In some ways one of the most baffling things we are witnessing in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election and the Electoral College's election of Donald Trump in contempt for the popular vote is the Republican Party's continued efforts to down play and/or totally dismiss possible - or, in my view, likely - collusion of the Trump campaign with Russian intelligence and other Russian operatives to throw the election to Trump. Now, even faced with emails released by Donald Trump, Jr., himself demonstrating an eagerness to collude with Russian and to accept help from the Russian government, the official GOP response is to strive to look the other way. Of course all of this began back in September, 2016, when Mitch McConnell sought to silence the Obama administration efforts to expose the Russian hacking effort to harm the Clinton campaign. A piece in Slate ponders how long this GOP effort can continue and at what cost the GOP may ultimately have to pay for deliberate acquiescence to campaign interference by a hostile foreign government. Here are article excerpts:
Last September, in a classified briefing, the CIA told senior lawmakers that Russia was working to elect Donald Trump president. In that meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed skepticism of the intelligence and questioned its veracity. And he made a threat of sorts. At the time, the Washington Post reported that McConnell “made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” Put simply, if President Obama spoke out on Russian interference, McConnell would turn it into a partisan football. The president kept quiet. Of the turning points that brought us to our present crisis, this is among the most consequential. McConnell’s stance in that briefing didn’t just enable Russian hacking, it precluded official scrutiny and criticism of that hacking and effectively gave cover to key members of Team Trump as they sought information to use against Hillary Clinton. McConnell downplayed Russian interference for what were likely partisan reasons, with little knowledge of the scope of and even less fear for the far-ranging implications of what he was covering up. And in that, he presaged the response of the entire Republican Party, which didn’t just utilize the hacked and leaked information but has looked the other way at every sign of something untoward involving Donald Trump and the Russian government.
Republicans are still looking the other way, even as that stance becomes more and more untenable. And they are looking away—as well as downplaying the seriousness of the issue—despite the real chance that the truth is more damning than what we know at the present, and that it may damage our country more than we want to believe. This “see no evil” response is especially egregious given recent revelations around Donald Trump Jr. and his efforts to obtain favorable information for his father’s campaign. We now know Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically to what was communicated as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” . . .
There is a response to this, increasingly popular among Trump’s defenders: Collusion isn’t illegal. But that’s almost beside the point. Democracy is only possible if there is confidence in the process, and foreign intervention—potentially solicited by one campaign—is deeply damaging to that confidence. It threatens the legitimacy of the entire enterprise. For our system of government, the question of Russian interference—and the extent of Trump’s awareness and involvement—is existential.
For our system of government, the question of Russian interference—and the extent of Trump’s awareness and involvement—is existential. But that fact, and the steady stream of damning revelations, has not kept GOP lawmakers from giving Trump and his team the benefit of the doubt.
[W]hile other Republicans, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, used harsher language when referring to Team Trump’s dalliances with Russia, there’s no indication that any Republicans have wavered in their overall support for the Trump administration. There have been no calls for an even deeper investigation, no sense from GOP lawmakers that this is an urgent affair. Republicans are playing a dangerous game: covering up a scandal, without knowing the full scope of the offense.
What if future revelations detail actual collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government? Though there is currently no proof, do Republicans really believe the chances are zero that this or even worse possibilities—are true? . . . . By allowing the collapse of trust, the Republican Party will have abetted a wholesale subversion of American democracy.
[T]he institutional indifference to foreign intervention is something different. It signals a dangerously zero-sum attitude, where any price—including subversion from outside forces—is worth paying if it clears a path to partisan and ideological victory. Perhaps the worm will turn and Republicans will join Democrats in demanding real answers from President Trump and his associates. For now, at least, we have a Republican Party that values its success above the integrity of our system.