Back in March, Heidi Przybyla of Politico wrote an in depth article about Trump administration veterans getting organized to run Washington DC in a whole new way. When Trump came into office, he had no political machinery in the city and it really amounted to a hostile takeover. The problem was the new team lacked institutional knowledge. It also lacked power in Congress, where the few true Trumpists were newly elected backbenchers. When this combined with Trump’s disinterest in the nuts and bolts of the legislative process, the result was a failure to translate Trump’s vision into law.
Enter the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization closely associated with former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Among their goals is to get their claws into the congressional staff. The CPI claims to be the “go-to organization” for vetting candidates for congressional office openings.
A group closely aligned with former President Donald Trump helped organize a “bootcamp” for GOP congressional staff this past February, training them on how to conduct aggressive oversight of the Biden administration, according to new disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House clerk’s office.
The sponsor, the Conservative Partnership Institute, counts Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows among its leaders and has been described as the “nerve center” for the MAGA movement and MAGA-aligned lawmakers. It was one of three organizations to host the gathering.
Today, the New York Times goes further, with an article from Steven Lee Myers and Sheera Frenkel that explores how “Republican lawmakers and activists are mounting a sweeping legal campaign against universities, think tanks and private companies that study the spread of disinformation, accusing them of colluding with the government to suppress conservative speech online.”
Another key organization in this process is the America First Legal Foundation, which is run by former top Trump adviser Stephen Miller. It’s stated goal is “challenging Biden administration policies in court” but, working in concert with House Republicans, they’re currently going after universities, non-profit organizations, and even graduate students in an effort to harass and shut down independent fact-checking, particularly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the integrity of the 2020 presidential election results.
The House Judiciary Committee, which in January came under Republican majority control, has sent scores of letters and subpoenas to the researchers — only some of which have been made public. It has threatened legal action against those who have not responded quickly or fully enough.
A conservative advocacy group led by Stephen Miller, the former adviser to Mr. Trump, filed a class-action lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Louisiana that echoes many of the committee’s accusations and focuses on some of the same defendants.
Targets include Stanford, Clemson and New York Universities and the University of Washington; the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund and the National Conference on Citizenship, all nonpartisan, nongovernmental organizations in Washington; the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco; and Graphika, a company that researches disinformation online.
That this is all part of one larger effort can be seen, for example, by the fact that Ed Corrigan, the CEO and president of the CPI is also a board member of the America First Legal Foundation. As for the “bootcamp” for GOP congressional staff this past February, attendees assembled at the Heritage Foundation’s headquarters and were bussed to a 2,200-acre compound recently purchased by CPI. The compound is known as Camp Rydin. It’s named for Mike Rydin, the former CEO of a construction software company in Texas called HCSS. There’s a also a CPI-owned $1.5 million townhouse in Washington DC known as “Rydin House.”
Whatever ultimately happens with Trump, these groups and benefactors are working hard to institutionalize his madness within the actual machinery of the Republican Party and its legislative process. Insofar as institutionalists like former Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have been able to ward off the most nihilistic impulses of Trump’s populist fascist movement, we should not expect that to continue. The factual world is under attack, and that’s why we’re seeing a coordinated effort to defang independent fact-checkers.
If they gain control again, they will be in position to finish the job of destroying freedom of thought in this country. They will break and destroy anything that stands in their way.