WASHINGTON – As party leaders remained silent, a few Republicans on Sunday rejected Donald Trump's extraordinary suggestion for "termination" of the U.S. Constitution and his installation as president.
"This is what kills my party right now," said former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican who is considering a 2024 presidential campaign against Trump and spoke on ABC's "This Week."
Mike Lawler, an incoming House Republican from New York, told CNN's "State of the Union" that "obviously, I don't support" Trump's demands, and that the Constitution exists "to protect the rights of every American." Lawler and others suggested that Trump needs to get past his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden: "I think the former president would be well-advised to focus on the future, if he is going to run for president again."
Higher-ranking Republicans remained silent, while Democrats and others condemned what some described as a call for dictatorship.
Trump's demand came in the wake of a report from Twitter – authorized by new owner Elon Musk – about its handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 campaign.
Trump under investigation:Lawmakers: Donald Trump's 2024 campaign won't help him with investigations
In a Truth Social post on Saturday, Trump posed a question to supporters regarding his false claims of voter fraud: "Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?"
He added: "A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."
Lesser-known congressional Republicans criticized Trump to varying degrees on the Sunday interview shows, reflecting the discomfort many GOP members feel about the former president and future candidate.
Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, who chairs a more moderate faction called the Republican Governance Group, told ABC's "This Week" he doesn't think Trump will be nominated again, and he couldn't do anything to the Constitution in any event.
"Well, you know, he says a lot of things," Joyce said. "That doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to happen. So you’ve got to accept exact fact from fantasy."
Joyce also said, "I can't be really chasing every one of these crazy statements."
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face The Nation" that Trump's comments are disqualifying for any presidential contender. "People certainly are going to take into consideration a statement like this as they evaluate a candidate," Turner said.
Joe Walsh, a former congressman who left the Republican Party over the elevation of Trump, used his Twitter feet to call out GOP leaders about Trump. Walsh listed a group of prominent Republicans that included House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy as well as potential 2024 presidential candidates like ex-Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trump "called for the termination of the very thing that you all swore to support & defend," Walsh tweeted. "What do u all have to say about that? ... Will u all “support & defend” against this attack?"
Walsh told USA TODAY he isn't surprised at Republican reticence. "Generally, for the same reason they’ve remained silent throughout the past 7 years," he said: "They know the things Trump says reflect where the vast majority of the base is. They’re afraid of offending the base."
Democrats condemned Trump. The Biden White House put out a statement that said "attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said Trump "has openly declared himself an enemy of the Constitution, and Republicans must repudiate him."
Some of the Republicans who spoke out noted that Trump's attack on the Constitution came little more than a week after the former president hosted a dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who goes by the name Ye. Ye was suspended from Twitter for making antisemitic statements and last week gave an interview in which he praised Adolf Hitler.
In his ABC appearance, Christie said Trump's announcement of his 2024 candidacy has been "uninspiring" so far.
"Nothing has happened since then except bad things for Donald Trump," he said. "because he is being his post-2020 election untethered self."
Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Committee chair, said on ABC that more Republicans like Christie need to stand up to the ex-president.
"Without a backbone, Donald Trump is going to continue to pull the strings in the Republican Party and he's going to continue to be the face of the Republican Party," she said. "And only a toxic dictator, a would-be dictator would say, we got to suspend the Constitution."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans mostly silent on Trump call to suspend Constitution