Administration

Trump urges GOP to fight for him

President Trump delivered a pointed message Monday to Republicans beginning to break from their White House ally amid Democrats’ escalating impeachment investigation: Fight harder for me.

“Republicans have to get tougher and fight,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election.”

{mosads}Trump has been growing more and more irritated by criticism from members of his own party on a trio of foreign policy issues: Democrats’ impeachment probe focused on Ukraine, his decision to pull troops out of Syria and his announcement that the next Group of Seven conference would be held at his Doral golf resort in Florida.

On the first two, Trump has remained defiant. On the third, the president on Saturday made the rare move of reversing course in response to outcry — both public and private — from some of the same Republicans who have typically defended him.

The GOP opposition came from multiple fronts.

On Fox News, the president’s go-to news outlet, legal analysts, including former Judge Andrew Napolitano, charged the president with flagrant violations of the constitutional ban on accepting foreign gifts.

Those criticisms were echoed by a handful of centrist Republicans who voiced public concerns that the Doral decision, if not illegal, created unflattering perceptions that the president was using the office to boost his business interests.

Privately, a group of moderate Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) and Pete King (N.Y.), huddled with Mick Mulvaney at Camp David over the weekend, warning Trump’s acting chief of staff of the poor optics and potential political backlash of hosting the meeting at the Trump resort.

Other GOP lawmakers texted and called White House officials to object to the move, sources said.

“A bunch of us weighed in who otherwise are normally supportive. I think it hit their attention because it wasn’t the typical anti-Trump crowd,” said one moderate House Republican who reached out to express concerns to the White House.

“Even if there was no profiting, the appearance of impropriety caused major heartburn,” the GOP lawmaker added. “Many of us viewed it as an unforced error even though I believe Trump when he says he was trying to limit costs and go to a secure location.”

The pushback arrives as Trump has become increasingly isolated on a handful of issues churning headlines this month — and creating new headaches for the president and his allies on Capitol Hill.

{mossecondads}Last week, after Trump pulled U.S. troops from northern Syria, House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on a resolution rebuking the decision. The absence of U.S. forces had led to an immediate invasion by Turkish troops that threatened to obliterate the Kurdish rebels who have fought against ISIS on behalf of the United States for years. Almost 130 Republicans voted with Democrats to condemn the move — joining prominent Senate critics like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — and many are still pressing Trump to reverse the decision.

The Kurds “stood with us in the fight against ISIS; they took 10,000 deaths, at least,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, told CNN on Monday. He also dressed down Defense Secretary Mark Esper about the Syria pullout in a closed-door GOP meeting last week.

“To leave just so quickly without a negotiated solution, it obviously was disheartening to a lot of us,” he said.

On Ukraine, the president has also seen a recent erosion of GOP support, fueled by Mulvaney’s remarks Thursday — since retracted — indicating that Trump had sought a quid pro quo leveraging U.S. military aid to Ukraine in return for political favors. Those dealings have become the focus of the Democrats’ month-old impeachment inquiry into the president, and several Republicans haven’t ruled out the possibility that they’d vote for impeachment articles, if the process evolves that far.

Both Kinzinger and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), who represents a deeply conservative district which Trump carried by 20 points in 2016, are now leaving open the possibility of joining the Democrats’ impeachment push. A third Republican, a moderate, also told The Hill he can’t rule out backing impeachment until he sees all the evidence of the Ukraine probe.

“Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly quite clear right now that the actions were related to getting … Ukraine to do some of these things,” Rooney, a former ambassador under former President George W. Bush, told CNN over the weekend.

Rooney is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the three panels leading the’ impeachment inquiry. As part of that effort, the committees have deposed a series of witnesses — both inside and outside the administration — with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian leaders.

Most Republicans participating in those depositions have remained fiercely faithful to Trump, saying the president has done nothing wrong and accusing Democrats of conducting a counterfeit impeachment process that denies the public a window into the proceedings.

In fact, Trump’s House Freedom Caucus allies on Monday night forced a vote on a resolution to censure Democrats’ point person on impeachment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

“This is about impeaching the president of the United States 13 months before an election because they’re afraid that he’s going to win in 2020,” former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told Fox on Monday. “That’s what this is about.”

Despite the fact that GOP leaders are rallying behind Trump, at Monday’s Cabinet meeting the president — famous for demanding loyalty — decried what he views as treachery within the GOP ranks as the impeachment drum grows louder. Trump lamented that Democrats don’t have the same problem, even though they’ve fought high-profile battles over impeachment and returning Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the Speaker’s office during the past 12 months.

“The two things they have: They’re vicious and they stick together,” Trump said of Democrats. “They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don’t have people like that.”

Brett Samuels contributed.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Adam Schiff Andrew Napolitano Donald Trump Francis Rooney Fred Upton Jim Jordan Mark Esper Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Pete King

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