Rep. Collins sees lots of ‘grat­i­tude’ for Trump’s pres­i­dency

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - NOW SHOW­ING AT US­ATO­DAY.COM See the com­plete in­ter­view with Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.

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.



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