The Most Vulnerable Trump Clone in Congress

A guide to the Trumpiest lawmakers in Washington—and how likely they are to lose.

blue wave

Mother Jones illustration; Getty

If a blue wave floods Capitol Hill in November, dozens of Republican lawmakers could lose their seats, potentially handing control of one or both houses of Congress to Democrats. Many of the Republicans sent packing would likely hail from the more moderate wing of the party—swing district representatives who, on occasion, have attempted to stand up to President Donald Trump. Some of the Republicans most willing to—at least rhetorically—distance themselves from the president have already abandoned ship, opting not to run for reelection. Others have been cast overboard by GOP primary challengers who are more loyal to Trump.

But what about Trump’s biggest supporters in Washington? On issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration to Russia, right-wing lawmakers have lashed their political fortunes to the unpopular president. Here’s a look at 13 of the “Trumpiest” House members and how likely they are to be swept away in November—in (rough) order from least vulnerable to most endangered.

13. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)

Who is he? The leader of the rabble-rousing, ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and the man behind a whole range of House controversies, from the federal government shutdown in 2013 to Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to resign from the speakership. More recently, Meadows has become one of Trump’s favorite attack dogs on the Hill because of his rabid defense of the president’s agenda and spirited critiques of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Meadows’ most recent stunt? Filing articles of impeachment in an attempt to oust Rod Rosenstein, who in his role as deputy attorney general made the decision last year to appoint Mueller as special counsel and now oversees the investigation. Only 11 Republicans signed on to the attempt, and a move to force a Housewide vote on the matter was shelved.

Trumpiest moments: During a 2016 Trump rally, Meadows fired up the crowd with the infamous “Lock her up” chant. Like Trump, Meadows has trafficked in conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama’s place of birth. A few months before the 2012 election, he said, “We’re going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is.” But his defining act of loyalty to Trump came after the Washington Post released a tape of the then-Republican presidential nominee bragging about groping women. Not only did Meadows stick by Trump at a time when many Republicans called for him to drop out, but his wife—along with the wife of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)—boarded a “women for Trump” bus to tour the South “to rally support for him,” according to Politico.

Will he be reelected? The Cook Political Report predicts a breezy reelection for Meadows in North Carolina’s deep-red 11th District, where he will face Democrat Phillip Price.

12. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)

Who is he? A freshman congressman from the Florida panhandle. He is one of Trump’s most passionate boosters, often appearing on Fox News to defend the president. Politico once called him Trump’s “best buddy in Congress,” and GQ dubbed him “the Trumpiest congressman in Trump’s Washington.”

Trumpiest moment: He invited Chuck Johnson—yes, that Chuck Johnson—to be his guest at Trump’s State of the Union address. Johnson is a notorious online troll who has been banned from Twitter. Johnson once disputed the historical fact that 6 million Jewish people died in the Holocaust, instead suggesting that 250,000 died “from typhus” in concentration camps. Confronted about Johnson’s statements, Gaetz did not denounce him, telling Fox Business that Johnson was “not a Holocaust denier.” (For his part, Johnson responded to the controversy by apologizing for his past writings and stating that he does in fact believe that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.) On more substantive issues, Gaetz has introduced a bill that would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and, like many of his conservative colleagues, has called for Mueller to resign. Trump has returned the love: In December, he held a rally in Gaetz’s district.

Will he be reelected? Once Gaetz makes it past a three-way primary August 28, he should be in good shape to secure a second term in one of the most conservative districts in Florida. At least one enthusiastic backer has already voiced his support:

11. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Is he the one who said…? Whatever you are wondering, the answer is almost certainly “yes.” The three-term congressman from northwest Iowa has made all sorts of controversial public statements. Among his most notable: saying the US government should spy on mosques; describing children who would be granted legal status under the DREAM Act as having “calves the size of cantaloupes because of all the marijuana they are supposedly smuggling across the border; describing illegal immigration as a “slow-motion Holocaust“; and, last March, saying on CNN that he’d “like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective.”

Trumpiest quality: Like the commander-in-chief, King has a habit of retweeting some unsavory accounts. A post in which he praised the views of far-right Dutch political figure Geert Wilders drew strong outrage from the left and even some (mild) condemnation from King’s GOP peers. In the tweet, which is still online, King wrote, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In June, King retweeted a self-proclaimed Nazi sympathizer’s post about a Breitbart poll that detailed Italian opposition to accepting migrants and added, “Europe is waking up…Will America…in time?” The congressman refused to delete the tweet and later said he doesn’t “feel guilty one bit” about keeping the tweet up.

Will he be reelected? Probably. Former baseball player J.D. Scholten could give King the closest reelection race he has had since an 8-point victory in 2012. Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is not easy terrain for a Democrat to conquer, but Scholten has swung for the fences, so to speak, outraising King by more than $200,000 as of June.

10. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Who is he? A reliably right-wing congressman from East Texas who has opined on all sorts of conservative flashpoint issues, from the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation to global warming—the latter of which Gohmert has alternately denied is actually happening and praised as good for the planet because it leads to “more plants.”

Greatest hits: Gohmert once claimed that terrorists would send young women to the United States to have babies born as US citizens who could then freely come back to terrorize Americans after years of being radicalized overseas. He has said gender confirmation surgery, which three-fourths of transgender respondents in one survey said “significantly” improved their quality of life, would cause more US veterans to commit suicide. Gohmert has also suggested that the existence of trans soldiers indicates “we we are headed into a new period of the Dark Ages” and speculated that the Justice Department might be “spying” on him. Gohmert has long had Trump’s back following even the most controversial of the president’s statements. Remember when Trump characterized Haiti, El Salvador, and all of Africa as “shithole” countries? “I’m not going to defend his language, but I will defend his frustration,” Gohmert said soon after on Fox News.

Trumpiest moments: As you may have expected, Gohmert is a huge fan of Trump’s.

Like Meadows and Gaetz, Gohmert has not hesitated to fight Trump’s battles on Capitol Hill. Last month, he tussled with top Trump target Peter Strzok in an explosive exchange during a hearing that enraged Republicans and Democrats alike. Strzok, the former FBI agent dubbed “lover boy” by Trump for his extramarital relationship with former FBI attorney Lisa Page, was bounced from Mueller’s team after a Justice Department internal probe uncovered text messages between Strzok and Page that mocked Trump during the presidential campaign. Referencing Strzok’s affair directly, Gohmert said: “I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?”

Will he be reelected? The congressman will have to make it past former US Army nurse Shirley McKellar in November to secure an eighth term. Unseating Gohmert in one of the most conservative districts in the country will be no easy task—the Cook Political Report rates the race as “solid Republican.” But if McKellar’s enthusiasm on Twitter is any indication, she is ready to give it a shot.

9. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)

Who is he? A dentist who rode the Tea Party wave to Congress in 2010 and has represented a rural area of Arizona for the past eight years.

Random factoid: Gosar is not just a dentist, he’s a member of the Arizona Dental Association’s Hall of Fame. And, as a former dentist, he can “read body language very, very well”—to the point where he could apparently divine Strzok’s level of bias during that recent hearing.

Greatest hits: Gosar has argued that the Charlottesville white supremacist rally was a false flag operation engineered by Democrats, called for attorneys who provide legal advice to undocumented immigrants to be prosecuted, and described Native Americans as “wards of the federal government.”

Trumpiest moment: He was the only member of Congress to boycott Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to Capitol Hill because, he said, the pontiff acts like a “leftist politician.” Trump famously also got into a tiff with the leader of the Catholic Church during the presidential campaign after Francis suggested that someone who builds walls “is not Christian.” Trump suggested in response that Mexican officials were responsible for the pope’s statement and called him a “very political person.”

Will he be reelected? Two Democratic candidates have thrown their hats into the ring in an attempt to oust Gosar: David Brill and Delina DiSanto. (A third, Ana Maria Perez, is competing as a write-in candidate.) The challenger who escapes Arizona’s August 28 primary will have an uphill battle against Gosar in a reliably red district that Trump won by 40 points.

8. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)

Who is he? A family doctor and four-term lawmaker whom Politico once dubbed “the biggest hypocrite in Congress.”

Trumpiest quality: DesJarlais channels Trump in one key area: his utter shamelessness. He brags about his pro-life voting record and backed a late-term abortion ban despite allegedly advising his ex-wife to have two abortions and pressuring a patient he had been having an affair with to get one, too. The same person who described himself as a “consistent supporter of pro-life values” also broke American Medical Association guidelines by sleeping with several patients, earning DesJarlais a fine from the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. “God has forgiven me,” he said. The bulk of this information became public in 2012 after a Tennessee court unsealed documents from an ethics complaint filed against DesJarlais. Like Trump, who barely missed a step when several women accused him of sexual misconduct during the presidential campaign, DesJarlais won reelection in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Will he be reelected? DesJarlais has survived close races before. In 2014, four years after his first election to Congress, he squeaked past a GOP primary challenger by just 38 votes. He survived another primary challenge last week, so his fifth general election in the red 4th District shouldn’t be too difficult.

7. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Who is he? Co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and one of the most vocal members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees.

Claim to fame: He was dubbed a “legislative terrorist” by Boehner, whom Jordan famously tried to oust from his role as speaker of the House. More recently, several Ohio State wrestlers Jordan coached decades ago accused him of ignoring sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by a team doctor. The ensuing bad press—Trevor Noah called him a “scumbag” and “Joe Paterno, part two”—has not stopped Jordan from mounting his own bid for the speakership. He’s already earned the backing of some of the country’s most prominent Trump loyalists, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and Gaetz. Jordan has said the “timing” of the Ohio State scandal is “suspect,” suggesting the accusations against him are somehow related to the speaker’s race or his criticism of the Russia probe.

Trumpiest moments: In a made-for-cable-news moment during a congressional hearing in June, Jordan squared off with Rosenstein.

Jordan and his GOP colleagues have demanded more than a million sensitive DOJ documents related to the probe, and they’ve reacted with fury when the department hasn’t fully complied with their requests at the speed they want. Flare-ups like the one with Rosenstein have won Jordan favor with the president, who reportedly called him a “warrior for me” in a closed-door meeting with Republicans last month. With Meadows, Jordan led last month’s unsuccessful push to impeach Rosenstein.

Will he be reelected? Probably. Unless a major shoe drops in the ever-worsening Ohio State scandal, Jordan is widely expected to keep his seat in Ohio’s conservative 4th District. Janet Garrett, a former teacher and union leader, is hoping that the third time running against Jordan will be the charm. She previously lost to him by more than 30 points in 2014 and 2016.

6. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)

Who is he? Chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee and perhaps Trump’s top congressional field general in his war on the Russia probe. Trump was actually a big fan of Nunes long before the congressman became one of his leading attack dogs. During the presidential campaign, Trump made an unexpected stop in Nunes’ district to raise money and, after securing the presidency, named the California lawmaker to a leading role on his transition team.

Claim to fame: Nunes recused himself last April from the intel committee’s probe into Russian election interference after disclosing information from classified reports he apparently viewed at the White House. Despite promising to hand off the investigation to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Nunes continued to review classified material related to the case and, in May, issued three subpoenas to intelligence officials over unfounded claims that Trump associates were improperly “unmasked” following American surveillance of foreign operatives. The House Ethics Committee ultimately cleared Nunes of any wrongdoing in December.

Trumpiest moments: Remember #ReleaseTheMemo? That brief social media campaign—trumpeted on Twitter by no less than the president himself—led to a party-line committee vote to release a memo drafted by Nunes and his staff that blasted federal law enforcement officials’ handling of the Russia investigation. In true Trumpian fashion, Nunes didn’t let facts get in the way of a compelling narrative. The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, called the memo “rife with factual inaccuracies” and later released a blistering Democratic rebuttal disproving one of Nunes’ central claims.

Will he be reelected? Probably. For the past decade, Nunes has sailed to reelection in the conservative 22nd District, where Democrats have tended to only run candidates of the “sacrificial lamb variety,” Fresno State political science professor Tom Holyoke told Mother Jones in February. Enter 34-year-old Andrew Janz, a Fresno prosecutor whose nearly $2.9 million fundraising haul and viral campaign ads may give Nunes his closest fight to date. Democrats shouldn’t expect any miracles though: Nunes beat Janz by more than 30,000 votes in the state’s so-called “jungle primary” in June, and the Cook Political Report still rates the district as “solid Republican.”

5. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.)

Is he the one that…? Yes, Gianforte famously body-slammed a reporter shortly before winning a special election for Montana’s sole seat in the House. Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge the next month and was ordered to attend anger management classes and perform 40 hours of community service.

Weird factoid: In Montana, where the right to fish freely is paramount, Gianforte caught flak during an ultimately unsuccessful gubernatorial bid when a blog uncovered evidence that he and his wife attempted to close a fishing access site near his property in Bozeman. That’s a big no-no for Montana’s anglers, who depend on liberal public access laws to fish.

Will he be reelected? Republicans have held Montana’s at-large congressional seat for more than two decades, but Gianforte may be in for a tight race against Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams. A June poll showed Williams with a 6-point lead, though the Cook Political Report still rates the Montana race as leaning Republican.

4. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.)

Who is he? Four years before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dethroned the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, a little-known economics professor named Dave Brat was cementing the Tea Party revolution with a shocking GOP primary win over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary. Brat’s win spelled trouble for establishment Republicans like Cantor: A year later, Trump would enter the presidential race.

Trumpiest moment: In his campaign against Cantor, Brat was outspent by nearly 10-to-1, and polls had Cantor winning up until Election Day. But Brat rocketed into Washington on the backs of high-profile supporters like conservative media personality Laura Ingraham and Breitbart, the latter of which was once called “platform for the alt-right” by former chairman Steve Bannon. Two years after the Republican National Committee’s so-called “autopsy report” urged the party to expand minority outreach and embrace comprehensive immigration reform—generally understood to mean legalization for undocumented immigrants—Ingraham and Breitbart backed conservatives like Brat who would hold the line against any attempt to soften the party’s stance on immigration. Cantor represented the party establishment, the same GOP bigwigs who signed off on the “Gang of 8” immigration bill that cleared the Senate during Obama’s second term but died in the House. It’s no coincidence that Ingraham, Bannon, and the writers at Breitbart became some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in 2016.

Will he be reelected? Democrats certainly hope not. After staying mostly under the radar since his shocking victory, Brat now finds himself in a toss-up race against former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger. Virginia’s 7th District went for Trump in 2016, but Dems are betting that its suburban voters will reject Brat in the same way many of them appear to be turning on Trump.

3. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)

Who is he? A three-term congressman from upstate New York, the first sitting lawmaker to endorse Trump for president, and, as of August 8, a defendant in a federal case accusing him of insider trading.

What is he accused of doing? As a board member of an Australia-based pharmaceutical company, Collins allegedly informed his son of the results of a failed drug trial that eventually caused the company’s stock to plummet by 92 percent. According to prosecutors, this nonpublic information allowed Collins’ son and others to trade away stock in a manner that helped the defendants and their associates avoid more than $768,000 in potential losses. Collins’ attorneys said in a statement that they “are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”

His other greatest hits: As a local official, Collins had already been pegged by the New York Daily News as having a case of “foot-in-mouth disease.” Among his more eyebrow-raising statements: comparing New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Adolf Hitler and the Antichrist and allegedly telling a woman during former Gov. David Paterson’s crowded State of the State address that she could find a place to sit if she offered “someone a lap dance.”

Will he be reelected? Who knows? After the news of Collins’ arrest broke, the Cook Political Report changed Collins’ ruby-red district from “solid” to “likely” Republican. His Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, has urged supporters to “FIGHT LIKE HELL.”

2. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.)

Who is he? A freshman congressman from Minnesota once described as “mini Trump.” He was previously a political commentator and radio host—more on that in a second.

Most notable quotes: On his syndicated radio show, Lewis described the “vast majority of young single women” as “nonthinking” and “simply ignorant of the important issues in life.” That’s not all. A CNN report recently disclosed that during one broadcast he also said, “It used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

Will he be reelected? It could be close. Lewis is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents after eking out a victory in 2016 over returning Democratic challenger Angie Craig. This time around, Craig hopes for a different result. With the support of EMILY’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, she has outraised Lewis and turned the 2nd District race into a nail-biter.

1. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)

Who is he? A 15-term congressman from California, former speechwriter to former President Ronald Reagan, and reportedly “so valuable” to Russian intelligence that the Kremlin gave him a code name. Rohrabacher’s passionate defenses of Russia were so widely known that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) once said privately, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (After a recording of the comment surfaced, a McCarthy spokesman said it was a joke.)

Does it concern him that he is seen as so close to Russia? Apparently not. Just last week, Rohrabacher told Mother Jones that anyone in “this town” would have done what Donald Trump, Jr. did—that is, accept a meeting with a Russian emissary promising dirt on a political opponent. Despite his past history as an ardent cold warrior, Rohrabacher has used his recent tenure as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats to trumpet his pro-Russia views.

What else is he known for? Rohrabacher has used his perch on the House science committee to describe global warming as a “fraud.” In a state where wildfires have become a routine, destructive occurrence in the summer, Rohrabacher has pushed back on the connection between worsening fires and climate change. “This exemplifies the tactics—the scare tactics—of those who’ve been pushing this global warming fraud on us,” he said during a spate of fires in August 2013. “They’ll take something that is dramatic, like a fire, and try and use that, or a tornado, or a hurricane, and say, ‘See, people are being hurt.'”

Will he be reelected? Once considered to be in a safely Republican district, Rohrabacher’s seat is now listed as a “toss-upby the Cook Political Report. A July Monmouth University poll found Democratic challenger Harley Rouda with a slight edge over the longtime congressman.