National Party News

The GOP civil war will have no winners, only casualties


It only takes a quick review of Donald Trump’s latest internal actions to see that the 45th president of the United States is on the war path and it is not Democrats he is gunning for but members of his own party.

He drew first blood in his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Next, he threatened Republican Senators Dean Heller (Nev.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). His recently hired (and then fired) White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who went on a profanity-fueled tirade attacking people within the administration. Raising the stakes, Trump is now on his second chief of staff in just six months in office after ousting former RNC Chair Reince Priebus.

Rapidly cratering approval ratings, intensifying investigations and a stalled legislative agenda are being overshadowed by the current bloodletting raining down on key figures within the GOP. The mercurial reality-television-star-turned-politician’s relentless and sustained assault on the most loyal of his cabinet choices, Sessions, stunned conservatives and now has them questioning how long they can “go along to get along” with Trump. Even Breitbart has come to the defense of Sessions against the president.

{mosads}Congressional Republicans — after absorbing several debilitating blows from their party leader — are fighting back. Murkowski’s “no” vote on the latest healthcare bill aiming to repeal Obamacare, along with John McCain and Susan Collins joining the Democrats, denied the president a much-needed legislative victory. Murkowski also delayed a key vote on six Trump nominees the same day Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke allegedly threatened retribution on the state of Alaska because of Murkowski’s healthcare vote.

Upping the ante, Senate Republicans are closing ranks around Sessions, their former colleague. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has stated the “… agenda is full …”  and that the committee would not act on any nominee for the duration of 2017 should Trump fire Sessions. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, also a member of the Judiciary Committee, stated more emphatically, “… there will be holy hell to pay,” should the president oust Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement official. Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, doubled-down on these comments stating from the Senate floor, “If you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it.” 

The intra-party clash for supremacy of Pennsylvania Avenue is not the only battle underway in this latest round of the GOP Civil War. The coup de grâce is the very open and public “Game of Thrones”-esque mêlée being waged at the White House. Casualties of this latest round of palace intrigue are littered across 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Priebus, and Scaramucci have fallen by the wayside in a matter of weeks and questions abound about who will be the next victim in this ongoing conflict. 

The latest personnel decision — moving Gen. John Kelly from the Department of Homeland Security to the White House chief of staff post — at first glance suggests a ceasefire could be on the horizon. However, Kelly’s lack of political gravitas and acumen could portend his demise in Washington’s top political job. Yet, used to navigating warring factions in his military background, Kelly could (if Trump gives him the authority) get opposing sides to lay down their arms and unify as a party.

If Republicans ever plan to govern effectively, they will need an internal ceasefire; on the horizon looms a plethora of complex issues and challenges. For example, the debt ceiling and budget debate have the potential to exacerbate already frayed relations and could see the GOP implode under the heavy and debilitating weight of incessant infighting.  

Raising the debt ceiling will undoubtedly pit moderates against conservatives and could see the governments credit rating diminished a la the 2013 debt ceiling fight. Throw in an impending budget battle to fund the government and you have a potent, yet toxic, elixir that could doom the Trump presidency to say nothing of Republicans chances in the 2018 midterm elections.

The August recess underway now should be a moment of reprieve and peace. But when the president returns from his New Jersey resort and the members of Congress from their home states in September, will these most recent skirmishes fester again?

One thing is certain the skirmishes reveal the enormous firepower each side wields. Like all civil wars, after the smoke clears, there are no real winners, only casualties.

Eric Ham is a national political analyst and co-author of the book, “THE GOP CIVIL WAR: Inside the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party.” Visit him at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Chuck Grassley Dean Heller Donald Trump Jeff Sessions John McCain Lisa Murkowski Ryan Zinke Susan Collins

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