Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump

Nineteen House Republicans have announced they will be leaving Congress.

Republicans are now fleeing Congress at a similar rate as they did in advance of the 2018 midterms when Democrats captured the House majority by winning 41 seats.

Polling released last week suggests Republican voters — and their politicians on Capitol Hill — are increasingly exhausted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE’s lies, corruption and bullying.

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Fifty-six percent of Americans told the Associated Press poll they would not describe Trump as “honest.”

That’s not just Democrats calling out Trump.

Almost half of Republicans can’t say that Trump is honest.

To be precise, only 53 percent of Republicans say the word "honest" describes Trump “very or extremely well,” according to the poll by The Associated Press–NORC.

That leaves a lot of Republicans to live with a painful reality.

They know Trump, a man they regard as less than fully honest, is likely to be at the top of the 2020 ticket for a Republican Party that advertises itself as the home of evangelicals, American tradition and family values.

And there is another poll result showing why congressional Republicans are looking for the exit.

The same poll found 61 percent of Americans think Trump has “little or no respect for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions.”

Remember, Trump is the leader of a party that loves to talk about the Founding Fathers and defending the Constitution and American traditions.

By the way, 26 percent of law-and-order loving Republicans admit in the poll that Trump does not care about the nation’s constitutional-based government.

And get this — 33 percent, a third of Republicans, said Trump does not make them “proud.”

This implosion of Republican self-image, their eroding view of themselves as guardians of American values with Trump in the White House, helps explain why so many Republicans are leaving Congress.

A month ago, The Washington Post described the number of Republicans choosing to retire as “staggering.” By their count “41 House Republicans have left national politics or announced they won’t seek reelection in the nearly three years since Trump took office.”

Longtime GOP Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban MORE (Ore.) became the 19th House Republican to announce his retirement last week.

Recently, Walden was twice targeted by Trump’s MAGA mob on conservative social media. First, he was cursed for his lack of loyalty to Trump for opposing the president’s grab of military funding to pay for a wall on the Mexican border.

Then Walden was lashed for condemning Trump’s racist tweet suggesting that four Democratic congresswomen of color “go back” where they came from, even though three of the four were born in the U.S.

In Trump’s own words, Republicans who criticize him are “human scum.”

In the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority, this battle for the soul of the party is also pushing conservatives with a conscience to the exits.

For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Saagar Enjeti claims Pelosi's impeachment strategy could hurt 2020 Democrats MORE (R-N.C.) has already announced he will retire rather than run again in 2022.

In May, Trump criticized Burr for issuing a subpoena for the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpConway and Haley get into heated feud: 'You'll say anything to get the vice-presidential nomination' Conservative group cuts ties with Michelle Malkin Conservatives seek to stifle new 'alt-right' movement steeped in anti-Semitism MORE to testify about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At that time, The New York Times described Burr as facing an “extraordinary pressure campaign ... forcing [GOP] senators to choose between their loyalty to the Intelligence Committee and to the president’s family.”

Four other veteran GOP senators are already choosing to quit rather than run on the 2020 ticket with Trump: Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies MORE (Tenn.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (Wyo.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonVeterans face growing threat from online disinformation Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump MORE (Ga.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Pressure builds on Pompeo as impeachment inquiry charges ahead GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (Kan.).

Then there are five Republicans who want to stay in the Senate but find that being called on to blindly defend Trump’s behavior is creating the toughest reelection fights of their political lives: Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Progressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (Maine), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstProgressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Turkish media paints White House visit as Erdoğan triumph over Trump MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs: Study This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE (Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyProgressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' MORE (Ariz.), and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Progressive group to spend as much as M to turn out young voters This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE (N.C.).

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Meanwhile, Trump’s most open GOP critic in the Senate, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah MORE (Utah), is regularly savaged by Trump’s media defenders. Rush Limbaugh, the talk show host, told listeners without any proof that Romney is working with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) and had “assured her there was Republican support to remove Trump.”

That kind of political beating keeps most congressional Republicans from breaking with Trump, but it can’t stop others from leaving.

There are glimmers of courage, however, with Senate Republicans exhibiting some conscience in the last month.

A high level of congressional Republican criticism also led Trump to back down on plans to help himself financially by holding an international summit at his struggling resort in Doral, Fla.

“I think there was a lot of concern,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeNew hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs Bottom Line Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump MORE (R-Okla.), a member of Republican leadership, told The New York Times.

But moments of conscience are the exception for congressional Republicans in the Trump era.

Three years into Trump, the options for Republicans who tire of his lies, his bullying and his claim to “great and unmatched wisdom” remain painfully clear — say nothing or head for the door.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.