'Trump will go down as a total failure': Mitch McConnell, Proud Boys among key loyalists to desert ex-president

FP Staff
·6-min read

President Donald Trump has lost the support of many of his former loyalists in his administration after a riot at the US Capitol, two weeks before Democrat Joe Biden moved into the White House.

He will be forever remembered for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

'Just move on': Republicans grapple with post-Trump future

In his final weeks in office, Trump was accused of promoting false claims of widespread voter fraud, stood accused of inciting a mob of supporters to rampage through the Capitol and became the first president ever to be impeached twice.

An exodus of senior officials including Cabinet members shaken by the Capitol attack left him increasingly isolated in his final days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He retreated from governing after the election even as the pandemic intensified.

Over the last four years, the GOP's values were inexorably tied to the whims of a president who undermined democratic institutions and traded the party's longstanding commitment to fiscal discipline, strong foreign policy and the rule of law for a brash and inconsistent populism.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the few Republican elected officials who regularly condemned Trumpism, evoked President Ronald Reagan in calling this moment a time for choosing.

"We have to decide if we're going to continue heading down the direction of Donald Trump or if we're going to return to our roots," Hogan, a potential 2024 White House contender, said in an interview.

"The party would be much better off if they were to purge themselves of Donald Trump," he added, "But I don't think there's any hope of him completely going away."

Whether the party moves on may come down to what Republicans like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz do next.

Cruz acknowledged Biden's victory on Wednesday, but he refused to describe it as legitimate when pressed. "He won the election. He is the president. I just came from his inauguration," Cruz said of Biden in an interview.

Looking forward, Cruz said Trump would remain a significant part of the political conversation, but that the Republican Party should move away from divisive language and tone and rhetoric that alienated suburban voters, particularly women, in recent elections.

"President Trump surely will continue to make his views known, and they'll continue to have a real impact, but I think the country going forward wants policies that work, and I think as a party, we need to do a better job winning hearts and minds," said Cruz, who is also eyeing a White House run.

Trump 'provoked' Capitol siege, says Mitch McConnell

The Senates top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on the eve of the inauguration that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was provoked by Trump.

"The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like."

The Republican leader vowed a "safe and successful" inauguration of Biden on Wednesday at the Capitol.

Sour relations between Trump and Mike Pence

Even Mike Pence, Trump's vice president and long considered his most devoted cheerleader, skipped Trump's departure ceremony to attend Biden's inauguration.

Trump lambasted Pence for not finding a way to prevent Congress from certifying the election results, a power the vice president does not have. He also did not reach out to Pence to check on his safety during the riot at Congress, when Pence was evacuated along with lawmakers.

The two men are now not speaking, a striking end to their four years at the White House, where Pence had been a loyal lieutenant through multiple crises.

Lindsey Graham blames Trump for Capitol siege

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was also critical of Trump in the aftermath of the riots at the US Capitol. "When it comes to accountability, the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution," Graham said during a news conference, adding that the president's legacy has been "tarnished."

A prominent ally to Trump, the South Carolina senator on 8 January said that "enough is enough" after rioters breached the Capitol building and forced Congress to evacuate.

Graham slammed Trump's legal team for pushing false claims about the election after President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Proud Boys now turn on 'extraordinarily weak' Trump

After the presidential election last year, the Proud Boys, a Far Right group, declared its undying loyalty to President Donald Trump.

In an 8 November post in a private channel of the messaging app Telegram, the group urged its followers to attend protests against an election that it said had been fraudulently stolen from Trump. "Hail Emperor Trump," the Proud Boys wrote.

But by this week, the group's attitude toward Trump had changed. "Trump will go down as a total failure," the Proud Boys said in the same Telegram channel Monday.

As Trump departed the White House on Wednesday, the Proud Boys, once among his staunchest supporters, have also started leaving his side. In dozens of conversations on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the group have begun calling Trump a "shill" and "extraordinarily weak," according to messages reviewed by The New York Times. They have also urged supporters to stop attending rallies and protests held for Trump or the Republican Party.

The comments are a startling turn for the Proud Boys, which for years backed Trump and promoted political violence. Led by Enrique Tarrio, many of its thousands of members were such die-hard fans of Trump that they offered to serve as his private militia and celebrated after he told them in a presidential debate last year to "stand back and stand by." On 6 January, some Proud Boys members stormed the US Capitol.

But since then, discontent with Trump, who later condemned the violence, has boiled over. On social media, Proud Boys participants have complained about his willingness to leave office and said his disavowal of the Capitol rampage was an act of betrayal. And Trump, cut off on Facebook and Twitter, has been unable to talk directly to them to soothe their concerns or issue new rallying cries.

'Too innocent and gay to deserve a pardon from Trump': Joe Exotic

One name missing from Trump's flurry of pardons Wednesday was "Tiger King" Joe Exotic.

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed.

Clearly frustrated by the decision, he slammed the former president and his family on Instagram following the Inauguration Day ceremonies.

"I was too innocent and too GAY to deserve a Pardon from Trump," he wrote in a caption of a photo posted to Instagram that showed him next to a tiger. "I only mattered to Don Jr. when he needed to make a comment about me to boost his social media post."

He added: "Boy were we all stupid to believe he actually stood for Equal Justice? His corrupt friends all come first."

With inputs from agencies

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