By the summer of 2017, Dave Trott, a two-term Republican congressman, was worried enough about President Trump’s erratic behavior and his flailing attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act that he criticized the president in a closed-door meeting with fellow G.O.P. lawmakers.
The response was instantaneous — but had nothing to do with the substance of Mr. Trott’s concerns. “Dave, you need to know somebody has already told the White House what you said,” he recalled a colleague telling him. “Be ready for a barrage of tweets.”
Mr. Trott got the message: To defy Mr. Trump is to invite the president’s wrath, ostracism within the party and a premature end to a career in Republican politics. Mr. Trott decided not to seek re-election in his suburban Detroit district, concluding that running as anti-Trump Republican was untenable, and joining a wave of Republican departures from Congress that has left those who remain more devoted to the president than ever.
“If I was still there and speaking out against the president, what would happen to me?” Mr. Trott said before answering his own question: Mr. Trump would have lashed out and pressured House G.O.P. leaders to punish him. [Continue reading…]