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Former Rep. Joe Walsh: I'm challenging Donald Trump for president

Former Rep. Joe Walsh, of Illinois, says he

Former Rep. Joe Walsh, of Illinois, says he will run for president. Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois said Sunday he would challenge Donald Trump for president, setting up a potential primary contest in 2020.

Walsh, who rode the wave of the tea party movement to Congress in 2010, served one term and now hosts a conservative radio show. In April, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said he would challenge Trump in a Republican primary, and former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford said this week he is close to deciding on whether to mount a challenge.

"I'm going to run for president," Walsh told ABC "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos. "We’ve got a guy in the White House who's unfit. Completely unfit to be president. And it stuns me that nobody stepped up, nobody in the Republican Party stepped up." 

Asked by Stephanopoulos if the 25th Amendment should have been invoked to remove Trump from office, Walsh said, "It should be looked at."

Walsh, once a strong supporter of Trump and a conservative firebrand who had accused former President Barack Obama of being a Muslim, expressed remorse for his part in making politics "personal" and "ugly."

"I helped create Trump," Walsh said. "That's not an easy thing to say."

Stephanopoulos pointed to criticism that Walsh had acted as a demagogue and made sexist and racist tweets. He cited a 2017 tweet from Walsh saying, "We LOWERED the bar for Obama. He was held to a lower standard cuz he was black."

Stephanopoulos noted a few months later, Walsh tweeted that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), now a Democratic candidate for president, "said something really dumb. Meh. If you're black and a woman, you can say dumb things. Lowered bar."

Walsh told Stephanopoulos, "I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret. And it's difficult, but I think — I think that helped create Trump. And I feel responsible for that."

"We have a guy in the White House who's never apologized for anything he's done or said," Walsh said. "I think it's a weakness not to apologize."

Walsh said the president lost credibility with him after signaling support last year for Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump made the claim after a U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, despite U.S. intelligence suggesting otherwise.

"That's disloyal, that's un-American," Walsh said.

Weld, who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, said he was "thrilled" about Walsh's entry, as well as a possible challenge from Sanford.

Weld said he hoped enough candidates would enter the field to trigger televised Republican primary debates. "I hope more as well, it can only contribute to more robust dialogue, and that will be good for the country," Weld told NBC's Chuck Todd. "We need to assemble rational people. Sure, a crazed president makes the stock market go down, but that doesn't mean we have to like it."

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