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As scandal brews, Republicans slow to read whistleblower complaint

Updated

During yesterday’s congressional hearing with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) – yes, that John Ratcliffe – made a quick observation about his colleagues’ busy schedules.

“I know everyone is not going to have time to read the whistleblower’s complaint,” the Texas Republican said.

It struck me as funny because the complaint from the intelligence community’s whistleblower, released yesterday morning, is only nine pages. Sure, that’s prohibitively long for Donald Trump, but for members of Congress, who’ll soon have to consider whether to remove a sitting president from office, it’s hardly unreasonable to think they’d want to sit down with the document.

For many Senate Republicans, however, it wasn’t an urgent priority.

A nine-page whistleblower complaint might have been the most-read document in Washington on Thursday – but not among Senate Republicans.

“Haven’t seen it,” said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said they hadn’t read it either.

“I’ve been running around this morning,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman apologized.

Indeed, the list of GOP senators who either didn’t read the whistleblower’s complaint or claimed not to have read the document was not short.

In fairness, some of them may yet get around to it. At least, one can hope. But there is a larger trend to consider.

At roughly this point four years ago, as Republicans railed against the international nuclear agreement with Iran, some in the party conceded they hadn’t read the policy they were condemning. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted at the time, “This is legislating by reflex – a mass knee-jerk by the Republican majority in Congress. Those who howled ‘read the bill’ during the health-care debate couldn’t be bothered to read the nuclear agreement before sounding off.”

Once the Trump era began, the problem intensified. Republicans didn’t read their own health care plan. They also didn’t read their own tax plan.

More recently, an unnerving number of Republicans conceded they hadn’t read the Mueller report – including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose job arguably entails reading documents like these.

Now GOP lawmakers aren’t reading the whistleblower’s complaint, either? Is it unreasonable to wonder whether Capitol Hill would function better if more Republicans simply sat down and read more?