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Here's one way Trump has reshaped the GOP in his own image after Jan. 6

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 9, 2021.
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 9, 2021.Rachel Mummey / Reuters

WASHINGTON — If the top political story of 2021 for Democrats was Joe Biden’s ups and downs in his first year as president, the top story for Republicans was Donald Trump’s increased grip on the GOP.

After his defeat a year ago. And even after Jan. 6.

One way Trump has done this has been by issuing, so far, about 80 endorsements in 2022 races up and down the ballot.

And it’s worth considering which candidates he’s deemed worthy of his blessing:

  • A significant portion amplify Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, floating conspiracy theories or calling for the decertification of elections despite repeated audits and investigations that come up largely empty.
  • Trump’s endorsement for Michigan secretary of state has spread some of those same discredited claims, but has also said that Democrats are “taken over by satanic agenda,” questioned evolution and made a litany of other disparaging comments.
  • Maryland GOP gubernatorial hopeful Dan Cox tweeted on Jan. 6 that Mike Pence is a “traitor.”
  • Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar recently tweeted out an anime-style video of him attacking Democrats and has long faced criticism for associations with right-wing extremists.
  • Former Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Sean Parnell (who has since suspended his candidacy) and Ohio congressional hopeful Max Miller have been accused of domestic violence. Both deny those charges.
  • Texas GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson was accused of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior during his time at the White House. He more recently called the omicron Covid variant a ruse so Democrats can “cheat” in the midterms.

That’s just a small sampling of a Trump Endorsement Club that includes many more controversial comments, actions and conspiracy theories. But it also includes the mainstream Republicans wearing Trump’s endorsement with pride.

That’s because most Republicans, at least publicly, appear to have made the same bet as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told Sean Hannity ln May that the GOP “can’t grow without” Trump.

That might be true for now. But looking at the candidates Trump has endorsed raises questions: Where (and what) are they growing?

McConnell says he’s watching the Jan. 6 committee’s work

But while Trump’s grip over his party has gotten stronger in 2021, that doesn’t mean the Trump story is over, either.

In an interview with Spectrum News yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke again — briefly — about what he's looking forward to seeing from the House’s Jan. 6 committee, saying: "It was a horrendous event, and I think what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know."

NBC’s Frank Thorp points out that McConnell's interest is notable considering he came out against the creation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, calling the idea "slanted and unbalanced." McConnell also is particularly good at not answering questions if he doesn't want to, so he clearly wants people to know that he's interested in what the committee finds, and is not writing off their work as a purely partisan investigation (like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been doing).

NBC’s Ali Vitali also pressed McConnell on this subject during his press conference on Thursday, and he said the following:

Vitali: "This week, you said you were watching the work of the January's committee and that you were interested in what they can find what are you hoping to learn from what they figure out?"

McConnell: "Well, I'm like you, I read the reports every day. And it'll be interesting to see what they conclude."

Our question: Does McConnell regret voting to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

806,480: The number of deaths in the United States from Coivd-19 so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,331 more since yesterday morning).

50,548,291: The number of confirmed cases of Covid in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 155,715 more since yesterday morning.)

68,073: The average daily Covid hospitalizations in America, per NBC News

19.1 percent: The two-week increase in those daily Covid hospitalizations.

490,030,849: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,734,760 more since yesterday morning.)

57,101,568: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,021,403 more since yesterday morning.)

61.2 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

72.3 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

$1.6 million: The cost of Trump’s legal bills that the Republican National Committee has agreed to cover.

20: How many House Democrats are retiring or leaving the chamber to run for another office next year following California Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s announcement Thursday that he will not be running for re-election.

3: How many times Democrats have tried — and failed — to add immigration provisions to the Build Back Better act.

Biden heads to South Carolina

“To House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, President Joe Biden’s Friday trip to South Carolina is more than an ally’s visit to a crucial early-voting state. It’s a manifestation of the decades-long relationship between the two powerful Democrats, in a place that’s played a pivotal role in cementing both of their legacies,” the AP writes.

“Biden is addressing December graduates at South Carolina State University, a historically Black school in Orangeburg. It’s the alma mater of Clyburn, the top-ranking Black member of Congress and South Carolina’s only congressional Democrat.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Food and Drug Administration will allow abortion pills to be sent by mail, in a major victory for abortion rights advocates.

Wisconsin is the new “front line in the war over the 2020 vote,” The Washington Post reports.

Trump’s effort to oust McConnell isn’t going well, with just two GOP Senate candidates saying they’d vote against McConnell as the next Republican leader, per Politico, which surveyed other Senate hopefuls.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is not happy about her new district, which became more competitive in redistricting. “I totally got f----- by the legislature on my district,” she said, per the Nevada Current.