The day after after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, bringing with him victories in Congress that kept both houses in Republican control, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, "Trump will lead a unified Republican government." Ryan's praise was interesting coming from a man who just a few weeks earlier had disinvited Trump from campaigning with him in Wisconsin, a state that Trump would eventually win. It was weird after a long election — both general and primary — where the Republican Party seemingly threatened to break itself apart every week. Trump was opposed by a seemingly unprecedented number of elected officials, commentators, and leaders in his own party. Some of those Republicans opposed to Trump ended up endorsing him before the election, some changed their tune after he won, and still others have remained staunchly opposed to Trump and everything he stands for.
At the end of 2016, as we say goodbye to the Trump election and look toward the start of the Trump presidency, here are some times from the past year that Republicans told us how they really feel about Trump. Trump may soon be president for the next four years, but the memories will be with us forever.
1. Paul Ryan Bans The Muslim Ban
He may be working with Trump now, but in December of last year, Ryan had some fierce words to say about Trump's proposed Muslim ban. "This is not conservatism," he said. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."
2. Ben Sasse Hits Hard And Sticks With It
Ben Sasse, the conservative junior senator from Nebraska, was among the first in Congress to say that even if Trump won the nomination, he could never support him for president. He stuck by it the whole election. In an open letter to Trump supporters that he posted on Facebook in March, he wrote, "So let me ask you: Do you believe the beating heart of Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been a defense of the Constitution? Do you believe it’s been an impassioned defense of the First Amendment — or an attack on it?"
3. Rubio Stops Playing Nice
In late February, just before Super Tuesday in February, Marco Rubio realized that Trump wouldn't just fade away. He ripped into Trump, and it got mean: “Here’s the guy that inherited $200 million. If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan."
4. Ted Cruz Tells Us What He Really Thinks
On the morning of the Indiana primary, Trump accused Ted Cruz's dad of being involved with the JFK assassination. After months of playing (semi) nice, Cruz gave up and dug into Trump before the Indiana primary (which he proceeded to lose). "This man is a pathological liar," Cruz said. "He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And, in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying."
5. Reince Preibus Gets Oddly Specific
He's on pace to be Trump's chief of staff, but the Republican National Committee chairman wasn't always having a good time with Trump. When he was asked about his feelings on the party back in April, he had a... strange way of reassuring people while not reassuring anyone. “People assume oh, are you — you must be miserable. You've got a horrible job," Priebus said on CNN. "But I don't see it that way. I'm not pouring Baileys in my cereal, I’m not sitting here trying to find a Johnnie Walker.”
6. Ryan Calls It Like He Sees It
When Trump attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his Mexican heritage in June, Paul Ryan didn't mince words about his party's nominee, who he had endorsed just a week earlier. "Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment," he said. "If you say something that's wrong, I think the mature and responsible thing is to acknowledge it."
7. Nobody Wants To Go To The RNC
Many top Republicans avoided getting together with their party for the Republican National Convention. Many made up lame excuses. Ben Sasse said he'd "instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state." And Jeff Flake of Arizona said, “I’ve got to mow my lawn.”
8. Cruz's "Vote Your Conscience"
This moment at the RNC in Cleveland may have been the most bombastic moment of anti-Trump fire from Republicans. The uproar speaks for itself. Ignoring shouts from the crowd to endorse, Cruz said, "If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution."
9. John McCain Teaches Trump About Patriotism
When Trump attacked the family of slain soldier Humayun Khan, John McCain, one of America's most famous war heroes, released a statement that pointed out exactly what was so wrong about Trump's lack of gratitude for sacrifice: “In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States — to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican party, its officers, or candidates.”