From “unhinged” to “reprehensible” to “wacky,” Democratic lawmakers had harsh words for President Donald Trump and Republicans after the president and his allies in Congress over the weekend tried to defend his phone call pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Since Sunday, Trump has blamed the “corrupt media” for not accepting conspiracy theories about Biden and his son Hunter, called for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to be arrested for treason, demanded to meet the whistleblower who alerted the public to his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and retweeted a sentiment that removing him from office would result in a “Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
Democrats believe the president’s behavior since Speaker Nancy Pelosi supported an official impeachment inquiry last week shows he is in meltdown.
Trump’s endorsement of a tweet by his spiritual adviser and Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress warning of civil war if he is removed drew criticism from some in his own party, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
“I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. @realDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant,” tweeted Kinzinger, who has not been shy about admonishing Trump for some of his most bombastic rhetoric.
Democrats indicated over the weekend that they have come to expect Trump to lash out at his political opponents and push the boundaries of rhetoric and executive branch norms when he feels threatened politically, but they called on their GOP counterparts in the House and Senate to stand up to the president’s words and actions.
So far, most have either declined to comment on Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy or defended the president.
“The line must be drawn here,” Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia wrote in a retweet of Kinzinger’s statement scolding Trump for the civil war comments.
“The President is testing to see who will echo or silently accept threats of violence. Republicans in Congress must join @RepKinzinger and say ‘no.’ The strength of our democratic institutions and even American lives may depend on them speaking out,” Beyer wrote.
The line must be drawn here.The President is testing to see who will echo or silently accept threats of violence. Republicans in Congress must join @RepKinzinger and say “no.” The strength of our democratic institutions and even American lives may depend on them speaking out. https://t.co/hNS1EtZtkK — Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) September 30, 2019
Other Democratic lawmakers speculated that sticking with Trump is a losing path for Republicans.
“These elected republicans have to figure out, like for real, last chance, if they want to go out like this,” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, one of the most active Democrats on Twitter, wrote Sunday in response to a question from fellow Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
Snark aside I think these elected republicans have to figure out, like for real, last chance, if they want to go out like this.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 30, 2019
Republican lawmakers had contentious interviews Sunday as they tried to deflect attention back onto Biden’s son’s dealings with a Ukrainian energy company on whose board he sat.
Trump’s former homeland security adviser told ABC on Sunday that the conspiracy theories of corruption surrounding Hunter Biden’s work with the company have been “completely debunked,” but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight and Reform ranking member Jim Jordan continued to put forward the theories as some kind of proof Trump was acting in good faith on his call with Zelenskiy.
“It is completely debunked,” Thomas Bossert, the former homeland security adviser, said of Ukraine-Biden allegations.
Bossert expressed frustration that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who has been the driving force pushing the theory publicly, has continued filling the president’s head with it.
“I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president,” Bossert said. “It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity,” he said to “This Week” host George Stephanopolous.
Democrats are accusing the president of misusing his power by holding up taxpayer-funded military assistance to Ukraine to garner a personal political benefit of possibly harming Biden’s chances of securing the Democratic nomination.
Numerous public opinion polls show Biden leading Trump nationally and in key battleground states, though Trump’s campaign and analysts say such surveys are not reliable this far out from the election.
“That is self evident that it is not right,” Pelosi said last week. “We don’t ask foreign governments to help us in our elections. That’s what we tried to stop with Russia. It’s wrong.”
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.