U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S.,...
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At what point does the Russia scandal become too hot for the GOP?

Updated
The investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal is ongoing, but what we already know is rather breathtaking.

A foreign adversary attacked our election and helped elect its favored candidate. The president’s claims that no one from his team was in contact with Russia during its attack have been discredited. The president fired the director of the FBI because of his dissatisfaction with the ongoing investigation. Before the firing, the president reportedly urged the FBI director to go easy on his disgraced former national security advisor, who remains at the center of the controversy, and who’s already pleaded the Fifth.

This week, we learned Trump also reportedly urged the director of national intelligence and the director the National Security Administration to publicly comment on the ongoing federal investigation, while White House officials “sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly” with the then-FBI director in order to “encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn.” Yesterday, the former director of the CIA pointed to “contacts and interactions” between Russia and the Trump campaign that he found alarming, despite Trump’s assurances that no such communications occurred.

To borrow a cliché, we’ve worked our way through the smoke and arrived at some fire. Standing above the flame is a sitting president who seems eager to boast, “Look at this yuge fire I set. Isn’t it tremendous?”

Under the circumstances, the question isn’t whether Trump has put his presidency in jeopardy; it’s what more congressional Republicans need to see before they agree it’s time for Trump’s term to meet a premature end. As of yesterday, GOP lawmakers, who are well aware of each of the aforementioned details, effectively said they’re not yet close to the threshold. Mother Jones’ David Corn reported:
The Republicans still are not serious about investigating the Trump-Russia scandal. That message came through resoundingly when the House Intelligence Committee held a public hearing on Tuesday morning with former CIA chief John Brennan. […]

Yet once again Republicans did not focus on the main elements of the story. When the Republicans on the committee had the chance to question Brennan, they did not press him for more details on Russia’s information warfare against the United States. Instead, they fixated on protecting Trump.
At the hearing, one House Republican, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), sincerely tried to push the line that Russia actually used President Obama, not Trump, as a tool.

Cynics will no doubt say, “Well, of course. What’d you expect?” And that’s fine, as far it goes, but we’re approaching the point at which it becomes necessary to wonder if there’s literally any amount of evidence that could force congressional Republicans to adopt a different posture.

Rachel was on Stephen Colbert’s show on Monday, and the host asked if a Republican-led Congress would ever hold the president accountable. “I try to not see it in partisan terms,” Rachel replied. “Let’s say that the Department of Justice inspector general or the FBI itself determines that the FBI director was fired and other actions were taken to impede that investigation into the president and his campaign because he wanted that investigation to be knocked off course, it is hard for me to believe that Republicans would not rise above their party in that instance.”

Colbert seemed skeptical, and I imagine he’s not alone. But one need not be an idealistic optimist to believe Rachel is right: if the FBI, the Justice Department, and/or the special counsel investigation tells Congress, in no uncertain terms, that Trump obstructed justice and/or his campaign cooperated with Russia’s illegal attack on our democracy, it’s easy to believe Republicans would make a calculated decision, not on principle, but based solely on their own raw, partisan self-interest.

Trump would become radioactive – or more accurately, even more radioactive than he already is – and depending on the calendar, GOP officials would find electoral value in throwing overboard a president whom many of them were reluctant to support in the first place.

With this in mind, Trump’s apparent confessions and well-sourced media accounts may not be enough to drive a wedge between the scandal-plagued president and his Capitol Hill enablers, but an official finding from federal law enforcement might very well do the trick.

In the meantime, expect more frustrating days like yesterday.