The New York Times reported over the weekend that Republican members of the U.S. Senate are “breaking away” from Trump. This follows similar reporting from the Washington Post that Republicans in Congress are now “willing to break with their party’s president.”
On Thursday, CNN cast Trump’s reported disclosure of highly classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
None of this is true.
The CNN article, notably, does not quote any Republican breaking from Trump in a meaningful way. One anonymous Republican source quoted by CNN asserts “siding with the Democrats gets you nothing but a primary challenge.”
The New York Times credits Republicans with breaking with Trump if they publicly support him but privately express doubts.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans “expressed concern and frustration” over Trump spilling secrets to the Russians, but also didn’t identify anyone willing to do anything about it.
Republicans are still overwhelmingly supporting Trump’s agenda and are unable to support basic steps to restore Democratic norms.
Cowering on Comey
Trump made headlines with his abrupt firing of FBI chief James Comey in the midst of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and possible collusion with Russia. Written documents released by the White House asserted that Trump made the decision at the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General. That recommendation cited Comey’s unusual public comments about the Hillary Clinton email investigation — comments that Trump publicly cheered at the time.
Trump later admitted that he had made the decision before the Deputy Attorney General produced his memo and that Comey’s stewardship of the Russia investigation was a factor in the decision.
This, by many accounts, has poisoned the ability for the FBI to pursue the investigation free from political pressure. Nevertheless, not a single Republican Senator supports the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. (One Republican House member supports a special prosecutor but only if the prosecutor also investigates Hillary Clinton’s emails, the IRS, and Susan Rice.)
Just six Republicans, including one Senator, have come out in support of a special Congressional committee or independent investigation. Both of these options would still ultimately rely on the Justice Department to enforce the law.
More Republicans (41) have “questions or concerns” about the firing of Comey by Trump. But such concern has so far not translated into support for any kind of action.
Votes don’t lie
Republican Senators have voted with Trump an average of 98% of the time. Only two Republicans have voted with Trump less than 90% of the time, Senators Paul (89.7%) and Collins (87.8%).
In the House, out of 247 Republicans, only 11 have voted with Trump less than 90% of the time.
It starts at the top
Trump retains the support of rank-and-file Republican members of Congress. But more importantly, he retains the support of Republican leadership — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ryan and McConnell both offered their full-throated support for Trump’s controversial firing of Comey. Even after news broke that Trump reportedly shared intelligence secrets with Russian officials, Ryan’s response was muted.
“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount,” a spokesman for Paul Ryan said in a statement. “The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”
Ryan’s reaction reflected the current overall posture of Republicans in Congress. They will not provide a check on Trump. They will simply wait for his explanation, accept it and move on.