Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denounced Trump's recent remarks about restricting Muslim travel during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 8, 2015.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Following Trump’s Comey firing, Republicans flunk their test

For months, one of the overarching questions in American politics has been directed at congressional Republicans: “How far does Donald Trump have to go before GOP lawmakers have the courage to denounce him?”

With this in mind, Republicans were presented with an opportunity yesterday. The president had just fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Team Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia. One need not be a rabid partisan to recognize the seriousness of the president’s abuse, and all GOP lawmakers had to do was be honest about the seriousness of the circumstances.

Republicans, in other words, were confronted with a test, which they failed. NBC News reported:
Some grumbled, they made grave expressions of concern, and they called for answers. But, so far at least, Republican in the Senate have stopped short of calling for an independent investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. politics after President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday.

Democrats, who question whether Comey’s termination was an attempt to quash the FBI’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, renewed their call for a special prosecutor or independent 9/11-style commission.

But other than a handful of Republicans in the House, however, the GOP was largely united against the idea.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s done as much as anyone to shield Trump from any kind of accountability in the Russia scandal, said, “Today, we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done.”

Oh. We’re apparently supposed to believe investigating the scandal would interfere with an investigation of the scandal.

McConnell isn’t alone. The entire Republican leadership in both chambers has decided to endorse Trump’s actions, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who broke his silence yesterday afternoon to endorse the White House’s position.

Asked yesterday about parallels between Trump and Richard Nixon during Watergate, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Fox News, “Suck it up and move on.”

Confronted with a possible constitutional crisis, Republicans, with too few exceptions, have chosen indifference. A foreign adversary attacked our democracy, the president’s team may have cooperated in the scheme, and GOP lawmakers, asked to put country over party, have effectively declared, “No.”

Driven by little more than tribal instincts, McConnell, Ryan, and their cohorts have chosen to enable Trump’s misdeeds, looking the other way while the White House sinks deeper into scandal.

The Atlantic’s David Frum wrote yesterday, “The question has to be asked searchingly of the Republican members of Congress: Will you allow a president of your party to attack the integrity of the FBI? You impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex. Will you now condone and protect a Republican administration lying about espionage? Where are you? Who are you?”

These are the kind of introspective questions for which GOP leaders simply have no use. Trump is on their “team,” and there’s nothing else they need to know.

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Scandals

Following Trump's Comey firing, Republicans flunk their test