Mike Pence is known as a go-along-to-get-along Vice President. But his chief of staff is going to war.
Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Ayers made an explosive statement yesterday morning, threatening to “purge” Republicans who are trying to block President Trump’s agenda.
If establishment Republicans don’t work to pass Trump’s initiatives by 2018, “we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you,” Ayers said at a meeting of campaign donors in Washington.
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Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff railed against congressional leaders in closed-door remarks to wealthy donors and called for a “purge” if GOP lawmakers don’t quickly rally behind President Donald Trump’s agenda.
In remarks at a Republican National Committee event at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington on Tuesday morning, Nick Ayers also warned that Republicans are “on track to get shellacked” in next year’s midterm elections if GOP lawmakers don’t pass Trump’s legislative priorities.
But Ayers reserved his harshest criticism for congressional leaders and members who have not offered full-throated support for the president.
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him? If — and this sounds crass — we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him,” Ayers said, according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by POLITICO.
One attendee later asked how the donors could “rally the congressional delegation that does support the president and vice president, and rally them and push them to change the current leadership in both the Senate and the House.”
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the president or vice president when I say this,” Ayers responded. “But if I were you, I would not only stop donating, I would form a coalition of all the other major donors, and just say two things. We’re definitely not giving to you, No. 1. And No. 2, if you don’t have this done by Dec. 31, we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”
He continued, “Because, look, if we’re going to be in the minority again, we might as well have a minority who are with us as opposed to the minority who helped us become a minority.”
The crowd laughed and burst into applause.
The remarks are some of the most extensive to emerge from Ayers, who joined the White House over the summer after initially opting to remain on the outside. A longtime adviser to Pence and a top aide on the 2016 campaign, he’s widely respected in Republican circles as a sharp-elbowed and strategic operative.
The comments also offer a stark departure in tone from Pence’s team, with the vice president having often served the role of soothing tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill. The remarks reveal both a deep frustration within the White House with congressional leadership and a political tactic of placing the onus on Congress to advance the agenda on health care, tax reform and other legislative priorities that have failed to gain momentum.
The approach has echoes of right-wing firebrand and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s preferred methods. Bannon has repeatedly railed against congressional leaders and accused them of being the main stumbling block to Trump’s agenda. And he has taken his show on the road, speaking out against incumbent Republicans.
The White House and the vice president’s office declined to comment on Ayers’ remarks. Ayers also declined to comment. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ayers warned that the Republican Party is on track for a repeat of the massive electoral backlash that came after President Barack Obama was elected and the GOP took control of Congress and statehouses across the country.
“Not because anything that the president or the vice president has done or hasn’t done, but we’re on track to get shellacked next year,” Ayers said. “On a year where we could be totally on offense because of how favorable the Senate map is to us — at best it’s going to be a wash.”
Ayers raised the possibility of “a gigantic loss” in 2018 if Republicans are not able to make tangible progress on their legislative agenda. He said policy outcomes “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.”