Why Don Jr. is wading into a GOP leadership fight

Donald Trump Jr.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

Republicans may be favored to win back the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday's midterm elections, but that victory is hardly guaranteed. Nevertheless, Republican leaders — and those jockeying to become one — have already begun planning for a GOP House majority, telegraphing their legislative agenda with increased certitude as we draw closer to Election Day.

It is into this atmosphere of growing confidence that one of the conservative movement's most influential unelected figures has allegedly begun wading, with Punchbowl News reporting that Donald Trump Jr. has started urging congressional allies to back Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) as the party's presumptive majority whip. But Trump's involvement in the fight to replace soon-to-be promoted current GOP whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) with Banks may be less about who he likes than who he doesn't: the man seen by many as the strongest contender for the spot, National Republican Congressional Committee chair, Rep. Tom Emmer, of Minnesota.

Trump Jr.'s antipathy toward Emmer stems from a combination of factors, both political and personal. As Politico detailed last week, Banks and Trump Jr. suspect Emmer greenlit an anonymous quote in a recent Daily Beast story questioning Banks' decision to hire Buckley Carlson — son of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson — as his office's communications director. Emmer's office has denied the allegation. Add to that the perception among MAGA figures that Emmer has been insufficiently deferential to the Trump team in his decision to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, and by not involving the NRCC in the effort to oust longtime Trump foil Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), and the conflict between the congressman and Don Jr. comes into sharper relief.

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While Trump, the elder Carlson, and allies like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have stood their ground both publicly and in private, Punchbowl's report that Don Jr. has begun actively reaching out to sympathetic lawmakers like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to whip support for Banks suggests that this fight between a party insider and an energized MAGA constituency has entered a new phase that will ultimately test the Trump camp's efficacy at swaying congressional Republicans on internal matters, even as the party as a whole struggles with whether — and how — to move past the Trumps at all.

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