As President Trump’s missteps mount, some Republicans are starting to distance themselves from the two-week-old administration. The president has made many controversial moves including the temporary immigration ban, the newly contentious relationships with Mexico and Australia, Trump’s defense of Vladimir Putin and, not least of all, his attacks on the judges who ruled against his immigration Executive Order. One of the most high-profile Republicans to break with President Trump is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Over the weekend, McConnell told CNN, a network that Trump Administration officials no longer appear on, that he disagreed with the president on several important points. McConnell said that he didn’t want to “critique the president’s every utterance,” but then offered his critique on several recent utterances.
Responding to Mr. Trump’s defense of Vladimir Putin, Sen. McConnell offered unequivocal condemnation of the Russian president. “He [Putin] is a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election,” McConnell said. “I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”
McConnell also disagreed with Trump’s angry tweets attacking judges who overruled his immigration ban. “I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism,” McConnell said. “We all get disappointed from time to time… but I think it’s best to avoid criticizing judges individually.”
Mr. McConnell also expressed a lack of support for President Trump’s call for an investigation of alleged voter fraud during last year’s election. “I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that,’’ McConnell said. “We ought to leave that at the state level.”
State elections officials have found no evidence of massive fraud in the election. Even the White House seems to be quietly allowing the voter fraud claim to die without President Trump’s promised investigation.
Some Republicans started to break with Trump after his immigration ban was unveiled. Representatives Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) took issue with the Executive Order’s broad reach that prevented legal residents and green card holders from reentering the United States. In Politico, Rep. Dent described a family of Syrian Christians in his district who had immigrated legally, “yet were detained at the Philadelphia International Airport and then forced to leave the country as a result of the Executive Order. This family now faces the uncertain prospect of being sent back to Syria.”
President Trump’s minimizing of Vladimir Putin’s murderous history has inspired more Republicans to take a stand as well. Senators Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) condemned Trump’s comment that, “We have a lot of killers… You think our country is so innocent?”
Not all Republicans are breaking with the president though. On CBS, Vice President Mike Pence denied that Trump had established a moral equivalency between Russian authoritarianism and the United States. ““I simply don’t accept that there was any moral equivalency in the president’s comments,” Pence said. “Look, President Trump throughout his life, his campaign, and in this administration has never hesitated to be critical of government policies by the United States in the past. But there was no moral equivalency.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has also been hesitant to directly criticize President Trump since the election. In spite of their policy differences, Ryan has taken the middle road by couching his criticism of the president is very specific, factual terms.
Speaker Ryan told NBC, “This president is hardly the first one to express frustration with the judicial branch. What’s important is his administration is complying with the ruling and taking the proper steps to resolve the issue quickly. This is our system of divided government, and I’m confident that when the process runs its course the order will be upheld.”
Originally published on The Resurgent