WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is embroiled in another controversy, and this time some Republicans on Capitol Hill are less willing to defend him.
After dining with notorious white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye, who has come under fire for anti-Semitic remarks, Trump faces mounting charges from Republican senators, including some nominal allies who rarely, if ever, question him or his actions. criticize.
In interviews as the Senate returned from Thanksgiving recess on Monday, responses from Senate Republicans ranged from stunned disbelief to calls to shake up Trump’s team of advisers to a sense of vindication among his staunchest critics within the party. There was little desire to ignore or brush off the incident, as most GOP lawmakers typically do when Trump stirs controversy, and little indication that any of them wanted to defend a former president of their party.
“Ridiculous. That’s all I have to say about that,” said Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of the Senate Republican leadership. “I have no idea what’s happening. But again, it’s really ridiculous that he would do that.”
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., also searched for the right word to describe the dinner meeting. Like Ernst, she too ended up on ‘ridiculous’.
“I think he definitely needs to know who he’s dining with, and I think it’s, uh — I want to make sure I’m using the right word… I think it’s completely ridiculous to sit down with someone who espouses such views ,” Capito told reporters.
When asked if she blames Trump or his staff, Capito replied, “We are all responsible for our own actions.”
Trump claimed on Friday that he “knew nothing” about Fuentes, a well-known figure in far-right circles, saying he showed up “unexpectedly” to dinner with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.
Rarely breaking with Trump, the normally reticent conservative Sen. Deb Fisher, R-Neb., said of Fuentes when asked about Monday’s dinner: “I think it’s always wrong to listen to the rhetoric of that gentleman — or that person — to elevate. employs.”
Trump recently announced his plans to run for president again in 2024, and it remains unclear whether criticism from GOP senators will continue, much less loosen his iron grip on the party base.
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, issued a fiery rebuke to Trump and his decision to dine with Fuentes and Ye, calling it “a character issue.”
“There is no bottom to the extent that he is willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Dining with those people was disgusting,” Romney said, pointing out that he “voted for removal.” [Trump] twice from office” and saying “someone else” would be a better party leader.
“I don’t think he should be president of the United States. I don’t think he should be our party’s candidate in 2024,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
R-Maine Senator Susan Collins, who voted to convict Trump in his 2021 impeachment trial, said: “I condemn white supremacy and anti-Semitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”
Those weren’t the questions GOP senators wanted to answer on the first day back from their Thanksgiving vacation at the Capitol. But given the seriousness of the problem, some lawmakers acknowledged that “no comment” — a standard response if Trump gets into trouble — wouldn’t be enough.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., a golf partner of Trump, said Trump made the wrong decision to dine with Fuentes and Ye, though he doubted it would hurt Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
“No, the meeting was bad. He shouldn’t have done it,’ Graham said. “But again, you know, there’s double standards in this sort of thing. And I don’t think it matters for his political future, but I do think we have to be careful who we meet. We shouldn’t give oxygen to people who think like that.
“And here’s another thought: If a guy’s name is Yeh or Ye, you probably shouldn’t be with them,” Graham said, sounding unsure about how to pronounce the rapper’s name.
Others made broad denunciations of anti-Semitism without mentioning Trump or Fuentes.
“We cannot tolerate anti-Semitism, period,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the incoming chairman of the Senate National Republican Committee.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the outgoing NRSC chairman, said, “There’s no room in the Republican Party for white supremacist anti-Semitism — so it’s wrong.”
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “Antisemitism is wrong, and white supremacy is wrong, and that’s all. That’s what I believe.”
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, a top lieutenant for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he couldn’t be bothered about questions about Trump and Fuentes.
‘I don’t know who that is. And I see no reason for me to comment on what private individuals themselves do or do not do,’ says Cornyn. “I have more important things to do.”
McConnell indicated he would address the issue at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. In the House, which is expected to return to session Tuesday, R-Calif. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is leaning right to try to win votes to become speaker next year, had not commented.
Trump has blamed Ye for bringing Fuentes to the dinner. Writing on Truth Social, Trump called Ye a “man with serious problems” and said he had no idea who Fuentes was.
Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C., said he took Trump at his word and blamed Trump staff for not vetting Fuentes.
“If the reports are true and the president didn’t know who he was, whoever let him into the room should be fired,” Tillis said.
Several would-be 2024 rivals accused Trump of negotiating with Fuentes, including his own vice president, Mike Pence, who said Trump “showed very poor judgment.”
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table. And I think he should apologize for it and he should unreservedly denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric,” Pence said in an appearance on Monday. NewsNation.
“I do not believe that Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot. If he had been, I wouldn’t have been his vice president,” Pence added. “People often forget that the president’s daughter has converted to Judaism, that his son-in-law is a devout Jew, and that his grandchildren are Jewish.”