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Barbara Comstock On The Future Of The GOP


This week, Republican lawmakers had to decide who represents their party. Is it Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Donald Trump, or is it Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has promoted QAnon conspiracy theories and political violence and says Trump sparked her interest in politics? In the end, they appear to have chosen both. The full House voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments yesterday, but only 11 Republicans voted to do so. Before the vote, Greene said she no longer believes the lies she spread.


MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: These were words of the past, and these things do not represent me. They do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values.

KING: She did not apologize, though. Meanwhile, Liz Cheney survived a vote and kept her position in Republican leadership. On the line with me now, Barbara Comstock, a former representative from Virginia. Good morning.

BARBARA COMSTOCK: Good morning. Good to be with you.

KING: Only 11 House Republicans voted to remove Greene from her committees. Were you surprised it was so few?

COMSTOCK: Well, I certainly was disappointed. I thought more representative of the caucus overall was the strong 70% support, you know, landslide for Liz Cheney when the Freedom Caucus, people like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, had said it was going to be 115 against her, and they could only have 61. So clearly, they were bluffing. And she called their bluff, and she asked for that vote and did very well. I think if Marjorie Greene - if that - we should have - Republicans should have done not on their own. And if that had been a secret ballot, it would have been overwhelmingly against her. And I do expect in the future that she will probably have to be disciplined by the Republicans themselves and even kicked out of the party.

KING: You just said...

COMSTOCK: And I hope she will be.

KING: ...Something really interesting. You said that if Republicans didn't have to put their names to the vote - if they were allowed to do this in kind of a secret ballot, you think more of them would have voted against Marjorie Taylor Greene.

COMSTOCK: Yes. And I think that's why it's unfortunate that leadership didn't just take the action either themselves to avoid the vote altogether or have that same type of secret ballot and say, you know, we're going to do this. Now, I certainly wish people would stand up and do it, also, because I do agree that she's a cancer on the party, not representative of the future. I think people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Ben Sasse, who came out with a fabulous video last night kind of speaking truth to Republicans that conspiracy theories aren't conservative - you know, defying the results of an election are not conservative - that's where the future of the party is going. And...

KING: Let's talk if...

COMSTOCK: ...I think Marjorie Greene will flame out quickly.

KING: Let's talk about current leadership. You brought him up. This week, Representative Kevin McCarthy said he doesn't even know what QAnon is. Now, this is striking because he should. How much of a problem is Republican leadership saying they are ignorant about crucial and well-known facts?

COMSTOCK: Well, I - that was very unfortunate, and I think we have to deal with QAnon head-on. I think people should be on the House floor denouncing it, explaining what it is and calling it out at every turn. QAnon has no place in Republican politics. It has no place in the body politic. It is conspiracy theories. You know, FBI has gone through this and explained that. People are now kind of getting out of it like a cult, and I think we need to take it head-on. And that is why Marjorie Greene, I think, will be, in my opinion, very short lived. I don't think she was sincere. She clearly did not apologize. And I think she will continue to make incendiary and dangerous remarks. I understand why people wanted her removed. I think her remarks are dangerous and are fueling those kind of conspiracy theories.

KING: Congresswoman Greene says she has raised more than $335,000 in the last three days as a result of this furor. More than a quarter of a million people voted for her in November. Does that really seem, to you, like someone who's going to flame out?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think Adam Kinzinger has highlighted that this really is about the money - right? - and this is something that she is, you know, kind of just wanting to be a celebrity. But I think what Marjorie Greene may forget is there is redistricting that's going to be going on before 2022. And as you saw, the strong Republican figures in Georgia who stood up to the president, I don't think they're too pleased to have somebody like Marjorie Greene represent Georgia. So when they - when Republicans, who will get to redistrict in Georgia, do it, I think they might have an eye on how they can be rid of this cancer in their party.

But I think already there's buyer's remorse from many of her voters. And if somebody - I certainly would encourage anybody - any strong, good, conservative Republican there who is sane to stand up because this isn't conservative versus moderate, this is conservative versus QAnon. This is conservative versus crazy. And we can have a strong conservative who isn't an embarrassment and a cancer on our party from Georgia. And I think Georgia Republicans are just the people to do that.

KING: Conservative versus crazy versus people saying they just have no idea what's going on - that seems important to note because that is happening at the leadership level. You've been pushing for years for a bigger Republican tent with more diversity and especially with more women lawmakers. How do you reconcile this?

COMSTOCK: Well, I point out the two PACs that I am associated with, Republican women PACs - we specifically didn't support Marjorie Greene or Lauren Boebert from Colorado. And in fact, VIEW PAC, we endorsed Marjorie Greene's male opponent, who is a brain surgeon. You know, we could have had a brain surgeon instead of crazy woman here, so that was tragic. We highlighted all of these things that people are hearing now. And so this was a mistake. And we, you know, tried to ring the bell loudly on this. I think we did very well in getting a lot of other women elected. What I'm distressed at is that is that people like Young Kim in California, first Korean American woman; Michelle Steel, also one of the first Korean American Republican women...

KING: Some interesting names that I wish we knew more about, but we will have to leave it there.

Former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia. Thanks so much.

COMSTOCK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.