Senate Republicans on Monday recoiled at former President Trump’s comments at a rally in New Hampshire over the weekend, where he said the thousands of immigrants streaming into the United States on a daily basis are “poisoning the blood of our country.”
They also balked at Trump quoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of the American political system as a defense against the 91 felony counts he is facing in Washington, D.C., Miami and New York.
“I think it’s unhelpful rhetoric,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) leadership team, when asked about Trump’s claim that immigrants are “poisoning” the country.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), another member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said, “Obviously, I don’t agree with that.”
“We’re all children of immigrants,” she said. “It’s just part of his campaign rhetoric, I guess. I don’t know, I can’t explain it.”
Asked about Trump citing Putin to argue that the criminal charges against him show the “rottenness” of the American system, Capito said: “I can’t be accountable for what he says.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (Ky.), the No. 2-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Trump’s rhetoric crossed the line, even though he and many Republicans agree that the surge of migrants across the Southern border has become a major national security problem.
“My grandfather was an immigrant so I don’t agree with that sentiment,” he said.
Thune, however, said that Biden has failed to enforce immigration laws by releasing thousands of migrants who cross the border illegally into the country on a daily basis.
“We are a nation of immigrants, we’re a welcoming country, but we’re also a nation of laws,” he said. “We can’t allow this just rampant violation of law at the Southern border. It’s out of control. It’s insane.
“We’re not enforcing the rule of law in our country and I think it’s wrong and it sends all the wrong signals to the rest of the world,” he said.
Trump’s comments gave new political ammunition to President Biden and other Democrats to use in next year’s campaign and put other Republicans immediately on the defensive.
“Donald Trump channeled his role models as he parroted Adolf Hitler, praised Kim Jong Un, and quoted Vladimir Putin while running for president on a promise to rule as a dictator and threaten American democracy,” a spokesperson for the Biden-Harris campaign said.
Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, as well as Hungary’s and China’s authoritarian leaders, Viktor Orban and Xi Jinping.
Asked about Trump quoting Putin, Thune — the Senate GOP whip — replied simply: “Putin’s a thug.”
Senate Republicans have clashed with Trump before over Putin — notably McConnell, who called Trump out in 2018 for cozying up to the Russian president at U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki.
McConnell told reporters bluntly that allies in the European Union such are America’s “friends” while “the Russians are not.”
The Senate GOP leader also took then-President Trump to task in 2017 for downplaying Russia’s human rights record and arguing that the United States has its own record of extrajudicial killings.
McConnell declared that Putin was “a thug,” arguing “I don’t think there’s any equivalency” between the human rights records of the United States and Russia.
Trump’s declaration that immigrants are “poisoning” the nation’s “blood” and his invocation of Putin as a character witness were the latest bombshells he dropped on the campaign trail.