If you’ve been waiting for a Republican member of Congress to concede, out loud and on the record, that Donald Trump may have broken the law, I have some good news for you. NBC News has a report that included a quote that more or less qualifies.
Some Republican lawmakers have signaled cracks in what has been a solid wall of support for Trump amid intensifying federal investigations after prosecutors said Friday that Trump directed Cohen to arrange illegal payments to two women alleging affairs.
“Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime? Of course,” Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters Tuesday. “The only question is, then, whether or not this so-called hush money is a crime,” he added.
The pre-election payoff was obviously hush money, and according to federal prosecutors, there’s no real doubt it was a crime. If that’s “the only question” the Louisiana senator has, I’ll be eager to see what he does with the answer.
But putting aside these relevant details, what’s most striking to me about Bill Cassidy’s quote is that it exists at all.
The GOP lawmaker said he’s “of course” concerned about the president being implicated in a crime, as if this were an obvious position to take, but the fact remains that Cassidy has gone further than practically any other congressional Republican in response to Trump’s precarious position.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he doesn’t care whether the president committed a crime or not. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the alleged crime was unimportant. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) excused Trump’s alleged misdeeds by saying he and his team were “new” to politics in 2016.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was unmoved by the evidence that shows Trump was implicated in a crime, while Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said he “disagrees” with the idea that Trump was implicated in a crime at all, reality be damned.
Bill Cassidy didn’t exactly stick his neck out by conceding his concern about the president possibly being “involved in a crime,” but given the postures we’ve seen from other Republicans, the Louisianan broke some new ground.
The next question is whether Cassidy will find it necessary to walk this back, or whether some of his GOP colleagues might slowly follow his lead.