Back before he controlled the GOP, before his endorsement seemed capable of swinging a primary, before he was President of the United States and before he’d won most Republican primaries in 2016, Donald Trump had very few friends in Congress.
Just a handful of Republican lawmakers endorsed his campaign early on.
Interestingly, while Trump’s power in the party has only grown, those lawmakers who first stuck their necks out for him have not fared well in the Trump era.
The Washington Post was tracking this back in March of 2016, when Trump had the GOP primary well in hand but only token support on Capitol Hill. They called the first five lawmakers to endorse him Congress’ Trump caucus.
You’d be hard-pressed to find many Republicans who wouldn’t endorse him now. Those who opposed him in 2016 have paid a price. (Ahem, Jeff Flake).
But so, it turns out, have the members of the Trump caucus, two of whom have been charged by authorities with breaking the law this summer, one of whom had to withdraw from a nomination to be the nation’s drug czar early in Trump’s presidency and one of whom is the President’s biggest punching bag in his own Cabinet.
Here’s a look:
1. Rep. Chris Collins of New York – The first person to endorse Trump in Congress was indicted this month on insider trading charges, which he denies.
2. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California – The San Diego congressman was Trump’s second backer in Congress in 2016. He was charged Tuesday along with his wife with misusing campaign funds for personal expenses.
3. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee – He’s still a congressman and has not recently been plagued by scandal or charged with a crime – but DesJarlais has weathered plenty of criticism. He’s been re-elected several times since, but in 2014 it came out that the anti-abortion Republican had urged a woman he impregnated to get an abortion.
4. Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania – He’s also still in Congress, but Marino was intended to be the country’s drug czar after Trump nominated him. Marino had to pull out of consideration, however, after an investigation by The Post and “60 Minutes.” According to CNN’s report at the time: “The newspaper and the CBS newsmagazine documented how Marino helped drug distributors pass an industry-friendly law” that hobbled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to halt the spread of the opioid crisis. “Marino took nearly $100,000 from the pharmaceutical lobby while advocating for the law,” the CNN report said.
5. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama – He could have been the success story of the Trump caucus as attorney general. But while Sessions has faithfully executed Trump’s policies, he fell out of favor with the President for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. That makes Sessions directly responsible for special counsel Robert Mueller, a move from which it’ll be hard to recover. Trump has frequently criticized Sessions, who as a result lives under a sort of Trumpian sword of Damocles, knowing he could be fired at any moment.