News: CJ Exclusives

Walker criticizes Meadows over Trump endorsement

FOrmer PResident Donald Trump endorses Congressman Ted Budd, R-NC, for U.S. Senate.
FOrmer PResident Donald Trump endorses Congressman Ted Budd, R-NC, for U.S. Senate.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker on Wednesday pointed to former 11th District congressman and former President Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows for the surprise endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina for U.S. Senate. Walker says the endorsement “hijacked” the Republican State Convention.

Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory were seated near the front of the room at Saturday night’s closing convention dinner when the endorsement was made. Walker said he shook Meadow’s hand just moments before the endorsement and was not given a heads up about the coming endorsement, despite sitting upfront with his children and providing a $10,000-sponsorship to the State Party for the dinner.

“That is how Meadows likes to operate,” Walker told Carolina Journal. “Mr. Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Budd was an awkward moment for many in the room. Interestingly enough, Mr. Budd was surprised as well, finding out only minutes before the event. Why would President Trump endorse someone who over 70% of the room voted against,” Walker said referring to the U.S. Senate Convention straw poll that Walker won. “And, if Budd had no idea, who was the one orchestrating the entire event?“

Walker and Meadows have a long history of disagreement. As chair of the far-right House Freedom caucus, Meadows was called “the most powerful man in the House” in 2017.

“Since arriving in Washington in 2013, Meadows has been central to the biggest stories in Congress,” a 2017 Vox article read. “Eight months into his freshman term, he was named an architect of the 2013 government shutdown. Two years later he moved to oust House Speaker John Boehner from his seat, a catalyst to Boehner’s retirement and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s political ascension.

“The reality of today’s Congress is that in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is in control of the Republican agenda — with Meadows at the helm,” Vox added. “He leads a body that made its mark as an opposition force from within. But tasked with governing, Meadows has to decide whether his conservative principles supersede getting things done. He may have paved the way for Ryan’s speakership, but it’s Meadows who stands in the way of every major Republican policy push.”

It was over the repeal of Obamacare that Meadows and Walker clashed. As chair of the Republican Study Committee, Walker was instrumental in crafting a House effort to repeal Obamacare in 2017. Meadows called the president and told Trump the House Freedom Caucus would not support the plan.

On March 24, 2017, the American Health Care Act, the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, was withdrawn by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan because it lacked the votes to pass, due in large part to opposition from Freedom Caucus Republicans, who believed the replacement provisions had the effect of failing to repeal some elements of the original Affordable Care Act.

Trump criticized the Freedom Caucus in a tweet: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Obamacare.”

Walker told CJ that the late Sen. John McCain was supportive of the Republican Study repeal effort. However, Walker tells CJ the Freedom caucus opposition stalled the momentum, and by the time another repeal effort would pass the House, McCain was in the throws of cancer and no longer supportive, not of the new measure anyway. The repeal effort died in the Senate on McCain’s opposition. McCain died shortly thereafter.

“Meadows torpedoed the effort because it came from the Republican Study Committee and NOT the Freedom Caucus,” Walker said.

Walker also pointed to his support of now 11th District Congressman Madison Cawthorn over Meadows’-favored Lynda Bennett in the GOP primary run-off to replace Meadows in 2020. Meadows angered many GOP voters in the district by announcing he would not run for re-election just one day before filing closed. Because of the timing of his announcement, a long list of popular Republican state legislators were prevented from running in the race because they had already filed for re-election. If Meadows had made the announcement just one day before, this would not have been the case.

It was reported locally that Meadows had given Bennett a heads up.

“Unlike the 11 other Republicans and five Democrats that ended up filing for the seat, Bennett had advanced knowledge of the impending vacancy, campaign infrastructure in place, local endorsements lined up and, eventually, the backing of President Donald Trump.

“None of it could save her from a series of comical missteps — a sham endorsement by a two-day-old PAC, an ethics complaint, a combative demeanor at public events, purported “Never Trump” comments and a steadfast refusal to talk to independent media outlets,” the The Smokey Mountain News reported at the time.

Trump endorsed Bennett at Meadows urging. But voters ignored the endorsement, knowing Meadows was behind it. Cawthorn trounced Bennett, and according to a recent survey of the 11th Congressional District shared with CJ, Cawthorn is well-liked by GOP voters in there.

The Politico headline read: “Black eyes for Trump, Meadows in North Carolina primary.”

“The result of the GOP primary runoff in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District was a major embarrassment for Trump’s new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, with many senior Republicans punting the blame toward him,” Politico wrote.

Trump and Meadows went all in for Lynda Bennett, a real estate agent and close friend of the Meadows’, only to see her routed by Cawthorn, a businessman who was partially paralyzed in a car accident. Cawthorn led Bennett by around 30 points when The Associated Press called the race.

“The Meadows’ were upset with me after I endorsed Rep. Cawthorn last year over their close friend, especially after Mr. Meadows coerced President Trump into publicly endorsing their friend,” said Walker.

“After Madison won by a tremendous margin, I knew there would be retaliation because Meadows had embarrassed the administration. I was also aware that Mr. Meadows had been working President Trump to endorse Mr. Budd but never anticipated that Meadows would hijack our state convention to retaliate. It was a tough experience, and I was embarrassed for my guests at our table. Both my girls were sitting down front with me, and it was tough watching them cry and wanting to leave the room. However, I would not allow them, and I knew this was a character-building moment and we would be respectful and stay for President Trump’s entire speech even after he endorsed our opponent.”

Former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory also pointed to Meadows speaking to CBS-17 about the Trump endorsement of Congressman Budd.

“I thought the president got some bad advice from formerly his chief of staff again (Mark Meadows),” he said. “I’d say 95% of the people don’t even know that’s even happened. Endorsements usually have very little impact on how people vote or should they,” said McCrory.

Meadows’ office has not responded to requests for comments as of this publishing.