“By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you’re responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” former CIA director John Brennan said
.. I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”
.. “He seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honor guards and all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office, and I think that appeals to him, and I think it plays to his insecurities,” Clapper said.
.. “I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” Brennan said. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding, and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.”
.. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to Trump’s defense, brushing aside the comments of Brennan and Clapper.
“Those were the most ridiculous statements,” Mnuchin said. “President Trump is not getting played by anybody.”.. “He believes that after a year of investigations of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, there is zero evidence of any ballot being impacted by Russian interference,”
Republican politicians throughout the age of Trump, and again and again they have chosen to die in the dark.
This was true of Trump’s strongest primary-season rivals, who fought him directly and concertedly during exactly one of the umpteen debates and then, finding open war hard going, chose to lose and bow out as though Trump were a normal rival rather than the fundamentally unfit figure they had described just a few short weeks before.
It was true of the party functionaries, the hapless Reince Priebus above all, who denied the residual Republican forces resisting Trump the chance to fight him one last time in the light of the convention floor.
.. It was true of Paul Ryan; it was true even of John McCain... It was not true of everyone. Mitt Romney and John Kasich declined to fall on the sword of party unity; so did George W. Bush and his father; so did some governors and a few junior senators, Mike Lee and Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake... while they refused to make the quietus, to strangle their own convictions in Trump’s ample shadow, they declined many chances to keep up the fight openly as well... The nomination of a figure like Trump, a clear threat to both the professed beliefs of his party’s leaders and to basic competence in presidential government, is the sort of shattering event that in the past would have prompted a real schism or independent candidacy... But Romney couldn’t talk Kasich into being that independent candidate, all the other possibilities demurred.. Now, almost a year into the Trump presidency, a similar dynamic is playing out. There is a small but significant Republican opposition to Trump, but its leading figures still don’t want to go to war with him directly, preferring philosophical attacks and tactical withdrawal to confrontation and probable defeat... To the extent that there’s a plausible theory behind all of these halfhearted efforts, it’s that resisting Trump too vigorously only strengthens his hold on the party’s base, by vindicating his claim to have all the establishment arrayed against him... In the end, if you want Republican voters to reject Trumpism, you need to give them clear electoral opportunities to do so — even if you expect defeat.. an anti-Trump movement that gives high-minded speeches but never mounts candidates confirms Trump’s claim to face establishment opposition while also confirming his judgment of the establishment’s guts and stamina — proving that they’re all low-energy, all “liddle” men, all unwilling to fight him man to man... If Corker really means what he keeps saying about the danger posed by Trump’s effective incapacity, he should call openly for impeachment or for 25th Amendment proceedings.. If Flake really means what he said in his impassioned speech, and he doesn’t want to waste time and energy on a foredoomed Senate primary campaign, then he should choose a different hopeless-seeming cause and primary Trump in 2020. George W. Bush should endorse him. So should McCain, and Corker, and Romney, and Kasich, and Sasse, and the rest of the anti-Trump list... They should expect to lose, and badly, but they should make Trump actually defeat them, instead of just clearing the field for his second nomination... And not only for the sake of their honor. The president’s G.O.P. critics should engage in electoral battle because the act of campaigning, the work of actually trying to persuade voters, is the only way anti-Trump Republicans will come to grips with the legitimate reasons that their ideas had become so unpopular that voters opted for demagoguery instead... A speechifying anti-Trumpism, distant from the fray, will always be self-regarding and self-deceiving — unwilling to see how the Iraq War discredited both the Bushist and McCainian styles of right-wing internationalism, incapable of addressing the economic disappointments that turned voters against Flake’s Goldwaterite libertarianism and Romney’s “trust me, I’m a businessman” promises... Only in actual political competition can the Republican elite reckon with why it lost its party, and how it might win again.. I think the G.O.P. is more likely to be renewed by someone who currently supports Trump or someone not yet active in politics than it is by the men resisting the president today.
In a stunning one-two assault, Mr. Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr. Flake took on the president in terms rarely, if ever, heard from members of a sitting president’s party.
Mr. Corker, who has been feuding with the man he once contemplated serving as vice president, accused Mr. Trump of serial lying and debasing the office.
“We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals, we must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country,” Mr. Flake said.
.. But Mr. Corker, Mr. Flake and Mr. McCain remain the outliers.
.. Mr. McConnell left his lunch with Mr. Trump and members of the caucus to emphasize the issues that bind congressional Republicans to Mr. Trump and play down the divisions underscored by Mr. Flake and Mr. Corker.
.. They have been willing to look past some actions and pronouncements by Mr. Trump that they consider beneath a president in hopes of pushing into law some of their long-sought goals, the most important of which are tax cuts. And with no substantial legislative achievements so far, the party is all in on a tax overhaul, recognizing that failure to deliver one will be a political disaster. That necessity ties them tightly to Mr. Trump, at least for now.
In unloading on Mr. Trump, Mr. Corker, a two-term senator from Tennessee, said in public what many of his Republican colleagues say in private — that
- the president is dangerously erratic and unstable, that
- he treats his high post like a television show and that
- he is reckless enough to stumble the country into a nuclear war.
.. The president has already seen what can happen with a 52-vote Senate caucus that can be thwarted by the defection of just three Republicans. Until now, Mr. Corker has not been one of the renegades on those high-drama votes that killed Mr. Trump’s health care legislation. By himself, Mr. Corker could make it that much harder for the president to hold a fragile majority on upcoming votes on taxes, among other priorities — and if he emboldens other Republican doubters, it could add to Mr. Trump’s challenge.
The White House spent Monday morning telling its allies that Mr. Corker is responsible for the fight, not Mr. Trump, and that the senator was an attention-seeking obstructionist. But few of Mr. Trump’s allies accepted that narrative. One close associate of the president, who asked not to be identified to discuss the situation more candidly, said Mr. Trump’s entire agenda could be dead because Mr. Corker has a lot of friends on Capitol Hill.
.. “every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
.. many Senate Republicans no doubt were relieved not to be in session this week
.. repeatedly blocked, lashing out at Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, for not getting the job done. He has also engaged in open conflicts with Senators
- John McCain and
- Jeff Flake of Arizona,
- Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, among others.
.. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and his allies were incredulous that the president would anger a senator just a week before a budget vote that is critical to tax cuts when the party’s 52-vote majority can be thwarted by just three defections.
.. “Under the normal, traditional rules of politics of the last 40 years of my life, a president would not poke a senator in the eye when he has a two-seat majority and a major legislative agenda needing to be accomplished,” said former Representative Thomas M. Reynolds
.. “Corker’s comments carry credibility because of his reputation as a thoughtful senator not known for shooting from the hip,” he said. “There is an old saying in politics: Don’t pick a fight with someone who has nothing to lose.”
.. Stephen K. Bannon, acting in what he says is the president’s interest, is organizing a rebellion against the Republican establishment and recruiting candidates to challenge incumbent senators in primaries next year. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff has talked about a “purge” of Republicans who are not loyal to Mr. Trump.
.. They also stood against him when he engaged in a protracted public campaign against his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a former colleague of theirs in the Senate, warning him that if he fired Mr. Sessions they would not confirm a successor
.. “Guys like Bob Corker, I think, have reached the point where it’s like, ‘Can we not pretend the emperor is not naked? Can we not pretend the emperor is not unstable in a way that we should’ve understood very, very clearly more than a year or two years ago?’” Charlie Sykes
.. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Corker could single-handedly block the confirmation of a new secretary of state should Mr. Trump push out his embattled chief diplomat, Rex W. Tillerson
.. He would presumably play a key role in any decision on whether to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. And as a longtime deficit hawk, he could also become a challenge for Mr. Trump as the president seeks to pass deep tax cuts that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt.
.. said to have told associates that the 5-foot-7 senator was too short.