POLITICS
10/26/2016 10:50 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2016

First Congressman To Unendorse Donald Trump After Sexual Assault Comments Re-Endorses

This is political courage. This is bravery.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first congressman to say he couldn’t vote for Donald Trump after the GOP nominee’s vulgar 2005 comments surfaced. But now, less than three weeks later, Chaffetz is back on the Trump train ― sort of.

Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday night that while he wouldn’t defend or endorse Trump, he would vote for him.

It’s unclear what distinction Chaffetz sees between announcing he’ll vote for someone and endorsing them ― you know, because it’s the same thing ― but the Utah Republican seemed to think he wasn’t completely contradicting himself, even though he is.

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was quick to unendorse Trump after a recording published Oct. 7 revealed Trump talking about grabbing women by their privates and forcibly kissing them without consent.

“I’m out,” Chaffetz told a Utah news station. “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.” 

Apparently, Chaffetz now knows what to tell the teen. He’s back in, using Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as his excuse.

Chaffetz is just the latest Republican to re-endorse Trump after withdrawing an endorsement ― and to claim he’ll neither endorse nor defend Trump’s actions, but will vote for him to be president of the United States. His reversal is even more puzzling because his state may go to independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who’s polling within a few points of Trump and Clinton in Utah.

Chaffetz has set himself up to be a chief watchdog and attack dog against Clinton if she wins the election. In an interview with The Washington Post published earlier Wednesday, Chaffetz said he would aggressively go after Clinton’s record, which he called “a target-rich environment.”

His rapprochement of Trump may have some Machiavellian motivations. Chaffetz was one of the few Republicans to run for House speaker last year, before Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced his candidacy for the position. If Ryan were to leave the speakership ― either by choice or not ― Chaffetz would be one of the first Republicans considered for the job.

Perhaps Chaffetz thought that if Ryan were forced out as speaker because of his tepid support for Trump, someone not supporting Trump at all would have no shot.

Or maybe he just no longer has a problem supporting someone who says he sexually assaults women.

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