While the Republican Party, for the most part, remains lockstep behind Donald Trump, their support should be presumed to stem more from cynical political maneuvering than any kind of genuine loyalty. The GOP’s base still overwhelmingly supports its odious president and until that changes elected Republican officials have decided to at least pretend to be on his team.
That said, there is also an incentive for conservative senators and congressmen to give themselves a little bit of distance from the administration in case the impeachment inquiry spins out of their control. If that happens, and Trump flames out in climactic fashion, those closest to him are sure to be dragged down with him. By refusing to go all-in defending every single one of Trump’s lies and alleged crimes, some Republicans are hoping to insulate themselves from him in the long run.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was asked about Trump’s claim that he told the president he believed his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—during which Trump tried to use withheld military aide to convince Zelensky to open a damaging investigation into 2020 candidate Joe Biden—was “perfect” and “innocent.”
“We’ve not had any conversations on that subject,” said McConnell, bluntly refuting the president’s claim.
“So he was lying about that?” the reporter asked.
“You’ll have to ask him. I don’t recall any conversations with the president about that phone call,” he responded.
While McConnell stopped short of admitting that Trump was lying in this instance, his response is an obvious attempt to distance himself from Trump’s growing Ukraine scandal. At this stage, given what we know about Trump’s staggering abuses of office, it seems almost certain that he will be impeached in the House.
Earlier today, Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor explained to the House Intelligence Committee “how pervasive the efforts were to tie an investigation of Burisma and 2016 election ‘interference’ to a White House meeting and aid being released.” Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, served for a time as a board member, a fact which Trump has been spinning up fabricated conspiracy theories and smears about.
Taylor’s testimony is sure to accelerate the impeachment inquiry. Donald Trump tried to use the unparalleled powers of the Oval Office to undermine our elections. There is no longer any legitimate way to deny that fact and Republicans who fail to break ranks will be forever remembered as enablers of an incompetent, criminal, and evil president.
Mitch McConnell tells @nancycordes that he did not talk to President Trump about the infamous call with Ukraine's president — contradicting Trump's claim that McConnell said the call was "perfect" and "innocent" https://t.co/H9n7JKbYS7 pic.twitter.com/6JLVkMrR8A
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 22, 2019
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.