Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks

House Republicans on Thursday rebuked President Trump’s attacks on the late Democratic Rep. John Dingell (Mich.) and his widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), with several GOP lawmakers calling the remarks inappropriate and urging Trump to apologize.

“It’s extraordinarily inappropriate,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDemocrats eye remote voting options Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive House Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package MORE (R-Okla.), a former member of GOP leadership who has served with both John and Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellCoronavirus stimulus package shouldn't leave out older Americans Pentagon cleanup of toxic 'forever chemicals' likely to last decades Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget MORE, told The Hill. 

“Anyone who served with John DingellJohn DingellThe Memo: Trump tests limits of fiery attacks during crisis Overwhelming majority of voters say civility is needed in politics Lawmakers discuss how to work together in midst of impeachment fight MORE respected him, knew he was a very serious legislator and that he represented the House of Representatives with the highest personal and professional integrity.”  

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During a rally in Michigan on Wednesday night, Trump took aim at the family following Debbie Dingell’s votes in favor of two articles of impeachment, suggesting the former dean of the House was “looking up” from hell after noting he lowered flags to half-staff in the wake of his death. 

“She calls me up. 'It's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John should be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled,” Trump said. “'Thank you so much, sir.' I said, 'That's OK, don't worry about it.' Maybe he's looking up. I don't know.”  

The criticism of Trump was especially sharp from fellow members of Dingell’s Michigan delegation. Reps. Fred Upton and retiring Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellHundreds of thousands of masks missing from federal shipments to Michigan On The Money: Pelosi announces deal over coronavirus package | Questions remain about Trump's support | Trump declares national emergency | Stocks rally to close out wild week Lawmakers call on IRS to push back tax filing deadline MORE, both Michigan Republicans, called on Trump to apologize to Dingell.

“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell — my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to 'dis' him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due,” Upton tweeted following the rally. 

Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) said Trump should refrain from casting judgment on his critics and praised Dingell’s character, noting that while they may have conflicting views at times, she doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to attempt to smear a deceased member’s legacy. 

“I think it's really sad. It's a really, really terrible thing to say. It's Christmas, to make jokes about where people are spending eternity — you must be really sure about where you're spending your eternity, right? It's terrible,” she told The Hill on Thursday.  

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“Debbie and I don't agree on everything, but she's an awesome lady and she doesn't deserve to have her husband's legacy turned into a political talking point, a political joke. It's terrible.” 

Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill MORE (R-N.Y.) said he hopes Trump takes the criticisms of his comments and uses it as an opportunity to reevaluate his discourse. 

“I was with Debbie, after the vote last night and she was obviously quite upset and, you know, I can, I can personally attest, in my humble opinion, knowing John Dingell and knowing Debbie Dingell, and they're honorable men and women,” he told The Hill.  

“He's resting well in heaven. And, you know, it's something I'm disappointed in, that type of commentary and, hopefully, the president and others will learn from it that this rhetoric has to come to an end.” 

Rep. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksThe rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 Hispanic Democrats endorse Latina for open Indiana seat Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (R-Ind.) said while she never served with John Dingell, she respects his service to the country, telling The Hill she was found the attacks “disappointing.” 

“Debbie is a friend, I never served with John Dingell, but obviously his contributions to our country were so significant in so many ways from being a veteran to serving here so long, so I, of course, was just disappointed,” she said. 

And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyLysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House Trump signs T coronavirus relief package Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing MORE (R-Calif.) referred to both Dingells as friends, telling reporters at a press conference Thursday that he found John Dingell to be "a very strong individual, a very bright individual, and I think he made a great contribution to America."

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said he isn’t in favor of the language used, adding that the stress of impeachment could have been a factor in the president’s remarks. 

“I didn't hear them until this morning and you know, it's not something I would have said. I'm sure he was stressed at the moment, I mean he's having a rally while he's being impeached,” he said. “Yes, there are some things that should be left unsaid."

Some retiring GOP lawmakers did not believe that Trump would level such an attack, even though he said it.

“I know you wouldn’t mischaracterize it, but I find it difficult to accept that characterization,” retiring Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallOmar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat House candidate asks FEC to let her use campaign funds for health insurance House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts MORE (R-Ga.) told The Hill. “I’ll have to look at that.”

Debbie Dingell told reporters Thursday morning that the outpouring of support has come from friends on both sides of the aisle. 

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Friends she has working in the Trump White House reached out to her, though she declined to name any of them, and roughly 20 Republicans lined up on the House floor to offer their support, including House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySelf-quarantined New York lawmaker: 'We should be in total lockdown' On The Money: Trump hopes to reopen economy by Easter | GOP senators expect stimulus vote on Wednesday | Democratic leaders forecast at least two more relief bills Trump triggers congressional debate with comments on reopening economy MORE (Wyo.) and conservative Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertLysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House The Hill's 12:30 Report: What we know about T stimulus deal Democrats eye remote voting options MORE (R-Texas). 

Some Republicans apologized for the president’s behavior, she said. Dingell told them they had no reason to apologize because they didn’t utter those words.

“Some of the Republicans said this to me today, that in some ways John’s still up there, because what could have been a really tough day on the floor [after impeachment] brought people together as a community because people are really supporting me, giving me hugs,” Dingell said. 

“I think that sometimes we forget that, one, the people in this House are human with all the emotions that other people have and, two, we do care about each other.”

Trump’s remarks come at an especially difficult time for Dingell, she said. These are the first holidays she will be spending without her late husband, and her brother-in-law, John Dingell’s brother, is currently in hospice care.

John Dingell, who held the title dean of the House because he was the longest-serving lawmaker, died Feb. 7 at age 92. Debbie Dingell said she was surprised by Trump’s remarks because he personally called her to offer condolences after John Dingell’s passing.

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But Dingell’s decision to fundraise off of Trump’s attacks also have raised some eyebrows. In an email to supporters, the Dingell campaign slammed Trump for “insulting the legacy of her husband.”

“We urgently need 500 supporters to step up right now and donate as a way of saying: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE, you are not going to get away with bullying and insulting our congresswoman,” the email said.

Democrats were livid at Trump’s attacks. In a scathing tweet, House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHouse Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Kentucky Democrat: House lawmakers will not vote remotely during outbreak Dem Congressman: Coronavirus stimulus should be bigger than 2008 MORE (D-Ky.) called Trump “not only a criminal, he is impulsively cruel and truly rotten to the core."

“Hell will be too good for him,” Yarmuth said. 

Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeLysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House House passes trillion coronavirus relief bill, with Trump to sign quickly Congressional leaders downplay possibility of Capitol closing due to coronavirus MORE (D-Mich.), a close friend to both Dingells, ripped the president’s comments as “absolutely despicable.” 

“He is the unique combination of ignorance and evil that I have never seen before. What he said is just pathetic,” Kildee told The Hill.

“It has nothing to do with the impeachment vote yesterday. But these Republicans who are wrapping their arms around him like he's the Second Coming are going to have to have a conversation with their conscience about whether they really want to embrace and express all this love and fealty to a guy who's willing to make that kind of a statement.”