as he talks to reporters after the House Republican conference nominated him to be Speaker of the House... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) stands next to his wife Jennifer Scalise as he talks to reporters after the House Republican conference nominated him to be Speaker of the House following a meeting in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. Scalise earned more votes than his opponent, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), but the vote did not settle the issue as some GOP members said they would still refuse to vote for Scalise for Speaker. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/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. Sign up for the email version.

On A Personal Note

You may have noticed my absence this week. My two adult children and I were involved in a sailing accident Monday. My daughter, a member of the ship’s crew, was not physically injured. My son and I both broke our backs, but we’re up and moving around and are expected to make full recoveries. I’m not composed enough yet to write about the accident publicly, so I’ll just leave it there for now.

This was the second traumatic event to strike my immediate family in recent months. I haven’t written about it at TPM before now, but my son was home from college in January 2022 when he was struck by a car while walking across the street (in the crosswalk!) near our DC home. He suffered a severe brain injury and serious orthopedic injuries. He was in a coma for nearly a week and in the hospital for five weeks. He made an amazingly swift and full recovery, but the trauma of that incident had only recently begun to fade for me.

Monday’s incident was itself unfathomable, but it was stunning – mind-bending, really – to have it come so soon after our other recent shock.

Through hard experience, I’ve come to see trauma as almost a living, breathing organism with its own imperatives and demands, similar to the way grief or clinical depression can feel like a wild beast that has you in its jaws. So we’re going to take it slow for a while as we grapple anew with trauma’s unwelcome presence in our lives.

Easing Back Into The News

Doing this job requires nonstop immersion in the news, and it’s very difficult to do it well if you’re out of the loop, even for a short time. Even before the accident Monday, I had been mostly off the news grid for three days. You go into time away like that hoping you won’t miss too much and lose the thread or your own voice. Obviously it was a very bad time to be away.

I feel obliged to say that the scale and scope of the carnage in Israel and Gaza so completely overwhelm our capacity to comprehend that I hesitated to mention my accident half a world away. But I hope you’ll understand my need to explain my absence.

Even on a gurney in the ER, I was worrying in the back of my mind how I was ever going to catch up on the news out of the Middle East and fake it through my first couple of Morning Memos back. But yesterday it hit me: Don’t even try to fake it.

So I won’t.

With the help of colleagues, I’ve cobbled together a piecemeal Morning Memo below. I hope to be more firmly in the saddle tomorrow, and back to something close to normal next week. Thanks for understanding.

Big thanks to Nicole Lafond and my other colleagues for pitching in on yesterday’s Morning Memo – and for running TPM in my absence. We’re a small operation and having any one of us out of commission strains and stresses the rest of the team. To my colleagues: my apologies and my thanks for covering for me.

No Winners, Only Losers

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) “won” the House GOP’s nomination as speaker and for his efforts he gets … nothing?

The conference hasn’t rallied to his side. He doesn’t yet have enough GOP votes to win a majority on the floor. Even if he pulls all of that off eventually, he’s stuck being speaker with a thin majority and apparently the ready availability of a motion to vacate hanging over his head.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “lost” but remains a central GOP figure, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and unburdened by the speakership.

Scalise Agonistes

Punchbowl: Scalise’s epic struggle to become speaker

WaPo: Republicans fail to coalesce around speaker choice, leaving House in limbo

Politico: Steve Scalise’s celebration on pause


Good Luck With That

New York Republicans put out a statement on Wednesday vowing to take action to expel Rep. George Santos (R-NY) in light of the new, wild allegations laid out against the lawmaker in the superseding indictment Tuesday night — at least, they will once the House gets back to functioning as a governing body. If and when that will ultimately happen remains … unclear. But it’d be a risky calculation for new members of the House Republican leadership who, if ever elected, will have to face from Day 1 the realities of their thin majority.

– Nicole Lafond

The George Santos Experience

For us corruption-ologists out there, George Santos is a fine specimen. Full of seemingly pointless lies, alleged grifting, outrageous attempts to cover it all up. A connoisseur’s dream. 

With the 10 new charges brought against Santos in a superseding indictment, we now have an even richer picture. Santos, prosecutors said, did much of his grifting both to keep up appearances as the rich man he falsely claimed to be, but also for a specific reason: to trick the GOP’s congressional elections operation into funding his campaign. 

That involved a series of comically brazen efforts to persuade the National Republican Congressional Committee that his campaign had raised $250,000 when, in fact, it had not. What it had actually done was take $50,000 which did not exist and which Santos allegedly labeled as having come from his relatives, and received tens of thousands of dollars which Santos allegedly bilked from donors by going nuts with their credit cards. It’s a wild story, one for the true Santos-heads out there. Read it here

– Josh Kovensky

Good Read

Be sure to read Kate Riga on yesterday’s Supreme Court oral arguments in a South Carolina redistricting case.

Will Trump Blame It All On His Lawyers? 

Prosecutors with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office are trying early on to ensure that there are no surprises and, they say, no opportunities for Trump to delay or muddy the proceedings once the trial in his D.C. election interference case begins. 

They asked on Monday for Chutkan to lay out procedures around how to handle the jury, saying (correctly to anyone paying attention) that Trump uses social media to “intimidate” people. But the other request goes deeper in some ways. There, prosecutors asked the judge to order Trump’s attorneys to state formally what they’ve been saying on TV: whether they will argue in court that Trump was misled by his attorneys. 

This is important for reasons beyond mere predictability. If Trump does blame his coup attempt on his attorneys – an advice-of-counsel defense – that would allow prosecutors to obtain way more information from people who, until now, have been able to keep communications and records away from the government by claiming they were shielded by attorney-client privilege. 

Prosecutors said the number of witnesses who invoked that is upwards of 25, and it includes a Trump family member. Penetrating that shield could give prosecutors access to much more of what they know, and block Trump from delaying the case by throwing up the discovery issues there at the last minute. 

– Josh Kovensky

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