Not only have Republicans been silent on any number of Donald Trump’s actions that would have caused them to erupt in impeachment fever had Barack Obama done them, they succeeded in suppressing actions that might have thwarted Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Historically, the Republicans have been the firmly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet party. One still occasionally sees anti-Communist rants from Republican commentators, but the fall of the Soviet Union diluted the value of such things.
It’s been 25 years now. People of electoral age grew up in the post Cold War world and may not realize the antagonism and fear that existed. Paul Ryan is 47, so he was 21 in 1991 and fantasizing about Ayn Rand. Mitch McConnell is 75 and doesn’t have that excuse.
Toward the end of last summer, the intelligence community was convinced that Russia was intervening in the election on the side of Donald Trump. They told President Barack Obama and other members of the administration. As the election approached, the situation became increasingly fraught. The best way to counter Russian meddling would be to expose it. However, if the Democratic President announced such a thing, he could be attacked as trying to influence the election.
The solution to that would be for the patriotic leaders of the opposition to join with the President and the intelligence community to warn the public of the foreign interference. Obama and other Democratic officials suggested that to the Republican leadership. McConnell and the Trump campaign doubted the intelligence. John Brennan, then director of the CIA, assured them that it was not a partisan matter.
Nonetheless, McConnell told the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics and would respond in that vein (Washington Post). We do not know what Ryan’s reaction was.
So it was a no-win situation for Obama. Expose Russian meddling and start a major political fight just before the election that was likely to damage Hillary Clinton, or stay silent and allow the Russians to damage her? Given Obama’s preference for unity over division, it is not surprising that he chose silence.
The Republicans, via Mitch McConnell, chose to stick with a situation that they believed helped them rather than expose Russia’s meddling.
A-lthough the Republicans demonized the Russians throughout the Cold War, it is easy for some Republicans to be their friends. Dana Rohrabacher, representing a district in Southern California, has made many trips to Russia and recently advocated for Julian Assange.
In June 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (also from California) was caught on tape saying “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped the conversation and swore everyone present to secrecy.
The same intelligence report that confirmed Russian hacking of Democratic servers said that Republicans were hacked too. But those emails and other information have not been released. They could be used as blackmail. Or perhaps they are uninteresting. We don’t know, and Republicans have not been willing to talk about this breach.
There is much to suggest that the purpose of Russian hacking was to elect Donald Trump president. Trump has praised Putin and has consistently refused to criticize him. He has dragged his feet in enforcing sanctions against Russia.
During the 2016 campaign,
Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank. (Dallas Morning News)
The oligarch is Len Blavatnik, who has connections to Oleg Deripaska, one of Paul Manafort’s connections, and the Bank of Cyprus, of which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was a governor.
The Russians were willing to help get Trump elected. That shared objective seems to have overcome Republican concerns about damage to our electoral system. Republicans continue to be willfully blind to Trump’s emoluments, attacks on the justice system, and other offenses that they would see as impeachable in a Democratic president.
The Mueller investigation is turning up a great many Russian connections in the administration. How far do those connections extend into the Republican Party?