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Port: Armstrong and Hoeven say they'd still back Trump for president, Cramer doesn't answer the question

If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it yet.

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Kevin Cramer speaks alongside President Donald Trump on June 27 at Scheels Arena in Fargo. Trump came to the city twice to campaign for Cramer, who unseated incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in November.
Forum file photo
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MINOT, N.D. — How does North Dakota's congressional delegation — Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer along with Rep. Kelly Armstrong — feel about Trump these days?

It's an important question, because a lot has happened in Trump World in recent weeks, though, as usual, we can't find anything approaching a consensus on what Trump is responsible for.

In a comment on a post I made on Facebook, a reader named Jeff provided the perfect distillation for how the cultish followers of Donald Trump try to gaslight his critics.

"Well, you see, Rob, it goes something like this," he wrote . "Trump didn't say that. But if he did, he didn't mean that. If he did mean it, you didn't understand it. If you did understand it, it's not a big deal. If it is a big deal, others have said worse."

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

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The latest thing that Trump said that (according to the Trumpkins) he didn't actually say, or that you misunderstood, or that isn't nearly as big a deal as whatever Democrats are up to today, is his contention that the supposed election fraud in 2020 was so serious and pervasive it justifies flushing certain constitutional protections for our democratic process.

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"Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?” Trump asked on TruthSocial . “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Every tyrant worth their salt has clung to some excuse to blow past legal protections and get what they want. The Nazis had the Reichstag fire . Before invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin made false claims of genocide gainst ethnic Russians in the Donbas.

That Trump sees our Constitution — a document he once swore to protect against enemies foreign and domestic — as an obstacle to his ambitions is not news.

"Forget the riot on January 6 for a moment — in the grand scheme of things, that was a sideshow — and examine what Trump was trying to do while that riot occurred," Charles Cooke wrote for National Review recently. "Repeatedly, and without shame, the president of the United States made an attempt to rewrite the 1887 Electoral Count Act and the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution so that Mike Pence could be transformed into an election-dictator and declare that he, Donald Trump, rather than the winner, Joe Biden, had prevailed in the election."

When Pence refused to go along with this patently unconstitutional scheme, Trump made his own vice president the target of a violent mob of his supporters.

And on top of Trump's palpable disdain for our constitution, we have the whole "had dinner with outspoken bigots" thing. That Trump supped Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, two men who have not been subtle about their bigotry toward Jews and others, is a national disgrace.

So, all that being established, how do North Dakota's top Republicans feel about Trump? Are they finally ready to say, definitively, that it's time for Republicans to move on?

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To my knowledge, nobody had asked them the question since the Fuentes/West dinner, so I thought I would. Their answers are disappointing.

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Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., speaks to his legislative director during a meeting of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, which has overseen the investigation into top Silicon Valley companies.
Photo from the Office of Congressman Kelly Armstrong / Special to The Forum

Armstrong was characteristically blunt in his assessment of Fuentes. "Nick Fuentes is a racist, antisemitic scumbag, no one should be dining with him. Certainly not the former President," he said in a statement.

Armstrong also said Trump's comments about the constitution were "absurd" and that it's time for Trump to accept the outcome of the 2020 election. "Anyone who takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution should not be calling to terminate portions of the Constitution, it’s absurd. We’re two years past the 2020 election and he needs to accept the results," he said.

But would Armstrong support Trump again if he's the nominee in 2024? Armstrong hedged a bit, but ultimately said he would. "As for the 2024 primary, I have not made a decision who to support because we don’t even know who’s running," he said, which isn't entirely true, because Trump has announced. "As for the general election, I’m a Republican and I will support the Republican nominee. While Trump is certainly far from perfect, President Biden’s policies and reckless spending have been catastrophic for North Dakota."

Hoeven, meanwhile, was less verbose than Armstrong in his response, but also said he'd support Trump if he's the nominee.

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U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., hands his photo identification to a poll worker at the Bismarck Event Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

"We need to complete the 2022 cycle and that means winning in Georgia today," he said, referring to the runoff in Georgia's U.S. Senate. "As far as the next cycle, my intent at this point is to support our nominee, but all Republicans need to not only support the Constitution but also look to the future and work to bring our country together."

Cramer, meanwhile, didn't bother to respond to my inquiry, but given that he was one of Trump's earliest supporters in Congress, and has been one of his most consistent defenders since the 2016 election cycle, I think it's probably safe to assume that he'd still support Trump for president, even if he's maybe sick of talking about him.

So there you have it, folks. If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it yet.

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Let's close with a question worth discussing: Do you think these three elected leaders would give so much benefit of the doubt to a Democratic leader who tried to overturn a national election they all voted to certify, who dined with bigots, and who talked about ignoring constitutional law that serves as the foundation of our republic?

Something tells me they'd be singing a different tune.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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