For the past four years, Jim Leach watched the "bizarreness" as Donald J. Trump, an "outsider" who "never in his life was a Republican until he saw an opportunity to start a political movement" did just that. And in the process, he assembled an army of supporters that forced leaders of his own party to cower in fear.
The former eastern Iowa congressman says federal lawmakers now have an opportunity to "turn the leaf" with President Trump's impeachment for willfully inciting last week's deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
"It strikes me that we don’t want to have a new Congress that half of its members are afraid of Donald Trump, and not Donald Trump the person, but Donald Trump’s army of supporters," Leach told the Quad-City Times Wednesday. "I think we just have to think anew."
Leach, a Davenport native, served 30 years as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Iowa's 2nd congressional district.
Leach said Trump's impeachment was necessary not only to hold the president accountable for stoking last week's violence, but to cleanse the party of Trump's influence.
"The power of (Trump's) base has been uncomfortable for many Republican senators, and in a way impeachment 'frees' elected officials to not always be afraid of a backlash from Trump’s base," Leach said. "It’s intriguing that (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell has been hinting these last couple of days that we should have impeachment to block Trump from running again and destroying the Republican party. It has a lot of validity."
Leach took issue with House Republicans, including the newly-seated Republican to hold his former congressional seat, who argue there are other ways to hold the president accountable, such as censure, and that impeachment will only further divide the nation and make it more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to unify and lead the country.
"You or I can’t say with confidence that this will help bring the country together or cause more dissent," Leach said. "It’s unclear at this point. ... To me, it is so clear that the president has taken a position that is unprecedented in American history."
Leach compared Trump's "big lies" about election fraud in the 2020 presidential election to Nazi propaganda.
"We know from the German experience that big lies repeated take on a power of their own, and a big lie of this election was that it was fraudulent in the five or six states that the president lost," Leach said. "Over 60 judicial reviews have revealed this to be false. Many of the cases the president and his team of lawyers brought were laughed out of court. What you’re dealing with here is accountability. And, without a doubt, this country watched as a priorly planned grouping of people were invited to come to a rally and were urged to go and attack the Capitol itself. This was an attempt to coerce the United States Congress, and this was an attempt to undercut the legitimacy of an important American election.
"This is nothing but a big lie, and you have to deal with that. To not deal with it is to acquiesce to what is fraudulent," Leach said of Trump attempting "to illegally influence the vote," including pushing Georgia election officials to "find more votes to turn the election" in his favor.
Leach's comment follow those of fellow former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Nussle, who last week renounced his party over Trump's behavior and last week's violence.
I will no longer claim I am a Republican tonight as I am outraged and devastated by the actions of too many elected Republicans (some I know and served with) and supporters. Today a final line was crossed that I will not excuse. The GOP is NO more and left me and others behind. pic.twitter.com/Ertu4qYqyu— Jim Nussle (@JimNussle) January 7, 2021
Leach said he "refuse(s) to leave the Republican party that I identify with, and that’s the party of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, (Ronald) Reagan and George H. W. Bush."
"This is a great political party for which Trump is the outsider," he said.
Leach's comments also come days after the resignation of Scott County GOP Chairman Dave Millage over comments Millage made to the Quad-City Times calling for Trump's impeachment.
Reached Wednesday, Millage said he resigned after receiving several texts, voice and email messages from Scott County Republicans "that led me to believe I would no longer have their respect and confidence of a significant number of Republicans, and it would be best to resign."
Millage said he stood behind his comments calling for Trump's impeachment.
"Trump should be impeached for inciting a riot to prevent Congress from certifying the electoral college vote," Millage said. "His actions were a culmination of his efforts to attack the November vote. It is important primarily because a conviction would disqualify him from holding office ever again."
Stressing that he was expressing his own opinion and not the views of the Republican Party, Millage said he did not want to speculate what Trump's impeachment may mean for the party.
"But, I want it to be done with Trump," Millage said. "I will remain a Republican because I believe in the principles it pursues."