Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Several vulnerable House Republicans representing districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 have publicly distanced themselves from President Donald Trump since Monday night.
Their moves — which include calls for a special prosecutor in the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia and criticism of his reported sharing of classified information in an Oval Office meeting with top Russian emissaries — are the latest evidence that Trump is becoming politically toxic for the Republican Party headed into the 2018 midterm elections.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Steve Knight, R-California, became the latest GOP lawmaker to call for a special prosecutor in the Russia probe.
“There is too much at stake at home and abroad to not take this step,” he said. “There is so much conflicting information from many sources; Americans deserve the opportunity to learn the truth.”
His comments came after Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents northern Virginia’s moderate suburbs, issued a statement strongly criticizing Trump over The Washington Post’s report that Trump shared highly sensitive information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting last week — one that took place the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia investigation.
“Once again we are faced with inexplicable stories coming from the White House that are highly troubling,” Comstock said. “We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders and know the impact on our national security, our allies, and our men and women protecting our country.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, whose Miami-area district went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, compared Trump’s actions to Clinton — whom Republicans lambasted during the campaign for keeping classified information on her personal email server.
“The importance of carefully handling classified information was one of the big lessons of 2016,” Curbelo tweeted. “All leaders should be held to same standard.”
Another Republican who has largely backed Trump — Rep. John Katko of New York — attempted to defend the President in a town hall Monday night by citing Clinton’s actions, but ultimately conceded that Trump erred as well.
“The bottom line, it is a persistent problem,” Katko said.
His efforts to distance himself from the Trump administration were even more clear when the topic of the town hall shifted to health care.
“You want to talk about the pressure that was brought to people on that vote, it was incredible,” he said. “And I didn’t buckle.”