During a question-and-answer session with journalists last Friday, Minnesota Republican Party chairman Keith Downey worried aloud about the “huge risk” presented by Donald Trump — the presidential candidate he supports.
“I think it’s a huge risk,” Downey said. “That we could conceivably have a candidate who we don’t know that well and might go in and try and install a bit of an imperial presidency on their own. Do we really know where he’s gonna land on all of his policy provisions?”
Audio of Downey’s remarks was distributed by Minnesota Democrats:
In a statement accompanying the audio, Democrats alluded to concerns about how Trump’s unpredictability might play out with regard to national security issues. Coincidentally, Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are scheduled to make their first joint appearance Wednesday evening at a national security forum.
Downey expressed hope that “a Republican Senate and a Republican Congress” might act as a “check” on Trump, but when it comes to deploying nuclear weapons, that won’t be sufficient. As former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden said during a Morning Joe segment about Trump and nuclear weapons, “The system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision.” Trump has refused to rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons against ISIS or in Europe.
Given that Trump finished third in Minnesota’s Republican presidential caucus, it’s not surprising that Downey was initially a bit reluctant to embrace him. Just before the RNC, Trump told the Star Tribune that Minnesota Republicans “would appreciate the candidate be focused and disciplined and on message, get off some of the distractions and stay focused on his core message of jobs and security and people’s anxieties about the future. In March, Downey criticized Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, saying that “it is important to oppose Donald Trump’s — or any other proposals — to combat terrorism in a way that would threaten freedom of religion, including banning Muslims outright from entering our country, or tracking Muslims and shutting down mosques without cause.”
But Downey has recently expressed more enthusiasm about Trump. During a podcast interview last month, he said Trump “made really big strides at our convention. I was there in trying to bring people along and everybody there I think moved a couple steps in his direction. It was a very positive experience, he did a nice job, he was actually humble in some ways, he featured his family — it was a great showing for him and his campaign.”
Minnesota Republicans Create Political Security Service In Response To Unruly Trump ProtestIt sounds uncomfortably like a political police force…thinkprogress.orgIn the aforementioned release, Minnesota Democrats chair Ken Martin said “it is pretty amazing that a sitting Republican Party chair would so openly warn about the danger of his party’s nominee,” adding that “time and again we’ve seen Donald Trump say and do things that are so outside the bounds of mainstream thought and policy that even his own party has trouble swallowing his candidacy, yet nonetheless they continue to support him.”
Downey, who didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment, is far from the only Republican politician to publicly worry about Trump but continue to back him nonetheless. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed concern Trump would overstep the chief executives’s legal bounds if elected president, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he he his doubts Trump’s proposed Muslim ban is constitutional, and Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) warned that Trump’s divisive rhetoric could lead to more violent incidents like the racially motivated mass shooting at a Charleston church that claimed nine lives. Yet all three of them have pledged to support Trump.
This disconnect goes all the way up to Republican leadership. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) endorsed Trump just hours after promising to speak out against the type of Islamophobia Trump has peddled throughout his campaign. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged voters to ignore Trump’s racism because “the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House.”