Republican Party

Republicans not pleased with Trump's verbal attacks in Mar-a-Lago speech

Former president has reemerged into the world of GOP politics

Several GOP leaders pushed back on Trump's fiery rhetoric, deeming it “not helpful” in uniting the Republican Party before the 2022 elections

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

Several Republican leaders on Sunday expressed concern at incendiary comments made by former President Donald Trump during a speech Saturday night at a Republican National Committee donor retreat. “Anything that's divisive is a concern and is not helpful for us fighting the battles in Washington and at the state level,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “In some ways, it's not a big deal, what he said, but, at the same time, whenever it draws attention, we don't need that. We need unity.”

The former president went off-script in a roughly 50-minute keynote speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, ripping into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, even calling him a “dumb son of a bitch.” Trump also took aim at former Vice President Mike Pence — saying he was “disappointed” in him for not fighting the certification of the election results in January — as well as Anthony Fauci, who Trump said was “full of crap.”

Trump’s verbal attacks come as the former president has reemerged into the world of GOP politics in recent days — ramping up fundraising efforts and shelling out endorsements for the 2022 midterm elections.

Several GOP leaders pushed back on Trump's fiery rhetoric, deeming it “not helpful” in uniting the Republican Party before the 2022 elections.

When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd whether Trump’s voice is “helpful” to the Republican Party, Hutchinson, the Arkansas governor, responded: “Well, I don't think his most recent comments about Sen. McConnell were helpful if they were reported accurately.”

“So to me, you've got to engage in the fight that we have in 2022,” Hutchinson continued. “Right now, we've got some important fights in Washington about a big government solution to every problem that we have. And the Republican voice is important.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), an outspoken critic of the former president, told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on CBS that Trump in his Mar-a-Lago speech used “the same language that he knows provoked violence on Jan. 6.”

“As a party, we need to be focused on the future. We need to be focused on embracing the Constitution, not embracing insurrection. I think it's very important for people to realize that a fundamental part of the Constitution, and of who we are as Americans, is the rule of law, it's the judicial process,” Cheney said.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that amid Trump’s rhetoric and “some of the things flying back and forth,” Republicans — including Trump and McConnell — should be united in “working to defeat Democrats.”

Thune, like McConnell, has been the target of Trump's ire in recent months for refusing to support Trump's challenge to the 2020 presidential election results.

“Well, look, it's just — like I said, I think a lot of that rhetoric is — you know, it's part of the style and tone that comes with the former president, but I think he and Mitch McConnell have a common goal, and that is getting the majority back in 2022, and in the end hopefully that will be the thing that unites us,” Thune said.

Matt Gaetz and a spokesman for Donald Trump reacted angrily late on Sunday after CNN reported that the scandal-hit Florida Republican congressman sought a meeting with the former US president when allegations of sex-trafficking and illegal drug use were first reported – and was rebuffed.

CNN cited two anonymous sources who “said Gaetz tried to schedule a visit with Trump after it was first revealed that he was being investigated”. It said “the request was rejected by aides close to the former president”.

The New York Times first reported federal investigations of Gaetz on 30 March. Since then, multiple reports have linked the congressman to an ally in Florida indicted for sex trafficking and other crimes but reported to be close to a deal with prosecutors.

Gaetz is reported to be under investigation for possible sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl; for allegedly paying for sex; for alleged use of illegal drugs; and for allegedly showing House members nude pictures of women.

He denies all accusations. The Times has also reported that towards the end of Trump’s time in power, Gaetz sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon. Trump denied receiving such a request.

In response to the CNN report, Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller, tweeted: “This story is complete fake news. No such scheduling or meeting request was ever made, and therefore, it could never have been declined. Take note that this story has zero on-the-record sources. It’s literally made-up. We are demanding a full retraction.”

Trump and his aides and supporters regularly complain about stories in which anonymous sources are used – a common practice in US media.

This weekend saw Republicans and donors gather for events in Florida. According to reports of Trump’s remarks at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, he did not mention Gaetz when he thanked supporters including the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

Gaetz spoke at a Trump golf course on Friday. Telling a pro-Trump women’s group “truth will prevail”, he added: “I know this. Firebrands don’t retreat, especially when the battle for the soul of our country calls.”

On Twitter, Gaetz called the CNN report “a total lie. I am on a pre-planned vacation with my fiancée. I was welcomed at Trump Doral days ago. No such meeting was denied nor sought.”

But the CNN report said Gaetz had sought a meeting “after it was first revealed that he was being investigated”. It also quoted an anonymous source who said aides to the former president “were under the impression that Gaetz went down [to Florida this weekend] to try and run into Trump or people around him”.

Leading Republicans continue to keep their distance from Gaetz, one consultant even saying “a 10ft pole is not long enough” for Trump.

On Sunday Liz Cheney, a member of House Republican leadership and a target of attacks by Gaetz, told CBS the allegations were “sickening” but did not call for Gaetz to resign. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told the same network she preferred to let a House ethics investigation continue.

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