Veteran Republican campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said Wednesday he is renouncing the GOP — in part because of what he calls President Donald Trump’s unethical and corrupt behavior, but more because the party’s leadership in Congress has failed to hold Trump to account.
“What we’ve seen is the complete and total corruption of the Republican Party among its elected officials,” Schmidt, senior strategist for 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, told The Associated Press. “There’s been no oversight, no outrage.”
Schmidt, 47, has been a reliable critic of Trump. He recently said the president had “beclowned himself” by publicly calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak” after attending the G-7 summit of allies in Canada this month.
Schmidt rattled off a list of his beefs with Trump Wednesday, capped by the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from adults illegally entering the United States. He called the government-run facilities for such children the equivalent of “internment centers for babies.”
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He also mentioned Trump’s kind words this month for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his claim earlier in June he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself.
“The founding fathers always envisioned a president like Trump,” Schmidt said.
Yet, despite his grievances with the president, it is Congress that has allowed him to go largely unchecked, out of fear of damaging their own political careers, Schmidt said.
“The party of Lincoln, of Eisenhower, of Reagan, it’s dead. And the people who killed it are Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and dozens of other complicit cowards,” Schmidt said, referring to the speaker of the House and Senate majority leader.
Schmidt predicted heavy Republican losses in November’s midterm congressional elections, when Republicans will seek to hold majorities in the House and Senate.
After stints in Republican congressional campaigns, Schmidt was a top adviser to then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. Schmidt became McCain’s senior adviser after a shake-up of the 2008 frontrunner’s campaign, and remains loyal to the Arizona senator, who is now battling brain cancer.
The GOP “is dying without a whimper of protest, with the exception of John McCain,” he said.
McCain, a regular critic of Trump, criticized the president in his new memoir, released last month.
Schmidt announced his disassociation with the Republican Party via Twitter Wednesday morning.