Seriously, what will it take for California Republicans in Congress to hold President Donald Trump to account?
They gave him a free pass for his shameful and unpatriotic performance at the July summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. They won’t pass bills to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and of potential obstruction of justice afterward.
And now they won’t speak out after Trump’s longtime personal lawyer pleaded guilty Tuesday to breaking campaign finance laws by paying hush money to a porn star and a former Playboy model to keep them from talking about affairs they said they had with Trump. Under oath in open court, Michael Cohen said he made the payments before the 2016 election “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate,” namely Trump.
The truth is that we now have an unindicted co-conspirator and proven serial liar in the Oval Office.
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It’s not fake news. And silence is complicity.
When members of Congress take the oath of office, they swear to defend the U.S. Constitution, not to protect a president. Every time Republicans from California and elsewhere ignore or rationalize or excuse Trump’s transgressions, they tarnish that oath.
Sadly, by now, this abdication is to be expected from the likes of Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, a Trump stooge, and Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, who represents the interests of the Kremlin as well as his Orange County district.
But voters ought to demand a whole lot more of leaders, including No. 2 House Republican Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. He wants to be speaker if Republicans keep control of the House in November.
That would make him not only the head of his party in the House, but a leader of the legislative branch. Already, the Republican leaders of the legislative branch are failing to fulfill their constitutional duty to provide checks and balances on Trump. And McCarthy has given little indication that he would change that on his watch as speaker.
McCarthy has not said anything about Cohen; his office did not reply Wednesday for a request for comment.
Instead on Tuesday afternoon, he retweeted a Fox News alert about the arrest of an immigrant from Mexico in the kidnapping and killing of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbets. “Such a senseless tragedy in Iowa,” McCarthy said. “Our hearts grieve for Mollie Tibbetts, whose life was stolen at the hands of evil.”
It is a very tragic case, but Trump and his allies will use it to demonize all immigrants, just as they did with the case of Kate Steinle, who was shot on a San Francisco pier in 2015 by an undocumented immigrant. That is apparently part of the game plan to distract attention from the president’s mounting legal troubles.
And McCarthy is part of that team. How much is he willing to tie himself to Trump in pursuit of the speaker’s gavel and the power that comes with it?
On days like Tuesday – when the Cohen plea happened nearly at the same time that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of bank and fraud charges that were filed by Mueller’s team – it is instructive to think about what the reaction would be if it wasn’t Trump in the Oval Office, but Barack Obama, or any other president for that matter. Wouldn’t there be bipartisan concern and calls for inquiries?
If Republicans will not hold this president accountable, voters must choose representatives in November who will.
That’s even more the case for voters in the San Diego district of Rep. Duncan Hunter, one of Trump’s first supporters in Congress. Also on Tuesday, the five-term Republican and his wife were indicted on federal charges that they misused $250,000 in campaign money for personal expenses, including, of all things, airfare for a pet bunny.
Democrats pounced on the trifecta of Hunter, Cohen and Manafort, calling it proof of a culture of corruption that must be cleaned up.
That will only happen if voters – Democrats, independents and Republicans who want to take their party back from Trump – show up in November.