Idaho’s Simpson joins Crapo in withdrawing support for Trump

Idaho Republican U.S Sen. Mike Crapo joined a growing chorus of national GOP officials withdrawing their support of Donald Trump Saturday morning when he urged the Republican presidential nominee to step down after a video showed Trump talking about sexually assaulting women.

On Saturday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said he would not vote for Trump, who he said was unfit for office. But Simpson did not call on the GOP nominee to step aside.

In a statement released about 4:30 p.m., Simpson said: “While I’ve never endorsed Donald Trump, I find his recent comments about women deplorable. In my opinion, he has demonstrated that he is unfit to be president and I cannot support him.”

Crapo urged the Republican Party to “put forward a conservative candidate like Mike Pence who can defeat Hillary Clinton.”

“This is not a decision that I have reached lightly, but his pattern of behavior has left me no choice,” Idaho’s senior senator said. “His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning.”

Other top Idaho Republicans either couldn’t be reached or declined to comment

Trump issued a video apologizing Friday night, and insisted Saturday he would “never” abandon his White House bid. “Zero chance I’ll quit,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He told The Washington Post: “I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life.” He claimed to have “tremendous support.”

One by one, outraged GOP lawmakers condemned Trump’s comments in a 2005 video obtained and released Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News. In the video, Trump is heard describing attempts to have sex with a married woman. He also brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous. “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump says.

More than two dozen GOP members of Congress and governors who had backed Trump revoked their support. They include:

▪ Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Mia Love and Chris Stewart. “You, sir, are the distraction,” Lee said in a video posted to his Facebook page after Trump’s apology. Lee called on Trump to abandon his campaign, saying it was time for the Republican Party to “expect more. There is no need for us to settle.” Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and sitting Gov. Gary Herbert said they would not support Trump.

▪ Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, said Trump’s comments “make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.” He said he’ll write in a “qualified” conservative.

▪ New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte reversed her previous position that she would vote for Trump even though she declined to endorse him.

“I’m a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” Ayotte said. “I will not be voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and instead will be writing in Gov. Pence for president on Election Day.”

▪ Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said Saturday that the party, which has been helping the Trump campaign financially and organizationally, should no longer “defend the indefensible,” the New York Times reported. He urged the party to abandon Trump if he refuses to withdraw and focus solely on electing the rest of the ticket.

▪  Said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama: “Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.”

▪ Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alamba, also called on Trump to quit his presidential campaign. He said Pence should lead the Republican ticket for the four weeks left until Election Day.

▪  New Jersey Republican Rep. Scott Garrett said Pence would be “the best nominee for the Republican Party to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

▪ Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said the only way for Republicans to win the White House in 2016 is to replace Donald Trump as the GOP nominee.

▪ South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune called on Trump to let Pence take the spot “effective immediately.” The state’s Gov. Dennis Daugaard also tweeted that the election is “too important” for Tump not to withdraw in favor of Pence.

▪ “I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president. He has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

▪  Also calling for Trump to step aside: Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said he could not condone or defend Donald Trump’s comments about women.

Pence says in a statement Saturday: “As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. ... We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”

Melania Trump came to her husband’s defense, saying the words, while “unacceptable and offensive,” do not “represent the man that I know.”

She urged people to “accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”

House Speaker Ryan said Friday was “sickened” by Trump’s remarks, and revoked an invitation for Trump to appear at a GOP event Saturday in Wisconsin. But Ryan did not pull his endorsement.

Ryan fundraising chief Spencer Zwick said he’s fielded calls from donors who “want help putting money together to fund a new person to be the GOP nominee.” Zwick told The Associated Press that a write-in or “sticker campaign” relying on social media could “actually work.” While there has never been a winning write-in campaign in a U.S. presidential contest, such an effort could make it harder for Trump to win. Zwick did not identify which “new person” might be the focus of a write-in campaign, although he was briefly supportive of a third run for Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, last year.

In Idaho, Crapo’s Democratic challenger, Boise businessman Jerry Sturgill, had issued a press release calling on Crapo to withdraw his endorsement. “I’m glad to see Sen. Crapo withdraw his endorsement to Donald Trump,” Sturgill said. “What’s taken him so long?”

Crapo told the Statesman editorial board as recently as Monday that he’d he made the choice to support Trump over Hilary Clinton. “I don’t have any difficulty in making that choice,” he said Monday.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is on an official trip outside the country and cannot be reached for comment, said Chief of Staff John Sandy. Risch, who backed fellow Sen. Marco Rubio, said previously he did not endorse Trump but would vote for him.

1st District Democratic congressional candidate James Piotrowski called on his opponent, Republican Congressman Raul Labrador, to withdraw his endorsement of Trump. “I could not, in good conscience, ever endorse a presidential candidate who celebrates sexual assault and misogyny. I don’t care what party or affiliation the candidate belongs to, this is above politics,” Piotrowski said. He called Trump’s comments “stomach churning.”

“To be silent is to be complicit. Anything less than a full repudiation sets a dangerous precedent condoning a serious crime against women,” the Boise Democrat said.

Labrador, who first backed Rand Paul and then Ted Cruz, will not have a comment Saturday, a campaign spokesman said.

Idaho State Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he was “not ready” to comment. Republicans Gov. Butch Otter, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Party Chairman Stephen Yates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker