The modern Republican party is built upon a shrine to Reagan, a mindless deification of the Cold Warrior that fetishes his image, his policies, his quotes, and downplays all of his numerous shortcomings. It’s something of an apostasy then that the GOP under Trump has become downright cozy with Russia, the latest iteration of what Reagan once called the “evil empire.” Trump is dragging the entire Republican party into bed with Putin, and they seem more than happy to slide beneath the covers. It’s slowly destroying them.
Today, the latest stake was driven into the Russian-red beating heart of the Trump presidency when former CIA Director John Brennan testified that he was “aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign.” It was a stunning confirmation of what many have us have believed for some time now.
Republican Representative Trey Gowdy – Benghazi witch hunter and Trump toady – questioned Brennan during his testimony. Doing his best to be a good little soldier for Trump’s agenda, he repeatedly tried to steer the former CIA Director away from discussion of Trump-Russia connections. Brennan met his hack questions with confidence and aplomb. Gowdy’s transparent partisan ploys failed, and Brennan was able to get his truth to the American people.
After the testimony, Gowdy spoke to a Congressional report for CNN, who then revealed this unsettling Russian tidbit:
Trey Gowdy, senior GOP member of House Intel, downplayed Brennan's testimony, telling me it's not unusual for Russians to contact campaigns
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 23, 2017
The Trump administration is in full retreat, and the rearguard is running out of defenses. Rather than refute claims of communication between Trump’s campaign and Russia (which he can no longer do after Brennan’s testimony), Gowdy is trying to normalize such improper and possibly treasonous behavior.
Despite his claims though, there is nothing normal about a foreign power contacting and working with an American political campaign. For Gowdy to say as much could mean two possible things.
The first, most obvious explanation is that he’s simply covering for Trump. Gowdy is a loyal Trump supporter, and it wouldn’t be out of character for him to make such an outrageous claim to defend his boss. Republicans have shown in recent months that there are no absurd depths that they won’t sink to in order to protect their bumbling president in service of their legislative agenda.
The second and more disturbing possibility is that Russians do in fact regularly contact Republican campaigns. It was recently revealed by the FBI that Russia was trying to recruit Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher. Adding to this suspicious atmosphere, Politico ran a story last tear, calling Rohrabacher “Putin’s Favorite Congressman.”
It seems clear that there was collaboration between Trump’s people and Russia to influence the U.S. election. Whether this collaboration infects the rest of the Republican party is still unclear, although it does seem increasingly possible. One thing is perfectly clear: Trump, despite his egomaniacal ambitions, is no Reagan. Reagan tore down walls, Trump (tries) to build them.
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.