In the midst of the most devastating testimony delivered about a sitting president in the living memory of nearly everyone serving in Congress today, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shuffled before microphones to say that Donald Trump—in trying to interfere with FBI investigations—probably just made an innocent mistake: “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”
Ryan wants us to imagine Trump sitting alone in the White House with only his intellect and his muscle memory as his guides. He asks us implicitly to forget that Trump has a White House counsel, a vice president with years of governing experience, and an attorney general who campaigned with him for a year, all at his behest to instruct him. He asks us, again implicitly, to forget that Trump pierced the veil meant to separate the White House and FBI, to corrupt the rule of law, and that he then fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about why, and confessed—to NBC’s Lester Holt, and to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office—that he did it to remove “the cloud” of Comey’s investigation of his campaign.
It is an article of faith in Washington that no revelation about Trump’s conduct, no matter how severe, could convince Ryan and members of his conference to launch an impeachment inquiry. As dispassionate political analysis, this may well be true. It would certainly be foolish to believe the opposite—that Trump’s impeachment is a certainty.
But for everything we know about Trump’s conduct already, all this means is that the ethical and strategic conduct of Republicans in Congress should now be as heavily scrutinized as Trump’s. Republicans may not know what they’re covering up, but covering up they are; and they may believe they’re acting in their own political self-interest, but they almost certainly are not.
Comey’s Trump Testimony Will Haunt Republicans