Republicans stand a strong chance of losing control of at least one chamber of Congress in the midterm elections, because many voters want to create a check on the Trump administration. A Republican aide working to maintain GOP control of government tells Playbook that checking Trump’s power is exactly why you should vote Republican. “I think there’s a credible case to be made that if you actually want to hold Trump accountable it’ll take both parties to do it. Hence giving it all over to the Dems will just reinforce gridlock.”
This might be the single most disingenuous argument for voting Republican
The news that congressional Republicans plan to hold Trump accountable might come as a surprise to congressional Republicans themselves, who have just been issued fresh official talking points from their party for handling the latest misconduct they have been trying to cover up.
The official party line stresses that “the fact that a plea was entered into does not mean there was an adjudication of any campaign finance claim.” In plain English, they’re insisting that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, wasn’t proven in court to have committed a crime at Trump’s direction because he pleaded guilty. Also, it was part of “a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a long period of time,” and the fact that these lies were uttered on behalf of the sitting president should apparently should not concern anybody. Also, the talking points end with a rousing call to end the Mueller probe.
That doesn’t sound like a party terribly eager to hold Trump accountable, does it?
The Republican Congress has made a conscious choice to avoid holding Trump accountable for a wide array of improper and illegal acts. The choice involves a combination of passive and active decisions. For instance, House Republicans have empowered Trump crony Devin Nunes to run the Intelligence Committee as essentially an arm of Trump’s legal defense team, harassing the Department of Justice with a series of accusations and demands designed to discredit it institutionally and/or pry open Robert Mueller’s files in order to let Trump know what the Feds have on him.
Here is another, more germane example. On several occasions, House Democrats have tried to compel a vote to release Trump’s tax returns. Every time, the Republican majority has blocked them. Some of the crimes Michael Cohen confessed to in court yesterday might have been apparent had those tax returns been made public.
The tricky thing about these moves is that the decision is made at the level of leadership. House Republicans themselves don’t have to cast votes to unleash Devin Nunes or block release of Trump’s tax returns. Those decisions are made by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is very sad about it, but who is also retiring and immune from accountability.
But this also makes the political choice very simple. Since there are no stand-alone votes on holding Trump accountable, party membership is the one salient question. Even if individual Republicans in Congress profess a desire to hold Trump accountable, if they are supporting a Republican majority, they are by definition supporting the cover-ups.
The only way to restrain Nunes’s anti-Mueller crusade, or to look at Trump’s tax return and see who was paid off by whom, is to replace the Republican majority with a Democratic majority, which will hold oversight hearings and use its subpoena power to probe the overflowing sewage spill of misconduct and lawbreaking surrounding Trump.