Conservative lawyer George Conway says he no longer feels comfortable in the Republican Party. And he is urging fellow conservatives to speak up more loudly, when they see President Trump challenging the rule of law.
Conway's frequent criticism of the president attracts outsize attention because he is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
"If I had a nickel for everybody in Washington who disagreed with their spouse about something that happens in this town, I wouldn't be on this podcast. I'd be probably on a beach somewhere," Conway said about his regular disagreements with the president his wife works for. "I don't think she likes it. But I've told her, I don't like the administration. So it's even."
Conway acknowledged that many conservatives are reluctant to challenge the president "because we like other things that the administration has been doing," such as relaxing regulations and appointing conservative federal judges. He and others recently formed Checks and Balances, a kind of support group to encourage Trump's tongue-tied, conservative and libertarian legal critics.
The president has brushed aside criticism from his counselor's husband.
"You mean Mr. Kellyanne Conway?" Trump asked last week, before boarding a helicopter. "He's just trying to get publicity for himself."
Conway had been under consideration for a top post of his own last year, as head of the Justice Department's Civil Division, but said he took himself out of the running, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
"If I get this door prize, I'm going to be in the middle of a department he's at war with," Conway recalled thinking. "Why would anybody want to do this?"
Conway said it's important that Mueller's investigation — which Trump has called a "witch hunt" — be allowed to continue. But, ever the careful lawyer, he declined to weigh in on legislation designed to protect the special counsel.
He also ducked a question on the president's stability.
"No comment," he said.
Conway said he would not support Trump's re-election bid, but he expressed admiration for his wife's work on the 2016 campaign.
"My wife did an amazing thing. I mean, she basically got this guy elected," he said. "I mean, he was in the crapper when she took that campaign over."
A year later, Conway was so dismayed by the GOP that he left the party.
"I don't feel comfortable being a Republican anymore," he said. "I think the Republican Party has become something of a personality cult."
Conway said he was "appalled" when Trump criticized federal prosecutors for indicting two GOP congressmen before the November election.
"To criticize the attorney general for permitting justice to be done without regard to political party is very disturbing," he said.
Last week, Trump went further and ousted his attorney general, replacing Jeff Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who is now the acting AG on a temporary basis. Conway has questioned the legality of that move; the Justice Department recently opined that Whitaker's appointment was legal. He also defended Sessions' decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, which infuriated the president.
"Everybody that I've talked to who either is connected to the Justice Department or at the White House Counsel's Office has said that the recusal question was black and white," Conway said. "Whether you like the policies or not that Sessions follows or was most known for, he was a very faithful servant to the administration's policies" on crime and immigration.
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