Republican criticism of Trump builds after his dinner with a white supremacist
Republicans in Congress criticized Donald Trump and denounced antisemitism after the former president dined with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye.
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is embroiled in another controversy, and this time some Republicans on Capitol Hill are less willing to defend him.
After he dined with the notorious white supremacist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, who has come under fire for antisemitic remarks, Trump faces growing denunciations from Republican senators, including some nominal allies who rarely — if ever — criticize him or his actions.
In interviews when the Senate returned from Thanksgiving recess Monday, the reactions from Senate Republicans ranged from aghast 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 stokes controversy, and scant 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 Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of Senate Republican leadership. “I have no idea what’s going on. But again, it is really ridiculous that he would do that.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also searched for the right word to describe the dinner meeting. Like Ernst, she, too, landed on “ridiculous.”
“I think he should certainly know who he’s dining with, and I find it, uh — I want to make sure I use the right word ... I totally think it’s ridiculous to be sitting down with somebody who espouses such views,” Capito told reporters.
Asked whether she blames Trump or his staff, Capito replied: “We’re all responsible for our own actions.”
Trump claimed Friday that he “knew nothing about” Fuentes, a known figure in far-right circles, saying he showed up “unexpectedly” at the dinner with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.
The normally reticent conservative Sen. Deb Fisher, R-Neb., made a rare break with Trump, saying of Fuentes when she was asked about the dinner Monday: “I think it’s always wrong to elevate the rhetoric that gentleman — or that person — employs.”
Trump recently announced his plans to run for president again in 2024, and it remains unclear whether the criticism from GOP senators will persist, much less loosen his iron grip on the party base.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, offered a fiery rebuke of Trump and his decision to dine with Fuentes and Ye, calling it “a character issue.”
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said, noting that he “voted to remove [Trump] from office twice” and saying “anybody 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 the nominee of our party in 2024,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted to convict Trump in his 2021 impeachment trial, said: “I condemn white supremacy and antisemitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”
Those weren’t the questions GOP senators wanted to be answering in the Capitol on the first day back from their Thanksgiving holiday. But given the seriousness of the issue, some lawmakers recognized that “no comment” — a standard go-to response when Trump gets in trouble — wouldn’t suffice.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump golfing partner, said Trump made the wrong decision to dine with Fuentes and Ye, although he doubted it would damage Trump's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.