Trump campaign warns GOP senators to ignore the ‘bad advice’ and defend the president
Composite image of President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photos by Gage Skidmore.

Republicans are having difficulties navigating the complex politics of the coronavirus pandemic as GOP President Donald Trump's response has resulted in the United States having the highest number of reported COVID-19 fatalities in the world.

"Earlier this month, the Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo with shocking advice to GOP candidates on responding to coronavirus: 'Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China. The Trump campaign was furious," Politico reported Monday.

"On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters," Politico reported.

McLaughlin reportedly said the memo's line was inartful.

"The episode illustrates how the Trump political apparatus demands — and receives — fealty from fellow Republicans and moves aggressively to tamp down on any perceived dissent within the GOP. The president maintains an iron grip on his party, even as his poll numbers sag and he confronts fierce criticism from Democrats over his response to the coronavirus pandemic," Politico noted.

Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, political advisers Clark, Bill Stepien and Chris Carr, and communications director Tim Murtaugh all reportedly reached out to the NRSC about the memo.

“Candidates will listen to the bad advice in this memo at their own peril,” Clark warned in a statement. “President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republican voters and everyone on the ballot in November will want to tap into that enthusiasm. The president’s campaign, the RNC, and the NRSC are firmly on the same page here.”