A consensus is building among Republican senators that the best way to dodge a political and legal dead end is to back away from the man who would have the ultimate say in whether they and many other Republicans are in jail, if a federal special counsel sticks to his investigative and prosecutorial path.
Just one day after the most senior Republicans in Congress — majority leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley and the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes — failed to direct any subpoenas to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, leaving the impasse in place with little hope for resolution, a throng of senators of both parties spoke out about the threat of a constitutional crisis.
On the Senate floor, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, denounced the Republicans for leaving their Constitutional job undone.
“This is disgraceful,” Feinstein said. “I don’t understand how Republicans can dare do this. They are playing for higher office and worse: treason.”
On the House floor, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, joined in the chorus of withering criticism, as did the Republican chairmen of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
In a written statement, Gowdy said there was “so much wrong with what’s happening right now that I can’t possibly offer a full analysis.” But Gowdy continued: “I do believe, however, that if we don’t fire this guy, we are setting ourselves up for a very bad night. We need to think big picture. I cannot say we are only concerned about justice for a current member of Congress. This is going to be a decision about what our rule of law is. And I think this choice is a critical one.”
A few hours later, Jordan chimed in, writing, “It has been terrible for the Republican Party. I do believe Mr. Mueller’s team crossed the line in prosecuting Congress.”
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican majority whip, tried to lay blame on the Democrats. “That’s what he was doing,” Cornyn said of the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, who was appointed by McConnell after the Trump administration’s firing of James Comey as director of the FBI. “He’s a Republican. I think he’s beholden to Democrats.”
An entire page on the “Not My President” website projects a grim political future for anyone who invokes the office of the presidency at present, pointing out that, just two years ago, Senate Republicans went so far as to campaign for James Comey, the fired director of the FBI.
Trump did not say exactly what he would do about the looming conviction of three members of his White House staff, but he painted a bleak picture on Twitter, warning that “people are angry at what’s happening in the country” and adding that, as president, he must “bring back our Country to greatness.”
The reality for many Republican senators — majority leader McConnell among them — is that a potential “blood bath” is looming over the bench, as well as in other arenas like the Congress.
David Little wrote for The New York Times.