U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) talks to reporters after a Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 29, 2014.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Republican senator: Trump White House in ‘a downward spiral’

A pattern has started to emerge in the immediate aftermath of reports on Donald Trump’s latest scandals, which tend to arise at a head-spinning pace. First, we check to see if the story appears legitimate. Second, we pry our palms from our foreheads and our jaws from the floor.

And third, we tend to ask, “Maybe now Republicans will finally break with this president?”

The answer to that question, at least so far, has consistently been, “Of course not.” Even after Trump practically confessed to obstructing justice, GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill dutifully stuck by their leader.

Today, however, these Republicans face a new test. Trump reportedly shared highly sensitive intelligence with Russia, which compromised national security, infuriated an ally, and sent a signal to the world that the United States, at least in the Trump era, cannot be trusted to safeguard secrets. Any GOP lawmakers prepared to jump ship in light of the news?

Not really. Some congressional Republicans have stuck to a legalistic defense, emphasizing the fact that a president can declassify secrets whenever he or she wants. There was some criticism, however, most notably from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bon Corker (R-Tenn.).
“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters.

“You know, the shame of it is there’s a really good national security team in place and there are good productive things that are under way through them and through others, but the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment – it creates a worrisome environment.”
Let’s note for context that Corker is a conservative senator from a red state, who votes with Trump more than 92% of the time, and who was considered for a leading cabinet post in the Trump administration.

There’s nothing especially wrong with the Tennessee Republican’s statement. On the contrary, it’s rare to hear a prominent GOP lawmaker speak this way about a White House controlled by his ostensible partisan allies.

But Corker’s concerns, while welcome, call out for elaboration. He believes the president and his team must “figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” but what if Trump World doesn’t? What are Corker and his colleagues prepared to do?

The senator added that “the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline” – a passive-voice gem that implicates Trump without identifying him – creates “a worrisome environment.” Great, but just how worried is Congress? What are lawmakers prepared to do to improve this “environment”?

If the answer is “nothing,” then the concerns are ultimately hollow. This is not a crisis that will be resolved by passive hand-wringing.