will hurd russia sanctions vote new day
Hurd: Russia is our adversary and not our ally
01:22 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Mark Preston is CNN’s executive director of political programming and senior political analyst. He hosts “Full Stop with Mark Preston” on SiriusXM POTUS 124. The full interview can be heard on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, Sunday at 1 a.m. ET, and Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Follow him at @prestonCNN.

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Mark Preston: Rep. Will Hurd has disagreed with Trump on issues from a border wall to Russian meddling in US elections

As a black Republican voice with a record of winning in a district that leans Democrat, he is critical to GOP future

CNN  — 

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed several elected Republicans publicly rebuke President Donald Trump or outright oppose him on matters ranging from Russia and health care to chaos in the West Wing.

While there was scattered GOP criticism of Trump in the first six months of his presidency, more and more Republicans appear to be reaching a breaking point with the head of their party – aggravated over the lack of leadership coming from the White House and weary about having to answer day in and day out for the President’s questionable actions and comments.

“We saw in the most substantive way the rebuke of the President with the Russian sanctions vote, which was unanimous in the Republican Party,” said Tim Miller, a Republican operative and Trump critic, to me in an interview. “I wish there was even greater vocal opposition, but I am encouraged by the recent changing of the tides and believe that unless there is a drastic change in behavior out of the White House you will see more and more Republican elected officials speak out against the President.”

But distancing yourself from the President, let alone openly criticizing him, is a tricky thing to do for a congressional Republican, particularly when Trump maintains a 76% approval rating among self-identified GOP voters. And the President has made clear he is willing to support primary challengers to Republican incumbents who don’t support his agenda.

The severity of criticism directed at Trump has ranged from full-throated condemnation by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, to a seemingly frustrated Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, who told CNN he wants Trump “to be successful because I believe in his policies he ran on and won on. But it is hard when there is so much chaos and confusion.”

Still, it is not just the West Wing drama that has caused Republicans to split with the President; there are also sharp disagreements on some of his signature policy promises.

For Rep. Will Hurd, it was Trump’s vow to build a wall along the US-Mexico border that prompted the Texas Republican to reiterate his opposition to the proposal just days into the Trump presidency. And, in May, Hurd was one of 20 Republicans to vote against the House GOP leadership’s health care bill.

Opposing the President and your party leadership is a lonely place to be, but Hurd, a former spy, shrugged it off in a recent interview on SiriusXM’s “Full Stop with Mark Preston.”

“I follow very simple principles,” Hurd said. “I agree when I agree … and I disagree when I disagree. You know, I did that in the last administration and I am going to continue to do that here. Be honest, tell people what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it and people appreciate that.”

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Hurd is not your stereotypical congressman. He is not a lawyer, a former state senator or a business tycoon. The Texas Republican cut his teeth on the streets of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan as a CIA operative. Hurd was a “spy master”: Essentially he “ran spies” in each of these countries, but is careful not to discuss too much about his previous employment.

“I was the guy that was collecting intelligence from individuals that were helping the United States with our threats overseas,” he said.

Engaging in legislative battles on Capitol Hill or fighting for his political life every two years seems trite given what Hurd saw during his time in the CIA and growing up in South Texas, the son of a black father and white mother in the late 1970s/1980s.

The latter, Hurd said, helped him develop an understanding, a compassion for other people that has proven valuable in his professional life.

“For me growing up … I was the only person that looked like me,” Hurd said. “And it made us a very close-knit family. It also taught me empathy. Also … I had a big head as a kid. I had a speech impediment. I had messed up teeth. My last name rhymes with funny things, and it was something that I got picked on a lot and … it made me realize ‘Hey, the only thing that matters is what the people that you love think about you.’ “

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Hurd, many Republicans say, is positioned to be an influential voice in the Republican Party, as he checks several key boxes: He is one of only three black Republicans serving in Congress; he’s a national security expert; he won twice in a congressional district that arguably should be a Democratic seat given its largely Hispanic demographic; and he possess a political touch that is welcoming, not off-putting.