Dozens of former Bush officials are reportedly leaving the Republican party in the US, saying it has become the “cult of Trump”.
According to a report in Reuters on Monday, the officials who worked in former president George W. Bush’s administration are dismayed by the failure of many elected Republicans to disown Mr Trump after the Capitol riots last month.
They say they hoped senior Republicans would move on after Mr Trump’s defeat and denounce his claims that the election was stolen – but are disappointed that party leadership, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, appear keen to present a united front with the former president who remains extremely popular with the base.
Reuters reports that with most elected Republicans sticking with Mr Trump, the former Bush officials say they no longer recognise the party. Some have ended their membership while others are letting it lapse, and others are newly registered as independents.
Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Bush White House communications office, told Reuters that based on conversations he had been having, he believed roughly 60 to 70 of his former colleagues were cutting ties with the party.
“The number is growing every day,” he said.
Jimmy Gurule, former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the Republican party “as I knew it no longer exists”.
“I’d call it the cult of Trump,” he said.
RELATED: Huge boast as Trump makes comeback
Last week, Mr McCarthy flew to Florida to meet with Mr Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort, saying in a statement after that the former president had “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022”.
“A united conservative movement will strengthen the bonds of our citizens and uphold the freedoms our country was founded on,” he said.
The meeting came after reports Mr Trump was drawing up an enemies list of Republicans to target in primary challenges, armed with a $US70 million ($A92 million) war chest.
Mr McCarthy had turned on Mr Trump after the Capitol riots, saying he bore responsibility for the violence, but in recent weeks walked back his position, telling a news conference: “I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally.”
Reuters noted that more than half of the Republicans in Congress – eight Senators and 139 House members – voted to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win on January 6.
And while 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach Mr Trump for allegedly inciting an “insurrection”, 45 out of 50 Republican Senators have indicated they would not support voting to convict, leaving the trial, set to begin on February 8, effectively dead on arrival.
RELATED: COVID maps Trump wouldn’t release
“If it continues to be the party of Trump, many of us are not going back,” former Bush administration treasurer Rosario Marin told Reuters. “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.”
Former Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo told MSNBC last week that there was currently “the Trump wing of the party, wanting to purge those who have stood up to the president’s lies, (and) you have the establishment wing of the party wanting to purge the party of Trump”.
“Right now, it’s clear that the Trump wing is dominant,” he said.
Approached for comment by Reuters, the Republican National Committee referred the outlet to comments by its chair Ronna McDaniel on Fox Business recently.
“We’re having a little bit of a spat right now,” she said. “But we are going to come together. We have to.”
But Mr Purcell told Reuters many in the party felt they had no choice but to leave, after the election of House members Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, both of whom have made comments appearing to support the QAnon conspiracy theory in the past.
“We have QAnon members of Congress,” he said. “It’s appalling.”