Some of us remember Watergate. Specifically, we remember how some Republicans were raising concerns about the scandal, just like their Democratic counterparts. But today's Republican party isn't the GOP of 45 years ago and to most current Republicans, the Trump/Russia scandal isn't anything close to Watergate -- it's a "nothingburger," to use the currently popular term.
On July 11, the fire under the nothingburger was turned up a few notches with the release of Donald Trump Jr.'s emails about his meeting with a Russian lawyer, from whom he was expecting to be given damaging information about Hillary Clinton. And suddenly the GOP response has gone from "nothingburger" to "I'm not going to touch your question."
On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was quite happy to talk about Russian interference in last fall's election. But he wasn't interested at all in talking about the Trump Jr. emails. When Ryan was asked about any concerns he might have regarding Junior's meeting with Kremlin-connected attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, he did what he always does when asked tough questions about Trump and his associates: he deflected.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that Russia or any other country, but Russia, meddle in our elections. Just period," was Ryan's reply to the query.
Ryan is such a Trump ass-kisser that he even dodged the easiest question that was posed to him: whether he would have agreed to a meeting with a foreign actor who promised him dirt on an opponent. "I’m not going into hypotheticals," was Ryan's response. The obvious response should have been, "Of course I wouldn't have agreed to such a meeting." But that would have been too close to saying that yes, Junior had at least attempted to collude with the Russians, and he wasn't about to go there.
The Speaker also repeated something he and other Republicans have said before about the Russia investigation: let special prosecutor Robert Mueller do his job.
"As you all know, I supported Bob Mueller being appointed special counsel, Ryan told reporters. "And I think we need to let him and his team and our investigators here follow these leads wherever they may go and follow the facts."
Who knows whether the trail will eventually lead to the man who currently sits in the Oval Office, but it is becoming more clear with every passing day that he has surrounded himself with people who are willing to go to any lengths to achieve their -- and his -- ends. And the first Trump associate to be directly and concretely connected to the Russia scandal turns out to be his own son. Yet Republican leaders in Congress refuse to acknowledge the obvious; that the Russia story now has moved beyond allegations. There is definitely a "there" there.
Whether Ryan wants to accept the fact or not, it now appears there will come a time in the not too distant future when Republicans will have to decide whether to stand by their president or admit that he is the head of a criminal enterprise; one that is potentially far worse than anything connected to Richard Nixon. When that happens, who will be this generation's Barry Goldwater and John Rhodes, telling Trump that it is time for him to go?There are only a few possibilities, and you can be sure that one of them won't be Paul Ryan.