GOP Rep. King's parting advice to Trump: 'Don't punch down'


Retiring New York Republican Rep. Peter King has some parting advice for President Trump: Curb the tweets and “don’t punch down” if you want to prevail in what is likely to be a “tough” road to reelection.

“Tone down the tweets, don’t punch down, you’re the president of the United States,” said King in an interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” when asked if he had any advice for the president. “Nobody cares if Obama had a bigger crowd than you did at the inauguration. Nobody cares what some congressperson from Iowa or New York or whatever says about you. I mean, just don’t punch down. Go straight ahead. Fight for what you believe in.”

King, 75, who has represented a district in the Long Island suburbs since 1993, last week announced he won’t seek reelection because he wants to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. His comments are significant because he is among a number of Republicans who, while publicly defending the president in the impeachment battle, have privately expressed dismay over some of his conduct, especially his tendency to aggressively attack anybody who criticizes him, including career civil servants and members of his own administration.

King related how even his wife took umbrage last week when Trump tweeted an attack on Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, implying she was at fault because things “turned bad” in Somalia, one of her previous postings, where a militia attack in 1993 downed a helicopter carrying U.S. troops.

“I don’t know how many people, including my wife, say, ‘Why did he tweet that? How come he did that?’” King said. Trump could have simply ignored Yovanovitch’s testimony at the impeachment hearing, King said, because she was not involved in the crucial July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the inquiry.

“Instead, he tweets out. And that, that was the issue, that was going into the weekend,” said King.

King insisted repeatedly during the interview that there was nothing wrong with Trump pressing Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had a seat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. But he cast his opposition to impeachment in a broader context.

“It’s defending the Constitution. It’s the same reason I voted against Bill Clinton’s impeachment. To me, and, and this is where I’m really a traditionalist. ... This is the nuclear option, and this is the death sentence to undo an election, which really is the highlight of a democracy.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY). (Yahoo News photo illustration; photo: AP)
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: AP)

King continued: “The country comes together to vote for a president. To undo that, you need more than sex in the Oval Office, and you need more than a phone call, which I think was appropriate anyway. But even if it weren’t, it’s not a basis for impeachment.”

King also offered rare insight into a president who, he says, is intensely following the impeachment debate in the House, keeping close tabs on which members are supporting or opposing him like a sports fan devouring “baseball box scores.”

King said he recently accompanied Trump to a mixed martial arts match at Madison Square Garden in New York and had a chance to extensively discuss the impeachment battle with him.

“He’s counting the votes,” King said. “He follows this stuff … almost like a guy who follows baseball box scores. He knows who’s for him and who’s against him at any given time, or who may be against him at any given time.”

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