Each time President Donald Trump makes an inflammatory comment, on the campaign trail or in the White House, it feels like what could be a breaking point for Republicans. But it never is.
With Trump doubling down on his comments effectively defending some white supremacists on Tuesday, could this be it?
“It could be,” said Doug Heye, a veteran GOP communicator, who’s been a longtime critic of then candidate and President Trump.
“Given not just what he said, but how it was handled; the fact that it was so easy to get right and so hard to get wrong,” Heye said.
And yet, he added, “We have been saying for two years, ‘Something’s got to give,’ and nothing’s given yet.”
Congressional Republicans made clear their disapproval of Trump’s comments Tuesday. But observers are skeptical that this represents a larger break from the president.
Although some Republicans directly criticized the president for his remarks, many side-stepped calling out Trump directly and instead only affirmed their rejection of white supremacists, bigotry and racism.
“We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan tweeted Tuesday.
Ryan’s “milquetoast” comments were indicative of many Republicans not being willing to call out Trump categorically, said Gautham Rao, assistant professor of history at American University.