It’s not a fun moment to be a Republican member of Congress. You might be toiling to pass a terrific bill or amendment, and all we reporters want to ask you about is whatever Donald Trump said yesterday.
Luckily for the rank-and-file GOP members trying to keep their heads down, a few outspoken Trump supporters — especially Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.), who co-chair Trump’s House Leadership Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) — have been at the front lines of the reportorial onslaught. But even those on Capitol Hill who have stuck out their necks for Trump are showing their exasperation with their candidate’s antics.
To wit, here is a two-minute exchange between reporters and Hunter that occurred steps from the House floor Thursday. A Washington Post reporter kicked things off by asking about Trump’s remarks at a Wednesday rally in Atlanta, where he made this suggestion to Republican leaders who are critical of him: “Be quiet. Just please be quiet. Don’t talk.”
Said Hunter, “I’m not going to comment on what he said. Really.”
The reporter followed up: “Is it wise for him to be telling Congress — ”
At which point Hunter interjected, “I’m not going to comment. I’m not going to tell him what’s wise and what’s not. It’s all about Trump.”
Another reporter, Chad Pergram of Fox News, then asked Hunter if he expected Trump to visit with the Leadership Committee when he visits Capitol Hill in July — a touchy subject since Hunter complained that Trump snubbed the group when he came to Washington last month for his closely watched summit meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters. Hunter said he did not expect a meeting and that it was no big deal: “Trump’s going to do what Trump’s going to do.”
He then brushed off a question from another reporter about a bill he was about to vote on and returned to the subject of Trump.
“What I’m done with is trying to articulate or explain or answer for what Donald Trump says,” Hunter said. “I think he’ll be a great president. I think he’ll make good decisions on the economy, on the border, on national security, but it doesn’t mean we endorse what he says. I think what he says and what he’ll do are two different things.”
The Post reporter asked him, “So what should we believe when he says something? What should we believe when it comes out of his mouth?”
“What he said,” Hunter replied.
“But you just said you don’t necessarily believe what he says is what he’s going to do,” said the reporter.
“Right,” Hunter said. “True. But him talking about things and saying things about things is different than him saying what he’s going to do. I think he’ll do what he says he’s going to do. I’m not trying to parse words; I think he’ll do what he says he’s going to do. But he says things about things that I don’t endorse, and I’m not going to try to articulate for him.”
The reporter returned to the Wednesday comments: “When he tells leaders of Congress to be quiet, that would seem to indicate that that’s what he’s going to do as president — basically, expect Congress to fall in line and don’t give me any guff, and I’m the boss here.”
“You’ve got it,” Hunter said. “You have a good translation of it.”
“Isn’t that a problem, though?” Pergram interjects, citing the release that very morning of a House Republican proposal to assert congressional power during the next presidency.
“Yeah, it’s not my job to answer for Donald Trump,” Hunter said. “Really. I’m not even a surrogate. I’m just an endorser.”
With that, Hunter walked back toward the floor to vote.