A day after President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager was found guilty on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, and Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen plead guilty to charges that included illegal campaign contributions allegedly orchestrated by Mr. Trump, there was no rush to the exits by Republicans in the Congress, and no expectation on Capitol Hill that GOP lawmakers were ready to abandon the President.
“We’ll have to see where this goes, we just don’t know where it goes from here,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as GOP Senators gave no hints of any rush away from President Trump, despite the twin legal setbacks on Tuesday.
“I’m sure we’ll stay tuned for the next move,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who told reporters that he saw no need for any immediate reaction by the Congress, which left Democrats fuming.
“The Republican response so far has been an abdication of moral and legal responsibility,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), as Democrats expressed frustration over the legal chain of events, with some labeling it a ‘watershed moment.’
“Obviously, it’s shocking and very concerning,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said of Cohen’s remarks in court, where the President’s former lawyer and long time ‘fixer’ made clear he had been directed by Mr. Trump to pay off two women to keep them silent before the 2016 election.
“I have a lot of faith in our judicial system,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who acknowledged he was ‘not particularly surprised’ by what happened in the Cohen guilty plea.
But if Democrats were looking for Republicans to suddenly stand and demand that Mr. Trump leave the White House in the wake of the Manafort and Cohen developments – there was none of that brewing in the halls of Congress on Wednesday.
Asked about making any legislative moves to defend the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – routinely denounced by the President as a ‘witch hunt’ – there was also no GOP urgency.
“I don’t think Mueller needs any protection, at least he doesn’t need any protection from me,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As for the President, he shrugged off the latest turmoil in his administration, invoking Hillary Clinton’s name for the twentieth time this month on Twitter.
Just as Mr. Trump has attacked the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections – and accused Mueller of stacking his investigation with partisan Democrats – that was echoed by a Republican House member who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this week.
“It’s happening with Trump, and it’s happening with me,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who was charged along with his wife with illegally diverting over $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
Hunter said the case was nothing but a political vendetta.
“This is the new Department of Justice – this is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement,” Hunter contended, despite the fact that Republicans are in charge of the Executive Branch.
Back on Capitol Hill, Democrats saw something much different.
“This is the most corrupt administration in the history of the country,” Sen. Murphy told reporters on Wednesday.
“It is of course is troubling for our country,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said of the Cohen revelations.
“We are having a constitutional crisis in our country,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).
But while those statements might get nods of approval in Democratic circles, there was no panic from the GOP over Manafort and Cohen – something we’ve seen play out a number of times since President Trump took office.
“The system is working, and everybody is playing their role,” said Sen. Isakson (R-GA).