Rep. Collins sees lots of ‘gratitude’ for Trump’s presidency
Almost one year ago, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., became the first member of Congress to endorse candidate Donald Trump for president. Most of his congressional Republican colleagues were skeptical of the real estate mogul and reality TV star. President Trump will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday to outline his legislative agenda. Monday, Collins, 66, discussed changing attitudes toward Trump and dismissed allegations of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What’s the attitude of congressional Republicans now toward President Trump?
A: Gratitude. Without Donald J. Trump as president, we would not have all the levers, control of the government. We have the House, the Senate, control of the White House — a dream that most members never thought would come to be. And here it is, thanks to Donald Trump. So the gratitude today vs. the skepticism certainly a year ago is palpable.
That’s why he’s got a lot of credibility. He’s got the bully pulpit. And I think as we move forward with some difficult votes — whether it’s health care, infrastructure or tax reform
— that’s going to go a long way towards getting things done.
Q: Are there still some skeptics?
A: There are. You’re always going to have some skeptics. There are some of our members, a couple of dozen, who might be in, call them somewhat Democraticleaning seats, and all politics are local. They’re getting even worse protests than I’m getting. We’re all getting them. You want to get re-elected. I suppose for survival reasons, you have some skeptics that are going to be harder than others to get on some of these tough votes.
Q: Some congressional Republicans have drawn big groups of angry people at town hall meetings. What does that reflect?
A: The fact of the matter is this is organized, disruptive behavior by those individuals who don’t think Donald Trump should have won. They’re reluctant to even acknowledge that he’s their president.
Q: Do you think it reflects constituent concerns?
A: No, I don’t. In some cases, people don’t even know why they’re there. They’ve been recruited.
Q: Are these protests similar to the Tea Party protests in 2009 and 2010?
A: Similar in some ways, but the Tea Party was organic. These were Americans quite upset with things like Obamacare, not organized to the level that these protests have been organized to protest any and all Republicans on issues that haven’t even occurred.
Q: Republican congressman Darrell Issa has called for an outside, independent investigation into allegations of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Do you think an independent investigation is needed?
A: No, I don’t. There’s been no indications whatsoever that there was any coordination, certainly no impact on the election itself. We know Donald Trump had no involvement whatsoever with Russia. ... I think this is a wild goose chase.