Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) made a bizarre claim in a speech last weekend that former President Barack Obama was sticking around in Washington, D.C. because he was operating a “shadow government.”
Obama is in fact staying in the nation’s capital. The Obama family bought a house in Washington D.C., closer to their youngest daughter Sasha’s school, where she still has over two years left before graduation.
When asked about it on Friday, his office’s initial statement said Kelly’s comments were defensible because he said them in a “private meeting to an audience of fellow Republicans.”
Rep. Kelly delivered his remarks at a private meeting to an audience of fellow Republicans. He was sharing the frustration of everyone in the room over how they believe certain Obama administration holdovers within the federal bureaucracy are attempting to upset President Trump’s agenda.
In Kelly’s defense, the leader of his party makes groundless claims on Twitter and in national press conferences. But Kelly’s statement implied that groundless, inflammatory claims made by an elected official are fine as long as they were made to an audience of fellow partisans.
Then Kelly walked back the statement itself. “Rep. Kelly does not believe that President Obama is personally operating a shadow government. He does believe it would be helpful to the new administration if the former president would personally call for an end to all leaks and obstruction by personnel from his administration who currently serve in the executive branch,” Kelly spokesman Tom Qualtere said in a written statement Friday evening, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Kelly, in subsequent written statement, clarified that he “fully supports” Obama staying in town until his daughter graduates.
The initial statement, made at a private Lincoln Day dinner speech at Grove City College, was ostensibly made to excuse the Republican-controlled congress from not acting quickly or effectively. Kelly blamed the “shadow government” run by Obama that is trying to “totally upset the new agenda” because “they don’t believe that the new owners or the new managers should be running the ship.” The full quote, and the video:
President Obama himself said he was going to stay in Washington until his daughter graduated. I think we ought to pitch in to let him go someplace else, because he is only there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to run a shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda. It just doesn’t make sense. And people sit back and they say to me, ‘My gosh, why can’t you guys get this done?’ I say, ‘We’ve got a new CEO, we’ve got some new heads in the different departments, but the same people are there, and they don’t believe that the new owners or the new managers should be running the ship.’
Among those opposing parts of Trump’s agenda are GOP members of congress, enough of whom oppose Trumpcare to threaten its passage. Trump has reportedly responded to GOP recalcitrance by threatening to support primary challengers to those deemed too disloyal.
Kelly is no stranger to odd claims about the 44th President of the United States. He told radio host G. Gordon Liddy in 2011 that Barack Obama “is the Pontius Pilate of politics.” The context, such as it is, was that he refused to make the tough decisions for political reasons: “He washes his hands of every decision that he has to make and throws it in the Congress and says, ‘let them make the really tough decisions. I’m running for reelection.’”
Before his election in 2010, Kelly said he would be “the most responsible legislator who’s out there” when asked repeatedly in a debate what parts of the government he would cut. “Specifically, what I would do? I would be the most responsible legislator who’s out there. I would measure twice and cut once. I would look at every expense and is it performing the way it’s supposed to perform, or this just another one of those government programs that has an endless life that we just keep adding and adding and adding,” he said.
In 2013, Kelly joined all of his GOP colleagues in Pennsylvania and voted for the Ryan budget, which would have ended the Medicare guarantee, cut taxes for the wealthy, and targeted programs that help the poor and middle class.