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When President Trump blamed “both sides” for the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Republicans jumped over themselves to denounce his comments. Speaker Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and Senators Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner publicly chastised the president. Inside the White House, some of his own aides considered resigning.
My, what a difference two years make.
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump told four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to the country they came from. Today, at a “Made in America” manufacturing event at the White House, Mr. Trump defended his remarks, accusing the current House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, of using racist comments, and letting loose with a long rant against the four congresswomen.
And this time, the vast majority of Republicans said… nothing.
As the 2020 election looms, one political reality is only becoming clearer: This is Mr. Trump’s Republican Party.
Most of his loudest critics are gone, either fired from their White House posts, retired from Congress or out of the party all together. For all the times Republicans have winced at Mr. Trump’s style, they’ve reveled in accomplishments like control of the Supreme Court, passage of the tax bill and the still-booming economy. And few want to risk alienating a base that overwhelmingly approves of the president, particularly when they see an opportunity to present Democrats as left-wing socialists — a charge that’s become an early rallying cry for Republicans.
So, today, Mr. Gardner, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Ryan stayed silent.
And Mr. Romney, perhaps the president’s most consistent Republican critic, today set his sights instead on the congresswomen, telling a Boston reporter that they “have views that are not consistent with my experience and not consistent with building a strong America.”
Inside the White House, aides shrugged off Mr. Trump’s remarks.
“Look, I’m not going to go there. That’s way out of my lane,” said Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser.
“So what,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, on CNN.
Others offered a series of arguments that could only charitably be described as sloppily reasoned.
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, argued that Mr. Trump couldn’t have “racist motives” because he selected a Chinese-American woman, Elaine Chao, as his transportation secretary. (Worth nothing: Mr. Trump’s cabinet is the most white since the Reagan administration.)
Representative Andy Harris of Maryland said the president could have meant that the congresswomen should have gone back “to the district they came from, to the neighborhood they came from.”
And after calling the congresswomen “anti-Semitic,” “anti-America” and “communists,” Senator Lindsey Graham — once a critic of the president — urged Mr. Trump to “aim higher.”
“We don’t need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies,” he said. (At the White House today, Mr. Trump mentioned he watched Mr. Graham on “Fox and Friends.”)
It was notable that the strongest among the handful of G.O.P. critiques came from the only two black Republicans in Congress: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Representative Will Hurd of Texas.
Mr. Hurd, for his part, raised an alarm that Mr. Trump’s remarks — and his party’s tacit approval of them — may be sending Republicans down what’s ultimately a losing path.
“Politically, it doesn’t help,” he said. “This makes it harder in order to take our ideas and our platform to communities that don’t necessarily identify with the Republican Party.”
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An update on 2020 money
We’re about to get a major update on the state of the 2020 race. Thomas Kaplan, who covers campaign finance, tells us more:
Monday night is a big deadline in the early stages of the Democratic primary race: Campaigns are required to report their fund-raising for the second quarter of the year to the Federal Election Commission. The reports, covering April through June, will provide the latest snapshot of how the 2020 campaigns are raising and spending money.
Several major candidates who have raised large amounts of money — including Pete Buttigieg and Joseph R. Biden Jr. — have already revealed their totals for the quarter, but some other candidates have not.
Here’s what we’ll be looking for in the forthcoming reports:
• Who’s struggling to keep pace? Mr. Buttigieg’s $24.8 million haul, which his campaign disclosed earlier this month, is expected to lead the Democratic field. Many candidates are likely to have raised only a small fraction of that amount.
• How fast are the campaigns burning through cash? The Iowa caucuses are still more than six months away, and candidates need to be able to keep the lights on until then.
• Where are candidates getting their money? The reports will show how much money the candidates are raising from small donors as opposed to those making large contributions, including donors giving the maximum $2,800 individual donation for the primary contest.
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