Republican senators have thoughts on just about anything. But ask them about Donald Trump, and they’d rather change the subject.
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“The first rule of Fight Club is: You don’t talk about Fight Club.” Slightly amended, this signature line from the classic movie also applies to most Senate Republicans and former President Donald Trump. They’d rather not talk about him at all — and the DC media lets them get away with it.
Perhaps the best example is the recent indictment of Trump for violating the Espionage Act. Now, that certainly seems like something US senators should have an opinion about. After all, no former president has ever been indicted on federal charges, and the crimes Trump is accused of in a very detailed document are quite serious.
And, of course, Trump and his supporters believe that this constitutes a “weaponization” of the federal judiciary, which also seems like the kind of thing a US senator would be interested in.
But, no, most of them would rather say nothing at all — first and foremost Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Some do, of course, like the members of the performative outrage caucus, consisting of people like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), and the why-are-they-even-senators caucus, which includes Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). Those guys obviously have opinions and they are pretty sure this is all a witch hunt.
On the other side, you have a few Republicans who are openly fed up with Trump, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (UT) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They acknowledged that the charges are “quite serious and cannot be casually dismissed” (Murkowski) and that “Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so” (Romney).
The strategy of most of the other Republican senators, however, was to stay quiet in the immediate aftermath, and then trust that the congressional press corps would move on, which it did.
Initially, several of them said that they hadn’t even bothered to read the indictment. Which sounds like a pretty lame excuse.
It seems like every Republican senator should know what is in a truly historic document that affects the likely nominee of their party.
And the indictment is a mere 49 pages long — and an entertaining read — so it’s not like it’s a Tolstoy novel.
The truth is that most of them probably did; they just don’t want to talk about it. Privately, most Republican senators probably just want Trump to disappear somehow, which is not a strategy that has worked out well for them.
The former president will never go away unless there is some opposition in his own party. But most Republicans don’t want to stick their heads out.
Sometimes, this dynamic leads to truly hilarious moments.
Yesterday, for example, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is competing with Trump for the Republican nomination, was asked whether he would pardon the former president if he ends up being convicted.
“I’m not going to deal with the hypotheticals,” Scott told host Shannon Bream on Fox News Sunday, which is somewhat ironic because he spent the rest of his time on the show detailing what he would do as president, i.e., what he would do in the hypothetical situation of being elected.
Needless to say that there was no follow-up question.