One of the big political stories today is that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s slow walk toward endorsing Donald Trump for president may be coming to an end. One of the things that may give him pause is to a look at the House colleagues who beat him to this particular punch. Some of the early birds in the Trump camp are, to use a technical term, real pieces of work.
Consider Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, who endorsed Trump just before his state’s presidential primary. In late March, DesJarlais, along with Sen. Jeff Sessions, was very prominent in a “getting to know you” meeting the mogul held with congressional conservatives. More recently, he’s been identified as a key congressional recruiter for Trump, and a sort of all-purpose liaison and spokesperson:
DesJarlais says he helped organize a meeting between the Freedom Caucus board and Trump’s campaign operative Paul Manafort last week. And before Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last month, DesJarlais was one of a handful of members who sat down with the speaker and encouraged Ryan to unite behind the nominee. He has recruited members from his Doctors Caucus to join him at Trump campaign outreach meetings at the Capitol Hill Club, is trying to organize a meeting between congressional Republican women and Trump and says he’s busier with the media than he’s ever been.
Just this week, he’s publicly speculated about Trump’s vice-presidential choice (he thinks it will be Newt Gingrich) and cabinet. He’s definitely a very big deal in Trumpian Washington.
He is also one of the most regularly and violently condemned members of Congress, often by Republicans who share his very conservative policy views.
David French of National Review called him “quite possibly the worst person in Congress.”
CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) placed him on its “Most Corrupt” list in 2013.
Prominent spokesman for independents John Avlon named him one of the “eight worst members of Congress” back in 2012.
And he also made a “10 weirdest members of Congress” list.
Much of the dirt on the staunch pro-life, pro-family DesJarlais came out during divorce proceedings shortly before the 2012 elections. Here’s a brisk summary from the Chattanooga Times Free Press of an amazing record of professional malfeasance, infidelity, and hypocrisy:
A decade before calling himself “a consistent supporter of pro-life values,” Tennessee physician and Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais supported his ex-wife’s decision to get two abortions before their marriage, according to the congressman’s sworn testimony during his divorce trial.
Obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the couple’s 2001 trial transcript also confirms DesJarlais had sexual relationships with at least two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn. During one affair with a female patient, DesJarlais prescribed her drugs, gave her an $875 watch and bought her a plane ticket to Las Vegas, records show.
These revelations came out too late to sink DesJarlais in 2012. He drew a conservative primary opponent in 2014, and managed to beat him by 38 votes. He has another batch of opponents trying to topple him in this year’s August primary. Presumably his status as Trump’s Man of the House will help him survive that challenge, too.
From Trump’s side of the relationship, you have to wonder if associating with a dude like Scott DesJarlais makes the Donald look righteous by comparison. You can definitely imagine them having some stories about women to trade over drinks. Good Catholic family-man Paul Ryan should take care to stay out of earshot.