“I sincerely hope Jenna Ellis’s departure from the GOP leads to a mass exodus of everybody who agrees with her, thinks like her or, frankly, has the slightest positive opinion about her work in politics or public life,” tweeted Jonah Goldberg upon hearing the news. It really was a pleasant surprise for Never Trumpers, who are accustomed by now to being told that they can’t be Republicans in good standing if they don’t support Trump.
Now here’s Trump’s own lawyer essentially telling the NTers, “You can have the GOP. I want nothing to do with it.” Deal.
The breaking point came this week when WaPo reported on an email sent last November 28 by Justin Riemer, the RNC’s top lawyer, to a staffer who wanted to post election-fraud claims to GOP social-media accounts. “What Rudy and Jenna are doing is a joke and they are getting laughed out of court,” Riemer wrote, referring to Ellis, Rudy Giuliani, and their alleged “elite strike force” legal team. “They are misleading millions of people who have wishful thinking that the president is going to somehow win this thing.” Riemer was right and it wasn’t just Republicans at the RNC who recognized it. A few weeks ago Jonathan Karl reported on the tense White House meeting between Trump and Bill Barr on the day last winter when Barr told the press that the DOJ had found no evidence of meaningful voter fraud. Trump screamed at Barr for undermining him — but found himself more simpatico when Barr brought up the quality of Trump’s legal representation.
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr said. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
Interestingly, Trump didn’t argue when Barr told him that his “clown show” legal team had wasted time. In fact, he said, “You may be right about that.”
The point Barr was making was that the Giuliani/Ellis show was doing more harm than good, focusing on sensational headline-grabbing conspiratorial claims that wouldn’t bear out in court and would lead everyone except hardcore righty partisans to roll their eyes instead of attacking the validity of ballots on more mundane procedural grounds. Riemer apparently felt the same way:
Riemer said Ellis and Giuliani were damaging a broader Republican Party push on “election integrity” issues, according to the email. Riemer had led the party’s legal efforts for months ahead of and after the November election, particularly limiting the expansion of mail-in ballots. But Riemer was skeptical internally of some of the most conspiratorial theories and did not believe many of the claims from Giuliani and others about fraud, according to people who talked to Reimer and, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations…
“I led the RNC legal team in over 55 lawsuits on behalf of the President’s reelection, winning a majority of them, including the only successful post-election lawsuit. Any suggestion that I did not support President Trump or do everything in my power to support the RNC’s efforts to reelect President Trump is false,” Riemer said in a statement. “I will say publicly now what I then said privately: I take issue with individuals who brought lawsuits that did not serve President Trump well and did not give him the best chance in court.”
Riemer remains chief counsel at the RNC to this day, presumably because all of his suspicions about how the Giuliani-led effort would go have been vindicated. But that’s an uneasy arrangement since the sine qua non of being a Republican official in 2021 isn’t being good at your job or correct in your diagnosis of what’s best for the party but in signaling unquestioning loyalty to Trump. Riemer wasn’t being “loyal” when he told RNC staffers not to promote “stop the steal” propaganda, so Ronna McDaniel’s decision to continue to employ him is grounds for questioning her loyalty too.
She told @RudyGiuliani, me, and the President she would fire Justin Reimer.
She lied then, and she’s lying now. https://t.co/YwABWAGFgV
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) July 12, 2021
McDaniel evidently had enough of the Jenna Ellis show after that:
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) July 11, 2021
I didn’t see McDaniel’s interview on Newsmax yesterday but Ellis claims that she played dumb about whether Riemer had ever sent the email that WaPo attributed to him. That’s awkward for McDaniel, if so, because Ellis herself seems to have hard proof:
Hey Ronna… you asked for evidence on Newsmax while still claiming the story is false. Here’s the text I sent you Nov 28 with the Riemer email. You knew.
STOP LYING!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/6R2L1FMfFF
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) July 13, 2021
Just to recap, then: The head of the RNC and the organization’s top lawyer are momentarily in hot water politically because the lawyer thought it was irresponsible and counterproductive to promote wild unproved claims of voter fraud. Which was correct.
In fact, another WaPo story out today highlights just how wildly conspiratorial Giuliani was. According to Michael Bender’s new book, on election night last November Rudy was the chief advocate within Trump’s inner circle for the president to walk out before the cameras and simply insist, without evidence, that he had won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other swing states — even as the ballots were still being counted. Mark Meadows, Bill Stepien, and Jason Miller reportedly all opposed the idea, believing it to be both “incoherent and irresponsible.” But Rudy pressed on, telling Trump after Fox called Arizona for Biden, “Just go declare victory right now. You’ve got to go declare victory now.”
That ended up being his legal strategy for the “stop the steal” campaign too, essentially. Just go declare fraud, insist Trump really won, and fill in the blanks with conspiracy theories as necessary. He’s now the defendant in a billion-dollar defamation suit and momentarily barred from practicing law in New York and Washington D.C.
But Justin Riemer’s the disgraced lawyer in MAGA’s eyes, not Rudy.
Ellis went on Newsmax last night to announce that she’s leaving the party. It’s about more than just this tiff with McDaniel and Riemer, she insisted, citing the Senate GOP’s negotiations with Biden on infrastructure and McDaniel’s support for gay-pride month, among other things, as factors. But that’s like Trump claiming that his rage at Brett Kavanaugh is about more than Kavanaugh’s vote in the Texas election lawsuit. If Kavanaugh, McDaniel, and Riemer had been on the MAGA side of “stop the steal,” any other differences with Trump, Rudy, and Ellis on law or policy would have easily been papered over. Instead the three failed the ultimate litmus test by not enthusiastically supporting the effort to overturn the election. They’ll never be forgiven.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) July 13, 2021