Retiring Republican congressman quits the GOP, citing ‘disappointing’ election claims

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Michigan Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell. Photo: mitchell.house.gov

A retiring Michigan congressman quit the Republican Party Monday over President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in his election campaign, blasting GOP leaders in Washington for aiding and abetting Trump’s endeavors.

“It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote,” Rep. Paul Mitchell wrote in a two-and-half-page letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. “Further, it is unacceptable for the president to attack the Supreme Court of the United States because its judges, both liberal and conservative, did not rule with his side.”

Mitchell surprised many colleagues last year when he announced he would not seek reelection this year after just two terms, citing Trump’s public demeanor and caustic behavior. But he remained a reliably conservative vote in his last months in office, opposed last year’s impeachment vote against the president and, as he wrote in his letter Monday, voted for Trump’s reelection last month.

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Mitchell’s announcement, on the same day that the electoral college certified Joe Biden’s victory, included criticism of McDaniel and McCarthy for not intervening with Trump and instead taking actions that encouraged violent protests around the country, including protests Saturday in Washington where four stabbings occurred as members of a group of White chauvinists attacked anti-Trump activists. His decision was first reported by CNN.

“I believe that raw political considerations, not constitutional or voting integrity concerns, motivate many in party leadership to support the ‘stop the steal’ efforts which is extremely disappointing to me,” Mitchell wrote.

Mitchell’s actions stand apart from the vast majority of Republicans in the House and Senate, most of whom have refused to publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory and instead try to avoid answering questions about the presidential contest.

He is the second Republican from Michigan to give up on the Republican Party, following the decision last year by Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., to abandon the GOP because of his opposition to Trump’s hostile takeover of its ideological core. A libertarian leaning five-term lawmaker, Amash considered running for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, but instead opted to retire from elective politics.

In his letter quitting the GOP, Mitchell singled out McDaniel, a fellow Michigander, for allowing racially tinged accusations of voter fraud to percolate and spread with a focus on Detroit, the state’s majority black city in Wayne County, the most populous county in the state.

He noted that Trump lost to Biden by about 154,000 votes statewide, far larger than the less-than-11,000-vote margin Trump won Michigan by in 2016.

“Ronna, you know Michigan politics well. President Trump did not lose Michigan because of Wayne County, but rather he lost because of dwindling support in areas including Kent and Oakland County, both previous Republican strongholds,” Mitchell wrote of suburbs that broke for Biden.

McDaniel and McCarthy did not immediately respond to Mitchell’s criticisms.

Mitchell ended his missive by explaining that, for his last few days in office, he will officially be considered an independent by the Clerk of the House on voting rolls.

“While admittedly symbolic, we all know that symbols matter,” Mitchell wrote.

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