Divided GOP unites by attacking Hillary Clinton

Republicans say doubling down on investigating Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump 'lynching' firestorm is sign of things to come Hillary Clinton has said she'd consider 2020 race if she thought she could win: report Nielsen on leaving Trump administration: 'Saying no and refusing to do it myself was not going to be enough' MORE is a smart strategy in the coming months as the cloud from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation looms over the White House. 

Even though Clinton does not hold public office anymore, they say she remains the one person who can rally the Republican base and unify a splintered party constantly bickering with itself.

And the Republicans making this pitch aren’t just the Breitbart News crowd.

GOP strategist Doug Heye, an establishment Republican who is no friend of Trump, said he constantly hears from people within the party frustrated over the investigations into the president.

“The thing I hear over and over again from Republicans is that they’re tired of investigating Trump, and ‘Why isn’t Hillary and Loretta Lynch being investigated more?’ ” said Heye, who has offered frequent public criticism of the president.

“That is part of the cycle of talk radio speaking to voters and voters going back to their respective members of Congress and echoing that message.”

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Strategist Susan Del Percio, also an establishment Republican who frequently slams Trump, agreed, saying while “it may not be the best policy strategy, it certainly is a good political strategy.”

“When it comes to the president, he must always have an enemy to punch at,” she said, adding that “it’s actually a pretty safe strategy.” 

Congressional Republicans worried about their lack of legislative wins after 10 months of a unified GOP government — and anxious about next year’s midterms — have jumped on the bandwagon.

House Republicans announced separate investigations last week into Clinton.

GOP lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees said they would investigate how the FBI handled last year’s probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State.

The probe also touches on former FBI Director James Comey. The panels say they want to learn more about the FBI’s decision to openly declare its investigation into Clinton while quietly investigating Trump’s campaign, and they want to know why the FBI decided to notify Congress of the Clinton probe.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight committee have launched probes into the sale of a uranium company with holdings in the U.S. to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom.

The sale was approved by an intergovernment panel that included the State Department, then run by Clinton.

Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsOn The Money: Economy adds 136K jobs in September | Jobless rate at 50-year low | Treasury IG to probe handling of Trump tax returns request | House presses Zuckerberg to testify on digital currency Two Collins associates plead guilty in insider trading case On The Money: Trump blames Fed as manufacturing falters | US to join Trump lawsuit over NY subpoena for tax returns | Ex-Rep. Chris Collins pleads guilty in insider trading case MORE (R-N.Y.), one of Trump’s staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill, said the actions will invigorate a conservative base still angry that Clinton was never officially punished for the various scandals swirling around her campaign.

“Clinton is radioactive,” he said, hinting at the visceral distaste for Clinton among many conservatives. “[Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 Trump 'lynching' comparison draws backlash from lawmakers House Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry MORE] disappointed a lot of people, but Bill was a nice guy. Hillary isn’t.”  

Democrats aren’t surprised by the attacks, but say they are unfair.

“The Clintons have been a target of the right-wing movement for the last 25 years, and nothing will change that,” said Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesBlack lawmakers condemn Trump's 'lynching' remarks Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings House chairman: Pompeo not complying with impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.), head of the Democrats’ communications arm.

Democrats can win the messaging war over the Clintons, he said, if they’re careful not to take the bait and focus instead on bread-and-butter economic issues that resonate with the working class.

“Trump is playing to his base by attacking Hillary Clinton,” Jeffries said. “We as Democrats can’t be distracted by the latest shiny object that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE puts in front of us, and should remain focused on our effort to improve the economic well-being of the American people, and allow the Russia investigation to play itself out.”

Adam Parkhomenko, a longtime Clinton ally who helped found the super PAC Ready for Hillary, called it a sign of desperation, particularly on the heels of this week’s news that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. 

The news brings Trump ever closer to Clinton World’s assertion that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

“They don’t have a lot of options in appealing to their base,” Parkhomenko said. “They’re desperate to try and change the subject and even if they make some headway in their attempt, again, to waste taxpayer money and politically and unethically undermine the oath of office they took to serve, it’s all crumbling around them right now.” 

Even Republicans say the Mueller indictments complicate the GOP case.

“It’s a good political maneuver but I’m not certain it holds a lot of weight when you look at the headlines around George Papadopoulos,” said GOP strategist Shermichael Singleton, who served as a top aide to Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson says political correctness will 'destroy our nation' when pressed on reported transgender remarks On The Money: Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing finance plan | Dems jump into Trump turf war over student loans | House passes bill targeting anonymous shell companies Webb: My tribe is American MORE

 Still, in the coming months, Singleton predicted that Republicans would continue to press the issue. 

“I think they’re going to try and move forward but I don’t think it’s going to get a lot of attention,” he said.

Instead, Singleton recommended that they put their capital on passing legislation — such as tax reform. 

“If they go the entire year without accomplishing anything, that’s not good with major elections coming up in 2018,” he said. 

Other Republicans argue that Trump’s focus on the former secretary of State will help restore the voters’ dwindling faith in their elected officials. 

“There is just major dissatisfaction on the part of the electorate with … the entire belief that there may be a set of different rules for different people,” said Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannTrump faces new hit on deficit Lawmakers concede they might have to pass a dreaded 'CR' GOP blasts Democrats for using 2014 'kids in cages' photo to promote migrant hearing MORE (R-Tenn.).

Democrats were shocked by Trump’s victory, Fleischmann added, because they were so enamored with the Clinton legacy that they couldn’t see her flaws. 

“It was almost like it was a Democratic love affair with all things Clinton, and they paid a dear price for that,” he said.