State GOP leader: ‘Insanity’ for Trump to urge delaying indictment of allies
GOP Congressman Glenn Grothman and the No. 2 Republican in the state Assembly, Jim Steineke, are among those questioning President Donald Trump’s suggestion that two of his congressional allies should not have been indicted before the midterm elections.
“If (the Department of) Justice has information, I don’t like people sitting on it,” Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, said in an interview. “The public should know about it.”
Steineke had stronger words for Trump, saying it’s “insanity” that the president implied, in Steineke’s words, that “political considerations” should have influenced the recent federal indictments of GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. Trump’s remarks came in a Monday Twitter post.
“If people have committed wrongdoing, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, those cases should be brought forward,” Steineke said Tuesday.
Former GOP Congressman Reid Ribble also joined a handful of Republicans who criticized the Trump tweet, which Ribble told WTAQ-FM amounted to the president “admitting that he’s attempting to pressure the Department of Justice for political reasons.”
In the tweet, the president blasted his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing the Justice Department to move ahead with the indictments.
The tweet says “investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff......”
In a subsequent tweet late Monday, Steineke, R-Kaukauna, noted “the DOJ brought charges b/c there was sufficient evidence of criminal activity. Is POTUS really suggesting they should have ignored the evidence/stopped the investigation so R’s could win those seats?”
Steineke has been more willing than most Republicans to periodically criticize Trump, but his latest critique may be his most pointed to date.
Grothman generally has been a Trump ally but previously said he thinks the president would be more effective if he tweeted less.
Hunter, R-Calif., has pleaded not guilty to spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on trips, clothing, groceries and other personal expenses.
Collins, R-N.Y., pleaded not guilty to securities fraud in connection with alleged insider trading.
Grothman said he will co-sponsor a bill to bar members of Congress from sitting on the boards of publicly traded corporations, as Collins did.
Hunter has not exited his re-election race, while Collins ended his bid days after his indictment. Both seats appear likely to remain in GOP hands, but the charges have raised Democratic hopes.
Ashlee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the Justice Department “should always remain apolitical, and the speaker has demonstrated he takes these charges seriously.”
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, whose district includes Dane County, said in a statement that Trump’s tweet was “deeply troubling.”
“The President’s implication that the Justice Department should take into account the political and electoral ramifications on his party when conducting ethics investigations is dangerous,” Pocan said.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said in a statement that “no person is above the law, especially anyone representing the American people in Washington.”
Other members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
Grothman faces Democrat Dan Kohl is his bid for a third term representing east-central Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.
Steineke is seeking a fifth term in Assembly District 5 in the Fox Cities. He faces Democrat Matt Lederer.
Ribble, who declined to seek re-election in 2016 after serving three terms from northeast Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, predicted Trump ultimately will fire Sessions.
“President Trump believes the Justice Department works for him, not the American people,” Ribble said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.