Let me see if I have this straight: Over the course of this past weekend, the president of the United States of America was exposed as being the target of a 2017 counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI. The FBI initiated its unprecedented investigation after Donald Trump fired then-Director James Comey but before Robert Mueller was tapped to begin his own investigation, because the agency feared the president might be working for the Russian government.
Hours later, The Washington Post revealed that Trump has made a practice of confiscating notes taken by the translators during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and furthermore sworn those translators to absolute secrecy: Not even officials within Trump’s own administration were allowed to see what he and Putin had discussed.
“As a result,” reported The Post, “US officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what US intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.”
Yeah, no, that’s not at all creepy. It all sounds exactly as innocent as Jared Kushner attempting to open back-channel communications with Russian officials during the 2017 transition, with Kushner suggesting they use Russian diplomatic facilities and equipment in order to try and thwart National Security Agency monitoring. Exactly as not creepy as that.
Another week, another barrage of horrors from the White House, and still the Republicans in Congress and the party apparatus refuse to say or do anything that could so much as ruffle the coif of Russia’s favorite TV star. Even the faintest meeps of displeasure are muffled now that senators like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake have gone home to lick their wounds.
I swear to Dog, some days it feels like Trump will have to plant a “WE HEART RUSSIA” billboard on the White House roof and then actually shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue before any Republicans in Congress get around to taking this situation seriously. Trump is not morally, ethically, temperamentally or intellectually fit to be allowed within 1,000 yards of the White House. Even his possession of those official White House M&Ms should be deemed a major national security threat; if he has them, it means he’s been in the building, and that is unacceptable on its face.
I understand the motivation of these craven Republicans, I guess. The GOP majority in the House got its collective clock cleaned by a 40-seat margin last November, but they managed to extend their hold in the Senate because voter suppression works. Come 2020, Republicans will have to defend 20 seats to the Democrats’ 12, but most of those seats are bunkered in bright red states like Oklahoma and Wyoming. Democrats, in comparison, have fewer seats to defend but perhaps a tougher row to hoe to maintain the status quo with Gary Peters in Michigan and Doug Jones in Alabama on the ballot.
That’s the rub, though. Most of the chickenbutt Senate Republicans looking to be re-elected in 2020 from safe red states aren’t sweating a potential Democratic challenger. What keeps them up late at night with Pepto in hand is the threat of a primary challenge from the right. All of them live in terror that some fire-breathing MAGA hat with an AR-15 strapped to his back will come along howling “Trump uber alles!” and strip their party’s base support down to the bone.
While not an unreasonable fear, one would think honorable public servants would set aside their personal agendas and the agendas of their political donors to defend the country from… oh crap, I almost made it but I’m just not able to finish this sentence the way I started it. The Republican wing of the Capitol building is a marble box full of bagmen, led by maybe the worst person in politics besides the president: Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has been doing a highly effective imitation of the space between the stars since the government shutdown began, and if anything, the weekend’s damning revelations have only forced him deeper underground. His people, save for a small but growing cohort of apostates, are following his lead. A nose count today would leave the Senate far short of the votes needed to actually do anything about the vengeful ogre squatting in the Oval, a fact as disgraceful and negligent on its face as the president’s own behavior.
“Finally,” wrote Tom Nichols in a damning weekend op-ed for USA Today, “it is exhausting but nonetheless necessary to point out again the titanic hypocrisy of the Republican Party and of Trump’s apologists in the conservative media. If President Barack Obama had shredded his notes of a meeting with the Iranian president, or if Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager were sitting in jail for lying about meeting a Chinese business associate — and alleged intelligence officer — to share polling data, that alone would have been enough for the GOP to impeach everyone from the president to the White House chef.”
Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats control the House of Representatives, which is all well and good. Pressure will be applied. Until McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party confront their fear of the vengefully ignorant base voters they created, however, we will continue to be stuck with the monster they have unleashed. Perhaps, like the rest of us, they are waiting for Mueller’s final report to give them cover… or maybe the Tooth Fairy will swoop in and save us all.
Expect nothing from a pig but a grunt, and you will never be disappointed.