DEMINT TAKES A TRIP — TO HONDURAS…. When there was a military-backed coup in Honduras, most of the world, including the United States government, condemned the removal of the democratically elected government. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — Jesse Helms for the 21st-century — announced his official support for the coup. At the time, he heralded those responsible for ousting President Manuel Zelaya as “guarantee[ing] freedom.”

The line looked a little foolish when the de facto government shut down Honduran media outlets and suspended constitutional civil liberties in the country.

DeMint, however, is undeterred.

Four U.S. Republican lawmakers met with Honduras’ interim president on Friday in a challenge to Washington’s condemnation of the coup that brought him to power.

The brief, amicable visit with the leaders of the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya highlights a divide in Washington, where the Obama administration is working to reinstate Zelaya but many conservatives side with the government installed after soldiers arrested the president in his pajamas and flew him into exile.

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the leader of the delegation, said before the trip that even calling Zelaya’s overthrow a coup is “ill-informed and baseless.”

DeMint and three representatives — Aaron Schock and Peter Roskam of Illinois and Doug Lamborn of Colorado — smiled for photographs in a book-lined office of the stately presidential palace with interim President Roberto Micheletti.

DeMint & Co. will not meet with Zelaya, but they met with acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti and the other major candidates from the elections.

Steve Clemons explained that DeMint is deliberately acting “against the foreign policy of the United States of America in encouraging post-coup Honduran government officials [to] defy the United States. He is encouraging a political leadership which has no legitimacy and which not recognized by other democracies in the region.”

For what it’s worth, DeMint claims that he’s not undermining American foreign policy; he’s just engaged in a “fact-finding” mission to learn about events on the ground in Honduras, despite reports that DeMint intended to “encourage” Micheletti his supporters to “resist.”

The trip itself was subjected to some behind-the-scenes drama this week. DeMint wanted U.S. funding and an official airplane for his trip. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), noting that DeMint refuses to let the Senate vote on President Obama’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, declined the request. We’re not yet sure how, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) arranged for alternate funding for DeMint’s journey.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.