Pence Aide Calls to ‘Purge’ GOP Lawmakers Who Don’t Back Trump

  • Nick Ayers warns RNC donors of possible 2018 midterm loss
  • Some donors say they’ll stop contributing if tax plan fails

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff told a group of wealthy donors that the party should “purge” Republican lawmakers who don’t support President Donald Trump.

Nick Ayers told a closed gathering of Republican National Committee donors in Washington to contribute their money to committees and super PACs that would attack GOP incumbents who don’t unite behind Trump in the 2018 midterm elections, according to a recording of the event obtained by Bloomberg.

Mike Pence, left and Nick Ayers

Photographer: Zurab Kurtsikidze/AP Photo

“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him,” Ayers said. “We can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him.”

Ayers’s comments underscore a growing backlash within the GOP by voters and well-heeled contributors frustrated that the party hasn’t won a significant legislative victory despite having the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress. Ayers warned that the party could lose control of Congress if Republicans can’t turn it around.

Ten Senate Democrats are defending seats in states that President Donald Trump won in November. Republicans, who now control 52 of the 100 Senate seats, could gain a filibuster-proof majority if they win eight more.

“People who say we can’t lose the Senate -- it’s too favorable -- I disagree with that,” Ayers said. The content of Ayers’s speech was reported earlier by Politico. 

Some unidentified donors in the room could be heard voicing agreement with Ayers’s comments, saying that they will stop contributing to Republican lawmakers if they don’t pass the major legislation they campaigned on.

For seven years, Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare, raising hundreds of millions of dollars on their way to taking control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency. House Republicans passed a bill in May and celebrated at the White House Rose Garden with Trump, but their measure wasn’t acceptable to the Senate, which was unable to agree on a plan of its own.

Thus far, the RNC has raised far more money than the Democratic party. The RNC ended August with $48.5 million cash on hand, while the DNC had $6.8 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee has raised $3.2 million less than its Democratic counterpart.

The NRSC raised an average of $4.5 million a month in contributions through the end of June, around the time that senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all indicated they would vote against the health-care bill authored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, dooming it. The committee has averaged just $2 million a month since.

Trump and Republican leaders announced a long-awaited tax plan last week that would represent a major win this year if they’re able to turn it into law. The administration presented the plan one day after Senate leaders decided not to move forward with a vote on repealing Obamacare. Trump has said that tax legislation is his main focus.

Republicans could suffer “a gigantic loss” if they don’t notch some key legislative wins, Ayers said. What Congress can accomplish “will determine about 75 percent of whether or not we succeed in the midterms, miss a big opportunity in the midterms or get destroyed in the midterms.”

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