An Outbreak of Republican Truth-Telling
Some in the GOP are engaging in career-ending straight talk.
LAST WEEK A GOP SENATOR suggested that a president could defy a Supreme Court ruling and that Congress should be able to decide presidential elections. A Republican House leader agreed with him that Congress could reject electors. Both are dangerous lies.
A bipartisan agreement to fix an unprecedented crisis at the border was killed by Republicans at the behest of Donald Trump, who wants to campaign on problems and opposes a solution.
After months of delaying and obfuscating on security assistance for Ukraine, as the situation has grown more desperate there, House Republicans finally came out and admitted their original demand for immigration policy in exchange for that aid was not a legitimate offer and that nothing can make them support it. So: no border bill, and no funds to defend Ukraine.
All of these are signs of Trump’s strength, not weakness. Which makes it a curious time—in a dark week of lies, distortion, and submission—for some Republicans to suddenly try telling the truth now that the hour has come to toe the line for good.
For a limited time get 30 days FREE: Join a community that values telling the truth in all seasons. Sign up for a free or paid subscription today.
There was Sen. Thom Tillis, who called out his colleagues for playing politics on Ukraine—hiding behind voter sentiment and Trump’s wishes to oppose military aid.
“Our base cannot possibly know what’s at stake at the level that any well-briefed U.S. senator should know about what’s at stake if Putin wins,” Tillis said, according to Punchbowl News.
“Some people around here—if they really are being driven just by the perceptions of their base, they should grow a spine and explain if they think it’s a tough vote.”
Then there was Sen. James Lankford, who had been deputized by his leadership to craft the immigration compromise that Trump tanked. Lankford isn’t likely to survive another election in Oklahoma after such apostasy, so he felt free to reveal on the Senate floor last week how he had been threatened: “I had a popular commentator . . . that told me flat out, ‘If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you.’”
The junior senator from Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin, was stunned at the treatment his senior senator—a former pastor and Bible camp director—has received back home. “There’s been people saying that [Lankford] is immoral. If that guy’s immoral, I’m literally swimming in flames,” Mullin told Politico.
And Rep. Chip Roy, who had backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s primary campaign against Trump, was clearly more frustrated by the lies his party is telling about the border than he was worried about getting back in Trump’s favor.
“I saw former president Trump make that allegation earlier today on one of his social media posts. ‘All a president has to do is declare the border is closed, and it’s closed.’ Well, with all due respect, that didn’t happen in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. There were millions of people who came into the United States during those four years,” Roy said on the House floor.
Lankford’s Senate colleagues who supported his draft bill weren’t pleased House Speaker Mike Johnson was willing to block consideration in the House for Trump, and Sen. Kevin Cramer was willing to say so. He mocked House Republicans’ failed attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and said, “What’s rich to me is the speaker says the [border] bill in the Senate is . . . dead on arrival. And then they proceed impeaching a cabinet secretary, which is obviously dead on arrival.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher told the truth about the Mayorkas impeachment—that impeaching a cabinet secretary for doing a bad job would create a “new, lower” threshold that would “set a dangerous new precedent that will be weaponized against future Republican administrations.”
Gallagher was one of three Republicans to vote against the impeachment, was attacked for it, and announced Saturday that he is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.
When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an impeachment manager, railed against the three Republicans who opposed impeaching Mayorkas, another of the three, Rep. Tom McClintock, lashed back at her. Greene accused McClintock of “failing his oath of office,” and suggested he “read the room”; McClintock responded by saying “instead of her reading the room, I’d suggest that maybe she read the Constitution she took an oath to support and defend.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who started the week chastising his colleagues for sabotaging the border bill as “a pretty unacceptable dereliction of your duty,” finished the week basically saying Rep. Elise Stefanik had been less than truthful about the Constitution.
Stefanik, auditioning for Trump’s ticket, went on CNN Thursday for another provocative performance and said Vice President Mike Pence mishandled January 6th. She said she would have rejected the electoral votes certified by the states: “I would not have done what Mike Pence did. I don’t think that was the right approach.”
Crenshaw was asked about it on CNN the following day and said that while he would support Stefanik as vice president, she was “so completely incorrect,” and that the vice president has no power to decertify an election. “So this idea that there even is this mechanism for Congress to decertify an election is just—it’s totally wrong,” he said.
Predictably Trump ally and MAGA troll Alex Bruesewitz accused Crenshaw of “running to the media” to attack Stefanik. “Pathetic Dan. What do they have on you?” he tweeted.
To speak one’s mind, to refuse to tolerate lies, is to be compromised by the deep state. Because in the Trump cult, there would never otherwise be any motivation to do the right thing or tell the truth.
It’s notable that a sudden interest in defending the Constitution, by any Republican, now rises to the level of news—just ask Pence himself. And it was interesting that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has made clear he will support Trump because Biden is so terrible, saw fit to go on ABC News last weekend, aware he would be asked questions about Trump. Asked by Jon Karl whether a president is entitled to absolute immunity for his crimes Kemp said no. “My personal opinion is, no one is above the law,” Kemp said, adding “You know, I’ve continued to talk about following the law and the Constitution and that’s what I’m going to continue to do in the great state of Georgia.”
While Kemp won’t be run out of office any time soon for his comments, Crenshaw sounds like someone ready to give up his House seat. Such blunt assessments, unsparing facts, and direct criticism of Trump’s party line on things like election denial, let alone of Trump himself, is no longer permitted in today’s GOP.
One other prominent Republican has spoken rare truths in the last few days. Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign might seem like little more than a vanity project, but she at least is speaking with increasing candor about Trump. On Monday, she called his inflammatory recent comments about NATO—encouraging Russia to attack NATO allies—“unthinkable.” Haley noted that when Trump was president, he talked “many times about getting out of NATO.” She called NATO “a success story” and asked, “Why would you go out of your way to put our allies and our military in harm’s way?”
Haley didn’t have company from Republicans condemning Trump’s remarks on Russia. Not many of them criticized Trump for bizarrely mocking her husband this weekend either. Trump questioned where Haley’s husband was. She tweeted in reply:
Haley sure seems liberated from years of defending the indefensible. While she’s unlikely to endorse President Joe Biden, she doesn’t sound like she will ever endorse Trump—which is not nothing.
Siding publicly with Haley on anything will invite death threats for Republicans, so she’s on her own. Yet the realization of Trump’s nomination, and the potential of him winning again, is distressing enough to some Republicans that they are trying to unburden themselves with small doses of honesty—if not about him then about Ukraine, or the GOP’s contempt for governing, or about their obligation to the Constitution.
Their quiet chirps for help do nothing to mitigate the threat of Trump. And if he wins, even they will go silent.