Republicans are 'running for the hills' instead of confronting Trump, says GOP lawmaker who just lost his primary to a pro-Trump challenger

  • Republican South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford says he believes members of his own party are afraid of President Donald Trump.
  • Sanford said Republican leaders are “running for the hills” to avoid confronting the president, who is notoriously averse to criticism and frequently lashes out at those who dare to speak up.
  • A handful of Republicans have done as much, including Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker of Arizona and Tennessee, and a handful of others.
  • But confronting Trump has become an increasingly risky proposition for lawmakers and, as Sanford learned this week, it can backfire at the ballot box.

Mark Sanford, the Republican representative from South Carolina, says GOP leaders are “running for the hills” to avoid confronting President Donald Trump.

Sanford’s remarks come at a time when Trump is increasingly emboldened by the powers of his office, and even more by party leaders and loyalists who stand beside him. Sanford made the comments in a “Meet the Press” interview with Chuck Todd set to air on Sunday.

Even with the cloud of multiple investigations hanging over Trump, his family, former associates, and his campaign, the president’s ability to act and speak with near-impunity on matters of personal grievance and matters of policy has frustrated lawmakers in both major parties. Democrats, however, have had fewer reservations about calling out the president.

Sanford, a frequent critic of Trump who lost his primary this week to pro-Trump challenger Katie Arrington, suggested there’s a simple, unspoken principle in Congress that enables his party’s hands-off approach toward Trump: “What you do as an elected official is … an old-time senator told me years ago, the name of the game is staying in the game,” Sanford said.

But a number of Republicans are opting out.

According to a recent chart compiled by CNN, at least 44 House Republicans have announced they are retiring, not seeking reelection, or choosing another public office.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is one of them. So is Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, among the dozens of others.

Fewer Democrats are stepping aside by comparison, which could help that party knock down the Republican congressional majority in the midterm elections this fall.

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