WASHINGTON ― Top Republican lawmakers brushed aside questions about former President Donald Trump’s alarming vow to purge his political opponents, which he referred to as “vermin” in a Veterans’ Day message over the weekend.
“Is that worse than ‘deplorables’? I don’t use that kind of language, but it’s a free country,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told HuffPost on Monday, citing a comment former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton repeated about Trump supporters in 2016.
“Real Hitlers are called Hamas,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) added, referring to the militant group that launched a bloody attack against Israel last month.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also brought up the “deplorables” remark when asked about Trump’s pledge.
“Are you kidding me? After Hillary Clinton called us all deplorables, people are actually offended by that?” she told HuffPost. “She basically said that half of the country was beneath her and beneath everybody else.”
Asked whether the terms were comparable, given that Trump’s language had historical overtones of 1930s-era fascism, Greene said, “I would say that the Democrats are 1930s fascists and Nazis and your publication is horrible.”
Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, shared a message on his social media platform Truth Social in which he vowed to “root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American Dream.”
Trump’s critics, including President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, said the former president had echoed the language of dictators who sought to dehumanize their opponents, including Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
“On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini ― two dictators many U.S. veterans gave their lives fighting,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also drew comparisons to Nazi Germany after Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel dodged questions about Trump’s comments in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press’ on Sunday.
“When @GOPChairwoman refuses to condemn the GOP’s leading candidate for using the same Nazi propaganda that mobilized 1930s-40s Germany to evil, it’s fair to assume she’s collaborating,” Cheney wrote in a post on X. “History will judge Ronna McDaniel and every republican who is appeasing this dangerous man.”
Trump’s hold on the GOP is still as strong as ever, and it’s clear that most Republican voters want to see him become president again. Over the weekend Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a well-liked establishment figure who bet on a hopeful, optimistic message to voters, shocked just about everyone by suspending his presidential campaign.
With just over two months until the GOP Iowa caucuses, time is quickly running out ― and may be up already ― for someone to stop Trump from becoming his party’s standard-bearer again.
“He’s very clearly completely in charge of the party, and they’re not going to put up a fight no matter how reckless or irresponsible he gets,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “His second term would be dystopian, it just would. All the stuff he wanted to do but didn’t get away with because he had a handful of semi-responsible people around him.”
Some Republican House members said they would not comment on the remark because they had not seen it or heard it. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said, “I would have to see the context.”
And some said Trump’s rhetoric mattered less than his record. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said, “I just care what people do. I don’t care what people say.”
But one House Republican did say he disagreed with Trump’s remark. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas at first said he’d learned it wasn’t a good use of time to comment on things Trump had said. But he quickly decided to do so anyway.
“Let me just put it this way. I often don’t agree and have been very public in my disagreements,” he said.
Asked if this was one of those times, Roy said, “Of course I disagree with that.”
Jonathan Nicholson contributed to this story.