The GOP Congress Is Out of the Checks-and-Balances Business

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Donald Trump and his trusty aide Paul Ryan.Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Even before the election, it was clear to anybody who paid attention that unified control of government would mean an executive branch free of accountability or oversight. The investigative arm of the Republican Congress, which had been gearing up for four years of ceaseless torment of Hillary Clinton for any offenses real or imagined, has already switched over to a policy of ignoring already-existing constitutional violations. That policy seems to be extending to the rest of the party.

Of course, most Republicans in Congress support Trump and are happy to sing his praises. In cases where they don’t, they simply abdicate any critical judgment. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy evaded questions about Trump’s unprecedented lack of transparency and self-dealing in office, first referring the matter to Trump’s handpicked counsel, then denying any knowledge of what has been front-page news.

Darren Samuelsohn asks various republicans about Trump’s massive violations, and gets a series of run-and-hide replies:

Asked if Congress had any oversight role on the potential conflicts connected to Trump’s many businesses, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smiled and kept walking as he headed off the floor late Wednesday night, declining to say anything at all as he got into a private elevator.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) deflected a question about Trump’s potential conflicts to an aide. “Do you have an opinion on that?” the Iowa Republican asked, before he too stepped in an elevator.
Across the Capitol, the response from some of the chamber’s most powerful Republicans was largely one of indifference.
“That’s beyond my jurisdiction,” said Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for dishing out federal funds.
“Not for my committee,” added Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means that has oversight of the IRS, the controversial agency that Trump famously used as an explanation during the presidential campaign as the reason he couldn’t release his tax returns.
“I don’t think that’s something that…the public is going to hold him accountable” for, said Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican running to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I don’t think people are thinking he ran for president of the United States to line his pockets.”

You’d think the famous straight-talker John McCain, who is now 80 years old and fresh off reelection to a new six-year term in the Senate, might have some ability to exercise independent judgment. But McCain’s stated policy, as revealed to the Huffington Post’s Laura Barron-Lopez, is, “I will not discuss President-elect Donald Trump.” McCain added, “I’m responsible for the people of Arizona.” It’s not like he is a member of some branch of government that the founders designed as a check and balance on the executive. As far as Republicans in Congress are concerned, they’re all working for Trump now.