You wouldn’t find many on the Sunday shows. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who rightly criticized his fellow Republicans for rushing to Trump’s defense, bizarrely insisted on ABC’s “This Week” that the incident is a “win” for Trump because he is being martyred.
So the FBI is supposed to let him keep top-secret documents? The instinct to treat this as a tactical win rather than an inexcusable transgression serves only to normalize Trump’s behavior.
Even worse, Rep. Michael R. Turner (Ohio), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, played the whataboutism card on CNN. “Donald Trump is not above the law. And Attorney General [Merrick] Garland is not above the law either,” he pontificated. In what universe was Garland acting as if he is above the law?
Turner, who refuses to denounce Trump, said he has doubts about the necessity of the search warrant for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Based on what? And more important: Who cares, since a judge found probable cause for the search?
Thankfully, CNN host Brianna Keilar up and asked Turner followed whether he had ever taken home top-secret documents. Well, no, he replied. He then added that he demands to see the documents that were taken from Trump’s resort — top-secret evidence in an ongoing investigation. That’s yet another effort to throw up a smokescreen. No one on the intelligence committee, let alone the ranking minority-party member, should engage in such misdirection.
Meanwhile, on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Mike Rounds (RS.D.) falsely insisted Trump could declassify these documents at will. Wrong. As NBC News’s Ken Dilanian explained in an earlier segment on the show, the search warrant cited three statutes that Trump might have violated in taking the documents, and none of them require the information to be classified. “The [Justice Department’s] position is these are US government documents, property of the government, not Donald Trump’s,” Dilanian said. “It’s illegal to steal them. And it’s illegal to mutilate or conceal them to obstruct an investigation. And then you have the Espionage Act, which requires an intent to harm the United States, which suggests that the FBI at least has suspicions about the motives in storing these documents.” In other words, Rounds is making stuff up.
A rare Republican voice of reason came from Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson Wing. On CNN, he cautioned, “Well, if the GOP is going to be the party of supporting law enforcement, law enforcement includes the FBI.” Hutchinson added: “As a United States attorney, I [worked] with the FBI, the [Drug Enforcement Administration], the federal law enforcement agencies. Those folks on the ground do extraordinarily heroic efforts to enforce our rule of law, which is fundamental to the Republican Party and to our democracy.” That’s a refreshing feeling.
Nevertheless, its clear that the worst of the MAGA panderers are going to jump into the fray with every false defense and non sequitur Trump throws out. So why in the world should Hogan, Turner and Rounds join in the scrum, further fanning the flames?
The answer is that Pelosi is right. Other than Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), there are no “adults” in the room among congressional Republicans. They remain mute, play whataboutisms or lamely parrot Trump’s nonsensical defenses. They refuse to stand unequivocally on the side of the FBI, the rule of law and the country’s national security, even when the country’s nuclear secrets might be at stake.
In doing so, the party not only damages our democracy but also helps perpetuate an atmosphere of suspicion toward government, anger and insane conspiracy theories. They, like Trump, share the responsibility for the consequences of their actions and rhetoric.