WASHINGTON ― After four years of Donald Trump, two impeachment trials, and one insurrection, many Republican staffers on Capitol Hill are privately having some of their greatest reservations about continuing to serve GOP members who continue to serve Trump.
“I don’t know a single person who works as a staffer for a senator or representative who isn’t angry and horrified at the lack of accountability their bosses are taking,” one Republican staffer told HuffPost.
This staffer later went on to say they had checked in with about 50 friends who work for Republicans on Capitol Hill since Jan. 6, and 49 were “struggling and very, very angry.”
“What disgusts me the most is that these members have such blatant disregard or don’t seem to care about the staffers who go to work because they have jobs for states they love or the districts they grew up in,” this GOP staffer said.
HuffPost talked with more than a dozen Republican staffers. All of them were granted anonymity to discuss their private reservations about continuing to work for GOP members of Congress. While it’s clearly not the case that every GOP staffer is having a crisis about their work ― some estimated that only about a quarter of their colleagues were having a hard time with their member’s actions ― it’s certainly the situation that many Republican staffers are disgusted with their bosses and desperate to get away from GOP politics.
“Everyone is struggling with our member’s decision in some way,” one senior GOP aide, who works for a member who voted to overturn the election results, told HuffPost. “But for some, it’s more personal than philosophical.”
This aide offered that their office had a junior staffer who was grappling with the member’s decision because it had affected the office’s ability to collaborate with Democrats on legislation ― and could affect the staffer’s ability to get a job in the future.
But, this aide said, many more Republican staffers were struggling with the actual ethics of continuing to work for members who have stood by Trump, who have refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election, who have voted to overturn the election results, and who refused to vote for impeachment or conviction.
Before you reach for the world’s smallest violin, consider that many staffers come to Congress not to work for their Republican member; many just come to work for their district’s representative. Some Republican staffers don’t even consider themselves Republicans. Many more have considered themselves Republicans for most of their lives, only to watch in distress as Trump took over the party and remade it in his own image.
There are, of course, plenty of other Republican staffers who are perfectly fine with Trump and their GOP bosses continuing to support him. Remember those 50 Republican staffers that source said they talked to? The one who said they were not struggling actually worked for Trump and has no remorse. And even as Republican staffers say they’re troubled by what their bosses are doing, it’s unclear what impact those reservations have if no one chooses to publicly speak out. To some extent, every GOP staffer has made a degree of peace with Trump and the job they do ― otherwise they wouldn’t continue to work there.
But it’s also clear that plenty of GOP staffers, perhaps more than ever, are appalled by the actions of GOP senators and representatives, that they’re working for bosses they no longer believe in and are looking for an exit strategy.
One GOP staffer said there were a number of Republicans who had been struggling with their jobs since Trump first ran. “We have overlooked the ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ comments, the first impeachment, the botched response to the pandemic, the refusal to concede ― and I think a lot of us were hoping for a breath of fresh air once Trump left office,” this staffer said.
“Instead,” they continued, “he left us with a coup that stormed the Capitol while our bosses were still there. Even when Trump was at his least powerful and on the way out the door, our bosses still chose to stand by him and that is painful.”
This staffer said they considered resigning the night of Jan. 6, but ultimately decided against it.
These aides all had reasons for staying ― some more convincing than others. One person cited medical issues and expensive prescriptions and treatment. Several noted that it’s difficult to just quit Congress; because of the low pay, many staffers have no savings, and job opportunities aren’t exactly plentiful for former Republican staffers who quit in a blaze of glory.
Some said they continue to feel they can act as a moderating influence over their member, and that they would have more influence if they stayed.
HuffPost did talk to one aide who had quit in 2020 over ethical concerns about their boss, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz became a leader of the movement to overturn the election results, and this former aide said that knowing what they know now, they would have never worked for him.
“It’s a complete and utter embarrassment and abdication of what I thought he was,” the former Cruz staffer said. “I don’t know if he changed or if this is just always what he was, but I’m in a sore place about everything.”
This former aide also said they knew of at least a handful of staffers in the Cruz office who wanted to leave but financially felt they couldn’t. “I mean, yes, it was because of choices they made. Same choices I made professionally that I wish I would not have now,” this former aide said. “But it is not an easy place to be in.”
HuffPost did hear from three staffers who said they contemplated resigning the night of Jan. 6. None of them went forward with it, however, and we are unaware of a single GOP staffer who has quit Congress since Jan. 6 over their boss’s decisions.
“A lot wanted to,” said one of the staffers who said they had thought about resigning the night of Jan. 6, “but given the economy [and] people working remotely, it’s easier to just suck it up and stay in your office ― especially if you only have Hill experience and changing fields isn’t an option.”
One common theme in reporting this story was that, in communicating with some staffers over text, direct message or Signal, they would write long paragraphs about how they’re feeling. Some told us afterward how cathartic it was just to tell a reporter how angry they are with their boss and other Republicans.
But it might also be instructive to know that the tweet inspiring this story was viewed more than 1.8 million times.
Of those 1.8 million views and more than 131,000 interactions, only about eight Republican staffers contacted us. (HuffPost reached out to some additional GOP staffers who we had heard were having a tough time.)
To say there was a selection bias problem in this story is an understatement. And to say it’s possible that we’ve overstated the number of Republican staffers in agony over their boss’s decisions is entirely fair. It might just be that the GOP staffers we heard from are in a very slim minority.
To guard against that possibility, we asked all of these staffers what percentage of their office was actually having trouble with their boss’s role in the events of Jan. 6, the efforts to overturn the election, and the impeachment. The most common answer? Around half.