We won’t be distracted – that’s the message House Republicans want to double down on as former President Donald Trump remains on the verge of being indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney. 

GOP members descended on the plush Orlando JW Marriott for a three-day retreat to celebrate their accomplishments and talk about their priorities moving forward. 

But since the rocky start to their newfound control in the House, GOP members now insist they are entering a new ‘era of good feelings’ — and won’t let the former president and his chronic legal battles divide them. 

Now at nearly every media availability at the retreat, Republicans have ticked off policy plays on China, energy, crime and education and reporters have forced them on the record on Trump. 

Just after the bombshell indictment revelation Republican leadership offered a fierce defense of the former president. Now they are trying to shrug him off, and insisting members don’t talk about him behind closed doors. 

GOP members descended on the plush Orlando JW Marriott for a three-day retreat to celebrate their accomplishments and talk about their priorities moving forward

GOP members descended on the plush Orlando JW Marriott for a three-day retreat to celebrate their accomplishments and talk about their priorities moving forward

Trump and his potential indictment loomed large over the House GOP retreat

Trump and his potential indictment loomed large over the House GOP retreat

On Sunday, day one of the yearly agenda retreat, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he didn’t think people should protest, and insisted Trump’s calls to do just that were ‘misinterpreted.’ 

On day three, the speaker praised reporters for waiting at least until after the first question to interrogate him on Trump. 

‘We’re not talking about this in our conference,’ he insisted of the Trump matter. ‘You’re just asking about it. It only dominates your asking.’ 

‘We’re not here to defend President Trump,’ McCarthy said. ‘What we’re here to defend equal justice in America.’

A law enforcement official told DailyMail.com a Trump indictment won’t come until Wednesday at the earliest. 

McCarthy said he hadn’t spoken to Trump in about three weeks – and has not communicated with him about Bragg’s investigation. GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik said she spoke with Trump on the phone Monday morning. 

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), the chair of the center-right Main Street Caucus who has been more hesitant to come to Trump’s defense, backed up McCarthy’s claims. 

‘It’s not something we’re talking about,’ the South Dakota Republican told DailyMail.com in a sit-down interview at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton. 

‘So we’re certainly not — it’s not overshadowing our work in the room,’ South Dakota’s at-large Republican said. ‘It’s what the media wants to talk about when we walk out.’

Asked to respond to the allegations of improper hush money payments paid by Trump’s personal attorney to Stormy Daniels, Speaker McCarthy pointed to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee – they were both fined for not properly disclosing the money they spent on opposition research related to the Trump-Russia dossier. 

‘This was personal money, wasn’t trying to hide, this was seven years ago, statute of limitations,’ McCarthy said, referring back to the Daniels payment. ‘I think in your heart of hearts, you know, too, that you think this is just political.’ 

At one point, McCarthy was asked if Trump was still the ‘leader of your party.’ 

‘In the press room for all of you he is,’ the California Republican fired back. 

'We're not here to defend President Trump,' McCarthy said. 'What we're here to defend equal justice in America.'

‘We’re not here to defend President Trump,’ McCarthy said. ‘What we’re here to defend equal justice in America.’

McCarthy listed off the House GOP accomplishments of the first three months: voting in a bill to claw back $80 billion from the IRS, establishing a select committee on China, ending proxy voting, voting to protect the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and forcing the president’s first veto on a bill opposing ESG investing — the forthcoming Parents’ Bill of Rights vote and the HR 1 energy package. 

‘You now have a relationship between the speaker and your minority leader, which we didn’t have before,’ McCarthy went on, referring to the friendlier tone between him and Democrat Leader Hakeem Jeffries. 

‘So what’s interesting to me is we have changed Congress on its head in less than three months. Now the real question you really want to ask me can I change the press room on its head?’ he griped. ‘I believe in you.’ 

‘Era of good feelings’: Republicans insist their message of unity isn’t just for show 

After a 15-ballot speaker’s vote that almost brought a fistfight to the House floor, Republicans insist their conference is now shockingly united. 

‘We just came to an issue conference which didn’t see a fight,’ McCarthy said, ticking off what he saw as a win. 

‘I think it is remarkable, this era of good feelings … it seems to me that in more traditional MO is for people to kind of play nice, but then be interested in undercutting people in private,’ Rep. Johnson mused in an interview with DailyMail.com. 

‘That the traditional conservative like Dusty Johnson and you know, the the Freedom Caucus leaders like Scott Perry, and the centrists like Don Baker and Brian Fitzpatrick, that all of these different camps are indeed actually getting along and trying to work together — that’s a pretty unusual place for House Republicans to be.’ 

‘After that difficult first week, I think a lot of people wondered if we would ever be able to get our act together.’ 

‘There is a real sense that we’re functioning as a team,’ Johnson added. ‘I think you probably don’t have a lot of members reaching out trying to plant stories that make other members look like idiots.’

‘People underestimated how effective our House Republican majority would be,’ Stefanik told DailyMail.com, noting Biden signed the Republican bill to unravel Washington, D.C.’s criminal justice reform on Tuesday. 

 Speaker praises new-found bipartisanship on China

 The speaker praised the universal agreement on quelling China competition as he said that he and Jeffries had sat down with the China subcommittee and told them to work across the aisle. 

‘This is not a place where there’s gonna be bipartisanship.’ 

McCarthy then knocked President Biden for what he described as allowing China to strengthen its grip on other parts of the world. 

‘Biden has brought China into the Middle East where now they’re brokering a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That used to be America. It used to happen at Camp David.’ 

‘So the world scares me where it is and why do they think they can do this? Because there became a void of leadership, of strength, of questioning the commitment of America or if they can trust us,’ McCarthy added.  ‘In an underlying place of all that is the energy policy of America.’ 

Republicans are not backing down from a fight at the brink of an unprecedented debt default 

Republicans also insisted they won’t blink on debt ceiling negotiations. They say no borrowing limit will be raised beyond $31.4 trillion without budget cuts. 

Biden is insisting Congress agree to raise the borrowing limit without any preconditions, and McCarthy has said his party will not allow new borrowing without budget cuts.  

‘You have a president who is unwilling and wants a clean debt ceiling hike, that’s never going to happen,’ Stefanik told DailyMail.com. 

‘I think a lot of Americans assume that things are only as bad as they’ve always been. The reality is, they’re much worse,’ Johnson said, noting the U.S. is expected to pay $10 trillion in interest over the next decade. 

‘In the next decade, it gets much, much worse.’ 

McCarthy, who blamed the Silicon Valley Bank crisis on inflation that had caused the Fed to raise interest rates, said the bank bailout should ‘wake everyone up’ on the debt ceiling.  

Biden released his $6.8 trillion budget plan earlier this month – Republicans have not yet released their own plan, which is supposedly coming in April. Biden has said he will not sit down with McCarthy to hash out a debt ceiling deal until the GOP’s FY 2024 budget is out. 

Budget Chair Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, said members had had a two-hour-long ‘engaged and passionate discussion about how we rein in this seemingly out of control spending, this unending gap in our spending and revenue, and our national debt.’

Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith called it a ‘family discussion.’

‘We’ve made it a point that is how we legislate in this conference, it’s 222. And that’s how we’ll move— whether it’s the budget or whether it’s the debt limit.’

Post source: The List

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