The executive director of the Oklahoma Republican Party (OKGOP) claimed Tuesday that the party’s recent vote to censure Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) for his role in the Senate’s border security negotiations took place at an illegitimate meeting.
Stan Stevens, OKGOP executive director, told The Hill the vote to censure Lankford took place during a State Committee meeting Saturday called by party Vice Chair Wayne Hill.
OKGOP Chair Nathan Dahm was not at the meeting, he said, and is “not recognizing” it as “legitimate,” arguing he — along with some other committee members — were not given “proper notice,” Stevens said.
“We don’t recognize the censure of Senator Lankford [or] any other action taken at this meeting because we do not view the meeting as legitimate,” Stevens added.
Hill on Tuesday claimed the chair did not call a meeting set earlier in January, prompting the county committee to submit “many requests” for Hill to call a meeting. He said he notified the chairman and asked him to distribute the call to committee members, but did not hear from him.
Hill denied there was no proper notice and claimed an email about the call was sent to committee members.
“So consequently, I made the call myself, which is allowable in our rules,” Hill said, adding later, he is under the authority of the state committee, not the chairman.
The Hill reached out to Dahm and Lankford for further comment.
The censure vote was announced Saturday night, when a Republican state lawmaker posted a copy of the resolution, which stated Lankford is “playing fast and loose with Democrats on our border policy not only disfranchises legal immigrants seeking citizenship but it also puts the safety and security of Americans in great danger.”
It further accused Lankford of going against the oath he took to the Constitution and called on him to “cease and desist jeopardizing the security and liberty of the people of Oklahoma” and end negotiations.
In a blog post Saturday, Hill said 172 “active Republicans” attended the meeting, and 124 voting members of the State Committee approved the resolution.
“We do not want Sen. Lankford to be negotiating. We want our borders closed, period,” Hill told The Hill. “…All we’re asking for him to make it an issue to close the border and not negotiate on a deal with Democrats.”
Two days later, the OKGOP released a statement that none of the actions during the meeting represent “the official position of the OKGOP,” and advised the media to refrain from reporting it was an “official action.”
“The meeting held by certain Republicans on January 27th was an illegitimate meeting. Proper notice was not provided to all members of the State Committee meeting,” the statement said.
Pressed over the apparent disagreement among OKGOP leadership, Stevens said “a lot of the division is intraparty over leadership.”
“I think that the … official GOP leadership [Dahm] views that Sen. Lankford is engaged in negotiations. There is no bill. There is no language. So we don’t know exactly what the outcome of those negotiations may be,” Stevens said.
“We don’t know why he [Dahm] is not joining in on this call,” Hill said Tuesday, adding later, “By him not supporting this resolution, the state committee believes he is not…a voice in protecting our borders.”
Hill said the committee “wanted” and asked Dahm to chair and participate in the meeting, adding Dham has a “very conservative” legislative record.
Lankford has been the chief Republican negotiator as senators have spent weeks trying to hammer out a deal on border and immigration policy to address the influx of migrants coming over the U.S. border with Mexico. The border talks are also tied to President Biden’s request for some $60 billion in support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Lankford spoke Sunday about the border negotiations and blowback from his colleagues during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“It is interesting, Republicans, four months ago, would not give funding for Ukraine, for Israel and for our southern border because we demanded changes in policy. So we actually locked arms together and said, ‘We’re not going to give money for this. We want a change in law,'” he said.
“And now, it’s interesting, a few months later, when we’re finally getting to the end, they’re like, ‘Oh, just kidding, I actually don’t want a change in law because of presidential election year,’” he continued.
Lankford blamed the opposition on members not having read the bill yet, and pointed to “misinformation and internet rumors.”