"The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists," one official told Reuters. "I'd call it the cult of Trump"

By Virginia Chamlee
February 01, 2021 04:00 PM
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Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021
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A striking number of former Republican officials are leaving the political party in the wake of the Jan. 6 attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol by a group of former President Donald Trump's supporters, Reuters reported on Monday.

The outlet cited several former high-ranking officials from the George W. Bush administration who said they could no longer recognize the Republican Party after claims that current lawmakers didn't do enough to denounce Trump's baseless election fraud claims.

Those who spoke to Reuters include Jimmy Gurulé, the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence under Bush; Kristopher Purcell, a former communications official; and Rosario Marin, a former treasurer of the U.S. 

"The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists," said Gurulé, who also previously served as an assistant attorney general under former President George H. W. Bush. "I'd call it the cult of Trump."

According to Purcell, some "60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party or are cutting ties with it" in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, Reuters reported.

Purcell also told the outlet that the party's failure to reject lawmakers who embrace conspiracy theories — such as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose social media activity has endorsed calls for violence against Democrats and repeatedly spread bizarre and baseless claims — is further proof that the party's principles have eroded.

When asked to comment on the Reuters report, the Republican National Committee sent PEOPLE a selection of statements made by Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in which she condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Donald Trump
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Many Republicans condemned the violence of the Capitol attacks, though 147 Republican lawmakers also went forward with blocking the certification of the election of President Joe Biden just hours after the Capitol was stormed. Five people died following the Jan. 6 attack.

The attempts to overturn the election were spurred by Trump, who spent weeks falsely claiming that it had been rife with fraud, eventually taking those claims to a rally of his supporters who then marched on the Capitol, descending into mob violence as the electoral certification process was underway.

Some Republicans, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, hit back at those claims. Others, like Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, lent credence to Trump's baseless argument that the election had been stolen from him by objecting to Congress' certification of Biden's victory.

The RNC also sent PEOPLE a link to a January Associated Press story in which McDaniel said Republicans needed to work together rather than attack one another. McDaniel told the AP that the party would remain "neutral" in the next presidential primary rather than focusing on Trump, should he choose to run again.

"If we're fighting each other every day and attacking each other and brandishing party purism, we're not going to accomplish what we need to win back the House and take back the Senate, and that's my priority," McDaniel said.

While Bush, 74, has remained largely apolitical — at least publicly — since leaving office, he did denounce the insurrection and the actions that spurred it in a strongly-worded statement issued hours after it began to unfold.

"Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation's government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight," Bush's statement read. "This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic."

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Center, from left: former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush
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Bush was among the former presidents to attend Biden's inauguration at the Capitol last month and appeared alongside Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in a primetime television special celebrating the occasion that night.

"I think the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country," Bush said on Jan. 20. 

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for the second time during his four years in office: He was charged with incitement of an insurrection, with his trial slated to begin in the Senate in weeks.

Many Republican senators have indicated they will not vote to convict, however. Their unwillingness to completely disavow Trump — and his attempts to overthrow the election results — seemed to have been the final straw for many Republicans, Marin told Reuters.

"If it continues to be the party of Trump, many of us are not going back," she said. "Unless the Senate convicts him, and rids themselves of the Trump cancer, many of us will not be going back to vote for Republican leaders."

Despite this belief, and despite Trump leaving office with his lowest approval rating on record, polling shows the 45th president remains popular with the Republican base. He has launched a post-White House team to continue his political activities as well, aides say.