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As Trump's grip on the GOP tightens, Washington Republicans shrug

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.
Image: Donald Trump
Donald Trump attends a rally in Perry, Ga., on Sept. 25, 2021.Dustin Chambers / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — Nearly a year after Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat and nine months after the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, the former president of the United States has only gotten stronger inside the Republican Party.

Just look at the primary challenges, the developing GOP fields of candidates, the voting restrictions being passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures, the almost-unanimous GOP opposition to the House’s Jan. 6 committee — and more recently, Republican silence after the former president disparaged Colin Powell.

Let’s also not forget Trump glorifying the Jan. 6 rioters, or threatening that his voters will sit out ’22 and ’24 if GOP lawmakers don’t support his debunked claims about the 2020 election.

But as Trump has gotten stronger within the GOP, the Republican Party — as well as much of the political world — has decided to move on.

Or look the other way.

Here was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday when asked if he was concerned that Republicans seem to be embracing Trump rather than distancing themselves from him: “Well, I do think we need to be talking about the future and not the past. I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it's doing to the country,” he said, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

Here was Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., being interviewed by NBC’s Julie Tsirkin: “I, frankly, find the media’s obsession with Donald Trump to be unhealthy.”

And as for Democrats, they remain locked in an internal fight over what stays and what goes in their trillions of dollars in proposed spending on climate, health care and education.

It’s also worth noting: Trump’s power inside the GOP has gotten stronger — while the overall political discussion of him has subsided — after being banned on Facebook and Twitter.

Has Trump’s absence on social media obscured the growing reality that the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is his for the taking if he wants it?

Jan. 6 committee recommends contempt charges for Steve Bannon

Speaking of Jan. 6 and the House select committee investigating it, that panel last night voted “to advance a measure to refer former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal charges of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with its investigation,” per NBC News.

“The committee voted 9-0. The recommendation is expected to go before the full House for a vote. The committee comprises seven Democrats and two Republicans, who are participating without the approval of their leadership.”

And don’t miss this comment by GOP committee member Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.: "Almost all of you know in your hearts that what happened on January 6th was profoundly wrong," she said, referring to her GOP colleagues. "You know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election. You know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know those claims are false. Yet President Trump repeats them almost daily."

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

38 percent: The portion of Republicans in the Grinnell College National Poll who say they’re confident their vote will be accurately counted in 2022.

37 percent: The portion of adults who approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance in that same Grinnell poll.

250,000: The number of troops that Trump officials had proposed sending to the southern border in 2020, according to the New York Times.

65,000: How many more men died from Covid-19 in America than women, according to a new Brookings study.

45,176,062: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 76,430 more since yesterday morning.)

732,890: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,942 more since yesterday morning.)

409,438,987: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 641,045 more since yesterday morning.)

10,926,564: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 245,389 more since yesterday morning.)

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

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

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Wednesday is the day of the first New York City mayoral debate, which pits Democrat Eric Adams against Republican Curtis Sliwa, on WNBC-4.

Nebraska Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been indicted and accused of lying to federal investigators in a campaign finance case. He denies the charges.

The New York Times reports on how female judges in Afghanistan have been forced into hiding.

Scientists appear to have successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human.

Progressives are expected to bring up the 2014 police shooting of Laquon McDonald during Rahm Emanuel’s Wednesday confirmation hearing.

Civil rights groups are suing Oklahoma, arguing its anti-critical race theory law is violating free speech rights.