Trey Gowdy has been talking about leaving Congress since he arrived seven years ago.

It’s what came to his mind when he ran into an old friend in the weeks after he was first sworn into office in 2011: “I hate this place,” he told Republican strategist Luke Byars that January. “I want to go home.”

The GOP congressman more or less said the same thing recently, when he announced what many saw as a premature retirement at the end of this term. “I like jobs where facts matter,” Gowdy said last month, explaining that he wanted to abandon politics and return to his native South Carolina, where he spent decades as a federal prosecutor.

The coming months will be a test of his sincerity. With his retirement freeing him from political pressures, Gowdy, an alum of the 2010 tea party wave best known for heading the politically charged Benghazi Committee, will wrap up his congressional career amid numerous high-profile investigations that reach into the top ranks of his party.

But like many of his actions throughout his seven-plus years in Congress, Gowdy’s public stances since his retirement announcement have been a Rorschach test. Friends and supporters say he has always shown his willingness to play a contrarian role, regardless of the politics of his decisions.

“He is a prosecutor looking for the truth,” said South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott, one of Gowdy’s closest friends in Congress. “He is doing exactly what he was doing when Obama was the president.”

Watch: A Look Back at Gowdy’s Time in Congress

Gowdy’s detractors, including Democrats who have repeatedly butted heads with him, had a more cynical take. They say he excels at presenting himself as a fair, measured thinker. But when it comes to actions, he is among the fiercest partisans on the Hill.

“He often says things that sound like he is trying to be neutral or at least bipartisan, but his actions undercut that,” said one Democratic staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “We would like to believe that would change now that he announced that he won’t run again. But we haven’t seen any indication that is the case.”

Gowdy’s staff declined to make him available for an interview for this story.

Regardless of the interpretation, it is undeniable that Gowdy has made a series of bombshell statements in recent weeks — and that he frequently tempers such proclamations with nods to the party line.

He joined a handful of Republicans on Sunday in blasting President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer — and by extension, the president himself — for suggesting that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should shut down his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

“Give him the time, the resources to do his job,” Gowdy said on Fox News. “When you are innocent, if the allegations of collusion with the Russians and there’s no evidence of that and you are innocent of that, act like it.”

He followed up with an assessment that Fox News anchor Sandra Smith interpreted Monday as “heaping praise” on the Trump administration: “I think he’s done a hell of a lot better job than President Obama did.”

That came a week after Gowdy, one of the most influential members of the House Intelligence Committee, broke  from the GOP majority that had just announced it planned to conclude its Russia investigation after finding no conclusive evidence that Russia helped Trump win.

Gowdy took the opposite position: The evidence shows that Russia wanted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to lose, he said in a statement that made waves throughout the D.C. political establishment. And that was the same thing as saying the Russians wanted Trump to win, an aide later confirmed

He has said, however, that he has not seen a “scintilla” of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. 

Gowdy is the only Republican who has read the classified intelligence documents that Republicans used as a basis for much of their findings. 

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman, said Wednesday — shortly before Gowdy released his statement — that he had no doubt his close friend would take an independent position on the report. 

“If Trey comes out and says the results of the investigation show X, I have 100 percent confidence that is the case,” Mulvaney said. “Trey is not capable of allowing politics to change the facts. He is not able to do that.”

Such statements are in line with other provocative positions Gowdy has taken in recent weeks. In February, he contradicted Trump’s assertion that a controversial memo that Gowdy helped draft on the Intelligence panel “totally vindicated” the president’s claim of no collusion with Russia.

Watch: Intelligence Officials Aware of Russian Activity Aimed at 2018 Elections

Gowdy’s support of Mueller contrasts with the president,  who has reportedly wanted to fire the special counsel for months. When Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for conspiring to interfere with the Trump campaign — ostensibly upending Trump’s assertion that claims of Russian interference were “a hoax,” —  Gowdy said the special counsel was doing his job.

But Democrats point out that Gowdy has tempered such seemingly nonpartisan actions with others that toed the party line in notable ways.

He has used his influential post on the Judiciary Committee to call for the appointment of a second special counsel — to investigate abuses of surveillance law under the Obama administration.

Judiciary ranking member Jerrold Nadler called the request “simply off-base.”

“These are blatant attempts to distract from and undermine the credibility of Special Counsel Mueller,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Gowdy has criticized the White House’s response to questions about staff members’ security clearances —  but only after public pressure from the panel’s ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, who had been pushing him to take action for weeks.

The Maryland Democrat has publicly criticized Gowdy for ignoring numerous requests to issue subpoenas in investigations that touch on the Trump administration. Those include requests for documents related to The Trump Organization’s profits from foreign governments, a request for an unredacted copy of a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report on Trump’s proposed travel ban, and copies of emails sent and received from the personal account of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. 

The latter was particularly illuminating, Democrats on the committee have said, because it was Gowdy’s Benghazi panel that discovered Clinton’s use of a private server during her four years as secretary of State, an issue that dogged her throughout her presidential campaign.

Watch: Benghazi Committee Declines to Fault Clinton

Gowdy’s air of ambivalence about politics has served him well during his time as an elected official. Combined with a dry sense of humor and endless jokes about at his ever-changing coif of thin, unruly hair, it made his 10-year rise from the Spartanburg County courthouse to the top of the national Republican ranks appear effortless, endearing him to potential adversaries and softening his image as a hard-charging former federal prosecutor.

Mulvaney, who has a history of publicly trading good-natured barbs with Gowdy, said his friend makes his hair look “terrible” on purpose.

“That’s his shtick,” Mulvaney said. “No one spends as much time making their hair look bad in the morning as Trey Gowdy. Secretly, I think he likes the attention.”

In campaigns, the biggest hurdle was always convincing Gowdy to run, his advisers said. In Congress, he habitually lingered in conference rooms, giving the air that he wanted to avoid television cameras even as he scored regular prime-time spots on national news. He wore off-putting mirrored sunglasses in public, but strangers still wanted to talk to him.  

“He was the unhappy congressman,” said Byars, the GOP strategist, whose firm, First Tuesday Strategies, has worked on Gowdy’s campaigns. “The way Trey raised money? He said, ‘I hate this job, I wish I was a judge.’ And people would give him money.”

Gowdy’s longtime friends, including those who worked on his early political campaigns, said he has always been clear about his preference for Spartanburg life over the Washington spotlight. He has deep roots there, where his father was a popular pediatrician, his father-in-law had a long career in local politics, and his wife of 28 years, Terri, a former Miss Spartanburg, is a teacher’s aide.

Gowdy’s devotion to the law was sealed by a personal tragedy. A family friend named Jeff Adams was murdered shortly after Gowdy graduated from the University of South Carolina law school. The senselessness of Adams’ death drove Gowdy to seek a sense of purpose beyond the job he had landed in a corporate law firm, so he fled for the grittier world of state and federal prosecutions, he wrote in 2001 for Slate. He never lost a trial in 20 years in court, according to Rolling Stone.

“He seems to get a reading for why people do things sometimes before they even have a reading for why they do them,” said David Woodard, a Clemson University political science professor who has worked with Gowdy since his first congressional campaign.

The same skills contributed to Gowdy’s rise in Washington. “I’ve never seen anyone in such a short period of time make such an impact on the national stage,” Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s senior senator, said in 2014, according to a flattering profile that year in The American Spectator.

Gowdy has resisted a string of political opportunities. Those include an effort by conservatives to convince him to run for House speaker in 2015. He also made friends on the opposite side of the aisle.

“This is wildly unpopular to say,” he told Rolling Stone in 2016, “but for a body that is at ten percent of public approval polls, what I tell folks back home is, ‘You’d be shocked at how many good people are here on both sides of the aisle.””

Instead, Gowdy opted for committee positions that allowed him to showcase the talents he honed as a prosecutor. He is known for his pointed, relentless questioning of witnesses at committee hearings. He relived some of those “grillings” last month for Fox News. His favorite moments, according to the broadcast, included exchanges with Clinton, former FBI Director James B. Comey, and Lois Lerner, the former IRS official accused of heading an effort to target conservative nonprofits.

“I’m never like that outside a courtroom or a committee hearing room,” Gowdy said. Watch: Lessons From 44 Years of Special Investigations

Friends and detractors described his appointment to head the Benghazi Committee in 2014 as a turning point.

“He worked really hard to make it nonpartisan,” Mulvaney said. “He even thought in his private dealings with other members of the committee that he could. But looking back, it will probably be remembered as one of the most partisan things he did in Congress, and I think that really disappoints him.”

The two-year, $7-million undertaking took a significant toll on Clinton’s presidential prospects. Democrats called it a boondoggle and a witch hunt. Gowdy’s friends said the partisan bickering surrounding the committee was among his biggest disappointments in Washington.

Gowdy’s frustration with the experience was evident in an interview for The Spartanburg Herald-Journal last month, which was broadcast on Facebook. He said the timing ensured a “disproportionate” interest in Clinton.

“The right wasn’t happy because I wasn’t tough enough on her. The left wasn’t happy because they thought that it was all about her. And once a narrative gets imprinted in people’s minds, it gets really hard to defeat that narrative,” he said, adding that he made every effort to ensure the hearings were “apolitical.”

“That showed more grace to the other side than I think would have been shown to us had the roles been reversed,” he said. “But it was, I think, never going to be the kind of investigation that you may have wanted or I may have wanted. It just wasn’t going to be that.”

Speculation about Gowdy’s next steps has ranged from his Scott’s assessment that he could be a Supreme Court justice to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone’s pitch that he could replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Scott recently said he did not think Gowdy would ever seek another political office. 

Gowdy has been circumspect about his plans. Though he has long been rumored to have his eye on a federal judgeship, he reportedly declined an invitation from the White House this year to accept a nomination to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He told the Herald-Journal that his wife convinced him he would end up feeling isolated and bored in the job.

In the short term, he told the newspaper, he was most interested in investigations that are “nonpartisan and apolitical,” such as the Oversight Committee’s probe of sexual abuse on the U.S. Gymnastics team. In the long term, perhaps a return to civil law.

Those plans would likely include a lot of golf, his friends say. Perhaps he will even play alongside a few Democrats.  

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No Snow Day on Capitol Hill Wednesday

By Niels Lesniewski
Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Claudia Tenney

By Alex Gangitano

Capitol Ink | Omnibus Stop

By Robert Matson

Democrats are targeting four seats in Illinois, where voters will pick their nominees Tuesday in the second congressional primaries of the year. 

It’s an early test for the party’s ability to nominate candidates it thinks are viable in the general election. Unlike in Texas, which held the cycle’s first primaries two weeks ago, there are no runoffs in Illinois. So a simple plurality would be enough to advance to the November general election. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added four Republican-held districts to its target list: the 6th, the 12th, the 13th and the 14th. Democratic strategists who know the state admit the 14th is a reach. 

The DCCC has only openly picked a favorite in the 12th District. Last cycle, the party failed to even recruit top-tier candidates in the 12th and 13th districts, both of which were drawn to be competitive for Democrats. 

[Democratic Showdown in Illinois' 3rd District]

EMILY’s List has played an early, influential role in endorsing candidates in five contested Democratic primaries, including in two Solid Democratic seats — the 3rd and the 4th districts. 

The 3rd District race has attracted the most national attention. Seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski is in the fight of his life against first-time candidate Marie Newman. With social issues a salient difference between the two, the contest has become nationalized as a flashpoint in the fight over the identity of the Democratic Party.

Watch: Blue Dog vs. Progressive — What to Watch in the Illinois Primaries

Democrats need to gain 24 seats (or 23, depending on certification of Pennsylvania’s 18th District special election result) to win the House majority in November. 

The 6th District, represented by GOP Rep. Peter Roskam, voted for Hillary Clinton by 7 points in 2016, leading one Democratic strategist working in the state to call it a “must-win” this year. The affluent suburban Chicago district is the only one of the four targeted districts that Clinton carried. 

But voters here have shown an inclination to split their tickets. In 2016, they also backed Roskam and GOP incumbent Sen. Mark S. Kirk, who lost his bid for re-election.

Democrat Kelly Mazeski, a former financial adviser and local elected official, has been seen as the front-runner in the primary. A breast cancer survivor, she announced her candidacy the day the House voted to repeal the 2010 health care law, which earned her national headlines. She’d raised $843,000 (including a $295,000 personal loan) by the end of the pre-primary Federal Election Commission report, which ran through February. 

[Illinois Primaries Will Be Early Testing Ground for Democrats

Spending from EMILY’s List on direct mail allowed Mazeski to go up early on cable and broadcast. She also has the backing of Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Cheri Bustos and several of Bustos’ closest female allies in Congress, who have been politically active across the country.

But the delegation is split. Lawyer Carole Cheney, a former district chief of staff to Rep. Bill Foster, has the backing of Foster and Rep. Robin Kelly. She had raised $314,000 by the end of February. 

Clean energy entrepreneur Sean Casten has raised the most money. He had raised $902,000 (including a $630,000 personal loan) by the end of February. Several outside groups have launched last-minute spending backing Casten and attacking Mazeski. 

Amanda Howland, the 2016 nominee who lost to Roskam by 18 points, is also running. Despite initial concerns from national Democrats that her previous name recognition would give her a boost, she’d only raised $141,000 by the end of February. 

The ancestrally Democratic 12th District, held by two-term GOP Rep. Mike Bost, represents the sort of seat that has trended away from the party in recent years that Democrats want to win back. Former President Barack Obama twice carried the seat, and Democrat Tammy Duckworth carried it in her winning Senate bid in 2016. But so did President Donald Trump — and by 15 points.  

The DCCC picked a favorite here when it included St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly on its Red to Blue list. The committee had been after him for years, but this cycle, he finally said yes to running.

Kelly’s campaign launch in July prompted Inside Elections to move the race rating from Solid to Likely Republican. It’s currently rated Leans Republican.

He had raised $911,000 by the end of the pre-primary reporting period, and doesn’t face much opposition in the primary.

Like in the 12th District, Democrats failed to recruit a top-tier candidate in the 13th District last cycle. GOP Rep. Rodney Davis won a third term by 19 points. It’s another district that’s swung to the GOP at the presidential level. Obama carried it by double digits in 2008, and lost it narrowly four years later. Trump carried it by 6 points. 

EMILY’s List got involved early for Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. She also has support from Schakowsky and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, for whom she used to be a fundraiser. Londrigan had raised $561,000 by the end of February (including a $15,000 personal contribution).

Former Illinois Assistant Attorney General Erik Jones had raised $477,000 (including a $35,000 personal loan). He's expected to place second or third depending on perennial candidate David Gill, who beat the DCCC’s recruit in 2012. Gill has since alienated many in the local and national party establishment, though, and only raised $82,000. 

The DCCC says it’s targeting the 14th District, which Trump won by only 4 points. But this exurban Chicago district is tough and expensive territory. GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren won a fourth term by 19 points in 2016. The race here is rated Solid Republican

EMILY’s List is backing Lauren Underwood, a nurse and a former Obama administration official who raised more than double her closest Democratic opponent. But engineer Matthew Brolley has the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO and Schakowsky. 

EMILY’s List is also involved in two primaries for Solid Democratic seats, where first-time candidates are taking on much more entrenched male politicians. 

[Two Democratic Lawmakers Go After One of Their Own in Illinois]

In the 3rd District, EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood Action Fund are now part of a coalition with NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Human Rights Campaign, the Service Employees International Union and MoveOn.org supporting an independent expenditure campaign attacking Lipinski. Newman also has the endorsement of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who carried the district during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, and two members of the Illinois delegation

As the son of the former congressman who held this seat, Lipinski has deep ties to the district and strong support from many labor groups. But the latest public polling, conducted for Newman allies, shows a close race

The 4th District is the only Democratic primary in an open seat contest. When Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez announced his retirement at a press conference in November, he backed Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia to succeed him. 

But that hasn’t stopped first-time candidate Sol Flores from getting into the primary. Her team produced a moving digital spot about her experience with sexual assault, but despite generating some national headlines, it’s not likely to be enough to overcome Garcia’s name and cash advantage.

“Chuy is coming to Congress,” said a Democratic strategist not involved in the race who predicted a bright future for Flores in politics. 

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Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch on Tuesday issued a blistering critique of the Trump administration’s trade policy and called on the White House to take action to remedy imbalances with trade partners like China and the European Union. 

The Utah Republican, speaking at a Business Roundtable event with the Farmers for Free Trade, highlighted the threat posed to the U.S. economy by “external opponents and internal skeptics.” 

“I have been in the Senate for 42 years, and this is one of the most challenging environments for U.S. trade that I’ve seen,” Hatch said, according to prepared remarks. “When it comes to trade policy, we’re all seeing the dangerous pitfalls that are currently in our path. They threaten to undermine and undo our recent success. Fortunately, in my view, those pitfalls are avoidable.” 

Hatch, whose committee has jurisdiction over trade-related matters, dinged China in particular for, among other things, the overproduction of steel and aluminum  — one of the main reasons why Trump issued tariffs earlier this month on imports of those products

Watch: Trump Signs Steel and Aluminum Tariffs


He also took aim at another rumored Chinese target for the Trump administration: intellectual property. 

Their government and state-owned enterprises have condoned and participated directly in the theft of trade secrets and the violation of intellectual property rights.” he said. “And they’ve used the Chinese regulatory system to restrict U.S. exports and investment and to force the transfer of American technology.”

The White House is preparing to issue new tariffs that could target more than $30 billion a year in Chinese imports and impact more than 100 products from the country, according to media reports. 

But Hatch’s criticism was not limited to only China. He said the European Union “consistently targets American technology companies” and that Canada, India, and Korea “impose price controls that undermine market-based valuations of innovative medicines and medical technology.” 

And while he noted the U.S. could effectively address these problems, Hatch said individuals within the White House could exacerbate them.  

“We have an administration that is willing and capable to do so,” he said. “Unfortunately, some in the administration support foreign challenges to the American-led economic system, challenges that are trying to bring that system down.” 

Hatch singled out the recently announced 25 percent tariff on steel products and 10 percent tariff on aluminum products as particularly damaging. 

“Policies designed to dictate from whom an American manufacturer purchases its inputs and raw materials directly contradict free-market principles, as well as the work that the President and Congress have done to reduce government regulation,” he said. 

Hatch also said the Senate would exercise its power to have the final decision on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Trump administration is in the process of renegotiating with Canada and Mexico, but did not provide any details. 

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Speaker Paul D. Ryan laughed Tuesday when a reporter asked him if he thinks President Donald Trump should stop attacking Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. 

“The special counsel should be free to follow through with his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely,” Ryan said. “I am confident that he’ll be able to do that. I’ve received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration.”

The Wisconsin Republican never named Trump in his answer but certainly alluded to him.

“We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country,” he said. “We have a justice system. And no one is above that justice system.” 

Ryan was similarly defensive in answering questions on a range of other topics Tuesday, including the omnibus spending bill, sexual harassment policy and tariffs. 

Watch: Ryan Talks Mueller, Tariffs

The speaker said work was ongoing on the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill that lawmakers need to pass by Friday to avoid another government shutdown. 

“We’re hoping to post today,” he said, echoing an ongoing optimism from lawmakers that work negotiations on the spending will be completed soon — even though their timetable keeps slipping.

Ryan said lawmakers are not talking about another short-term continuing resolution. The government has been running on a series of stopgap funding measures since the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2018.

Leadership had originally hoped to file the omnibus last Wednesday for a floor vote Friday, and then adjusted their expectation to a Monday filing. Now midday Tuesday several policy matters remain unresolved. 

“There are 20 poison pills plus other issues,” House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey said of the ongoing negotiations.

Asked if she thinks those matters can get resolved Tuesday, the New York Democrat said, “I have no idea.”

The only specific issue related to the omnibus Ryan was asked about was a measure that would strengthen existing reporting requirements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The so-called Fix NICS bill lawmakers are discussing attaching to the omnibus does not include a provision House lawmakers included in their version to allow people with concealed carry permits to carry guns across state lines. 

“I think we should do Fix NICS. I agree with Fix NICS,” Ryan said, but did not specify whether he supports it without the concealed carry provision. “That’s something we’re discussing with our friends on the other side of the aisle.”

Rep. Richard Hudson, the author of the concealed carry provision, said adding the Senate version of Fix NICS in the omnibus could be problematic for getting Republican votes.

“A number of members signed a letter saying they wouldn’t vote for anything that didn’t have concealed carry in it,” the North Carolina Republican said.

Ryan was also asked about anti-sexual harassment policy — another policy matter lawmakers have discussed adding to the omnibus — but the question was not about the spending bill but whether the speaker supports revealing the names of lawmakers who’ve used taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims.

“We think the bill that we passed is the right bill,” Ryan said. “We had a bipartisan bill that the House passed that was led by Jackie Speier, by Bradley Byrne, by Barbara Comstock. We like that bill. We think that’s the bill that should become law.”

When the reporter tried to point out that the bill doesn’t require that, Ryan said, “I support the bill because it was a carefully crafted compromise and we think it’s the right way to go.”

The speaker also had a tepid response when asked where things stand on exclusions for aluminum and steel tariffs.

“That’s a really good question. I wish I knew the answer to that,” Ryan said.

“We are hopeful and confident that the administration will continue to narrow their approach so it’s less broad based and more focused on those who are perpetrating these unfair trade practices. So that’s really where this has to go,“ he added. “They’re working on an exclusion and exemption system. We have not seen the details of that yet, but we are strongly encouraging the administration, let’s focus on the people who are perpetuating these unfair trade practices without hurting allies who are not cheating, who are not dumping.”

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President Donald Trump said Tuesday he likely will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin soon to discuss a range of issues — but the Kremlin’s efforts to tinker with U.S. elections did not make his list of possible topics, even as Republican and Democratic senators urged vigilance against Russian attacks. 

Trump said that summit likely would occur “in the not too distant future.” Among the topics: an arms race the American president said is “is getting out of control.”

“We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have,” Trump said of the U.S. military. Also on the potential agenda for the potential meeting: the situations in Ukraine and North Korea.

“So I think we’ll probably be seeing President Putin in the not too distant future,” Trump said following a phone call during which he said he congratulated Putin on his re-election win on Sunday.

Notably, Trump did not mention Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election nor an ongoing cyber attack on the American energy sector that senior officials revealed late last week.

But on Capitol Hill, a group of Republicans and Democrats issued a blunt assessment about the Kremlin’s actions.

Flanked by other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C. said the panel’s probe of Russian election meddling is clear that Kremlin was looking to find weaknesses in the U.S. election systems and targeted 21 states for penetration.

A new committee report recommends Congress pass legislation to provide more money for states to beef up the security of their election computer networks. The report also recommends that states take steps to “replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.”

The Intelligence chairman said he hopes that the coming fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill will include additional funding to assist states with election security.

Gopal Ratham contributed to this report.

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The Supreme Court denied an appeal by Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers to block a new congressional map as the 2018 midterms near.

The decision to deny the Republican lawmakers’ application for stay killed the GOP’s final hope to block a map drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after it ruled the Republican-controlled General Assembly unconstitutionally gerrymandered the congressional map in 2011.

The new court-drawn boundaries will be in effect for 2018, putting a handful of previously safe Republican districts in play for Democrats.

The Supreme Court issued its decision a day before the filing deadline for congressional candidates in the state.

A federal district court in Pennsylvania also declined the Republicans’ long-shot bid to block the new congressional map Monday.

Eight Republican House members from the Pennsylvania delegation joined Republican state lawmakers as plaintiffs in that lawsuit, which a three-judge panel dismissed.

The list of plaintiffs included 2018 Senate candidate Lou Barletta and Rep. Keith Rothfus, whose seat is now in jeopardy with the new court-drawn boundaries.

Todd Ruger and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised nearly $10.6 million in February.

That’s the most the committee has ever raised during the second month of the year, according to figures obtained first by Roll Call. 

The DCCC raised $3.38 million from online donations in February, with an average online gift of $18. So far this cycle, the group has raised more than $50 million online, which includes 300,000 first-time online donors, and a total of $125 million this cycle. It ended February with $49 million in the bank.

“It’s been clear all cycle long that the grassroots are energized and unified around the goal of taking back the House,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. 

“The DCCC’s historic fundraising combined with incredible candidate fundraising will ensure that Democratic candidates have the resources to tell their powerful stories and connect with voters,” he added.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats to win control of the House in November. (The Associated Press still hasn’t called last week’s special election for Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb in the 18th District, although Democrats have claimed victory.) 

The DCCC raised $7.1 million in February 2016, during the height of the presidential contest. This year’s stronger on-year fundraising comes as the fight over control of the House takes center stage, with February marking the final month of fundraising before the first primaries in March. The committee angered some liberal groups with its involvement in the primary for Texas’ 7th District, which was held on March 6

The DCCC raised $9.35 million in January — less than the $10.1 million the National Republican Congressional Committee raised during the same month. 

Watch: Pelosi — Lamb Win in Republican District a ‘Tremendous Victory’

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Heard on the Hill

New Group Wants to Bring Staffers Together Through Golf

By Alex Gangitano

McConnell, Schumer Defend Mueller

By Thomas McKinless