Michigan congressman quits GOP over Trump’s election fightsDecember 14, 2020
Rep. Paul Mitchell is leaving the Republican Party, the Michigan congressman announced Monday, citing his dismay with President Donald Trump and the party’s efforts to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election.
Mitchell revealed his decision during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, in which he said he’d asked the clerk of the House to change his party affiliation to “Independent.” Mitchell plans to retire from Congress next month, at the end of this term.
“It became clear to me I could no longer be associated with a Republican Party that the leadership does not stand up and say the process, the election is over. It’s over today,” Mitchell said. “This party has to stand up for democracy first, for our Constitution first and not political considerations. It’s not about a candidate. It’s not simply for raw political power and that’s what I feel is going on, and I’ve had enough.”
In a letter to GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he called the election process this year “traumatic,” and expressed concern for “the stability and strength of our democracy.” He added that he would continue to raise money for individual candidates who are in line with his conservative values.
“I have stated publicly numerous times that when entering the political arena, a person must be willing to accept winning and losing with grace and maturity,” Mitchell wrote in his letter, a copy of which he shared on Twitter.
Mitchell said he supported Trump and his policies, voting for him in 2016 and acknowledging the president’s right to request recounts. But Trump’s repeated efforts to sow mistrust in the election results and fight his loss in court — as well as the party leadership’s support in those efforts — pushed Mitchell to leave.
In the days following Election Day, Mitchell vocally called on the president to accept the election outcome and derided his party’s quixotic attempts to annul the results.
Party defections have been extremely rare throughout the Trump years: Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan left the Republican Party after calling for the president’s impeachment in 2019, and Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey joined the Republicans from the Democratic Party fearing the backlash from Democrats’ impeachment efforts. But unlike Amash and Van Drew, Mitchell is ditching his party in the twilight of his congressional career, when he has little to lose.
In his letter to party leadership, Mitchell wrote of his departure: “While admittedly symbolic, we all know that symbols matter.”
During his CNN interview, Mitchell also dismissed legal challenges to the election by Trump’s allies as “ridiculous,” particularly a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton aiming to flip key states that went to Biden (the Supreme Court dismissed the suit) . He also grew emotional as he condemned the wave of violent threats that have been directed against election officials who called the race for Biden.
“When you can’t conduct an election without threats of violence, we become a third world nation,” Mitchell said. “What are we, Venezuela?”