With Trump's presidency on the brink of collapse (in just three weeks!), Republicans seem intent to strap themselves to the side of the Titanic and ride it all the way to the bottom of the ocean. Instead of investigating the now-screamingly obvious ties between Russia and a number of people in Trump's administration, the GOP is hard at work trying to convince the public that the water pouring into the lower decks is nothing to worry about.
First up was Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, telling the public that there was no way he was going to investigate Trump for anything. Ever. And just to make it abundantly clear that even treason wouldn't get the House GOP to do something, the day after Michael Flynn resigned over conspiring with the Russian government, Chaffetz announced there wouldn't be an investigation because, I kid you not, "that situation has taken care of itself."
That's a brazen abrogation of responsibility, but nothing tops Rand Paul for sheer chutzpah in his dismissal of the entire affair:
Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday an investigation into the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would be excessive and it would not make sense to investigate other Republicans.
Just to be clear, that's not a paraphrase. He literally said Republicans should give other Republicans a pass:
"I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense."
That's as unambiguous a declaration of "It's OK If You're A Republican" as one could ever hope to hear. It speaks to a staggering level of partisanship and that the core belief of the GOP is now party over country.
Even worse, it speaks to a deeply and deliberately broken system. Once upon a time, Congress would investigate high crimes no matter where it led. This is how Nixon was forced to resign and how Reagan was forced to confess to the Iran-Contra scandal. But starting with the rabid witch hunt against Bill Clinton culminating in the sham impeachment hearings of 1998-1999, Republicans weaponized the investigative function of Congress.
This abuse of the system curiously abated during the tenure of Bush 43 but came roaring back to life when Republicans took over the House in 2010. After that, not only was the House dedicated to destroying Obama, but Republicans literally turned the House of Representatives into the tax-payer funded opposition research arm of the Republican Party aimed directly at Hillary Clinton.
It was crass. It was ugly. It was nakedly partisan and went against the best traditions and intent of the Constitution. And it worked. The endless investigations into Hillary Clinton (along with a boost from Russia and the FBI) poisoned the public's perception of her just enough to push Trump over the top by 80,000 votes in three states.
At first blush, it appeared Republicans had shrewdly hitched their wagon to a winner and were going to ride the Trump Train long enough to push through their entire agenda of voter suppression, tax cuts for the rich and repealing Obamacare. Now, however, it's starting to look more like a suicide pact. By so openly trying to bury the worst presidential scandal to rock the country since Watergate, Republicans are gambling that the RMS Trumptanic won't sink and if it does, that there's enough lifeboats to escape on. To say this is a bad bet is an understatement.
That Trump is compromised by the Russians is almost a given at this point. Between his bizarre affection for Putin and the numerous connections to Russia among his closest allies, it's all but certain they have enough dirt of Trump to have him arrested, much less impeached and removed from office. Add to this the fact that the American intelligence community and journalists all over the world are putting an immense amount of effort into exposing Trump and his cronies. With Trump's arrogance and lack of discretion, it's not a matter of when the skeletons will come pouring out of the closet by the truckload, but how soon.
And to put the final nail in the coffin, Trump's inability to control himself or his administration will continue to fuel public discontent, making them less forgiving. People are willing to over look even major indiscretions if the president is popular and doing a good job. But a bellicose clown that sows chaos all over the world is not going to enjoy any kind of public support when the hammer drops.
Yet, Republicans have little choice other than to keep bailing water out of the sinking ship. They bet everything on Trump. They backed him with the hope that he would sign off on most, if not all, of their agenda to undo everything Obama achieved to rein in Corporate America and help the middle class and working poor. They needed Trump to keep control of the Supreme Court. The needed a Republican in the White House to pass the coming slew of voter suppression laws. This is why they keep doubling down on the increasingly erratic and unstable Tweeter in Chief and why they won't investigate his blatant corruption. The calculus is simple: If Trump lasts long enough to permanently rig the elections, it won't matter what happens when he collapses and Republicans win. If Trump collapses too soon, he'll take the GOP with him and they'll never have this opportunity again.
Even if Mike Pence survives the coming collapse and signs off on rigging the system, without Trump to provide a distraction with his antics, the public backlash against Republicans might be enough to break the party for all time. Far better to have Trump the useful idiot around to keep the public's attention on him instead of the GOP, assuming that Republicans like Rand Paul can stop telling us what they're up to and why.
This is a gamble with the highest stakes imaginable and it's amazing that Republicans keep showing their hand like this. It's almost like they think no one is going to notice how corrupt and tolerant of corruption they've become. It's possible they still might get away with it, but as Trump spirals out of control, Republicans are showing the strain of defending the indefensible. Some of them are going through the motions of scrutinizing Trump and Flynn while others like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are quite seriously about it. But for the most part, Republicans are running silent. The rule of law used to mean something to Republicans but now it's all about holding onto to power.
There are 628 days left to the 2018 elections.
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