WASHINGTON — Earlier this month, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania became the first House Republican to formally back legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill.
Less than a week later, he announced he was beginning his retirement from Congress months earlier than expected: Instead of leaving at the end of the session, he’d head for the exit in May.
The move may have seemed sudden but the seven-term congressman, who had initially announced plans to retire last September, has spent much of the past year eyeing the door — and speaking his mind.
Since announcing his retirement, he has denounced President Donald Trump and been critical of Republican leaders. He told MSNBC last week that he’s leaving Capitol Hill “in part due to frustration,” naming the president as one factor. “Sure, the president is a reason,” he said.
“Let’s face it, it’s a pretty toxic environment for my party right now,” Dent said.
Dent is among the nearly four dozen Republicans in the House and Senate this year who have resigned from Congress, plan to retire or are running for another office.
And so without the usual filters, says GOP strategist Rick Wilson — fear of a primary challenge, fear of upsetting the Republican base, “fear of mean tweets” from Trump himself — more than a few have decided to toss the talking points.