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GOP leader brushes off Trump's answer on 'Hang Mike Pence' chant

A simple question a GOP leader didn't want to answer: "Can your party tolerate a leader who defends murderous chants against his own vice president?"

Even among those who've come to expect very little from Donald Trump, Friday's revelations were jarring. In newly released audio, ABC News' Jonathan Karl asked the former president about Jan. 6 rioters' "hang Mike Pence" chants, and given multiple opportunities to say something sensible, the Republican defended the rioters.

At one point during their conversation, the reporter noted, in an obvious and matter-of-fact sort of way, that the Capitol attackers' chants were "terrible." Trump was unmoved, saying, "He could have — well, the people were very angry." Asked specifically about "hang Mike Pence," the former president responded, "Because it's common sense, Jon," before returning to discredited anti-election conspiracy theories.

It seemed vaguely plausible that congressional Republicans might have a problem with this. Not only is Pence a relatively popular figure among GOP lawmakers, but this was an instance in which Trump suggested he was comfortable with people threatening to assassinate his own vice president. Maybe a member of the Senate Republican leadership might find this worthy of criticism?

Maybe not. Politico reported:

Sen. John Barrasso on Sunday declined to criticize former President Donald Trump for saying it was "common sense" for rioters on Jan. 6 to chant threats of violence against then-Vice President Mike Pence. Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said it was not "common sense" to chant "hang Mike Pence," but declined to directly condemn Trump for those remarks, just saying, "I don't agree with President Trump on everything."

It's worth noting for context that the Wyoming Republican is a member of the Senate GOP leadership: Barrasso is the third highest ranking GOP member.

Over and over again, host George Stephanopoulos offered the senator an opportunity to denounce Trump's defense of the rioters. Barrasso wouldn't budge.

"President Trump brings lots of energy to the party," the Republican said. "He's an enduring force."

It would've been easy for Barrasso to come up with a politically palatable response. I more or less assumed he'd say something like, "I'm sure the former president was concerned about Mike Pence's wellbeing, but..." or perhaps, "What the former president probably meant to say was..."

But the GOP senator wouldn't even take these steps.

Note, the questions posed during yesterday's interview did not lend themselves to nuanced answers. Stephanopoulos began the line of inquiry by asking, "Can your party tolerate a leader who defends murderous chants against his own vice president?"

Barrasso tried to change the subject — leaving little doubt that as far as the Senate Republican Conference chairman is concerned, the GOP can tolerate a leader who defends murderous chants against his own vice president.