Senate Republicans are once again caught between their allegiance to Donald Trump and their traditional opposition to Russia—now with the added practice of Taliban paying militants to kill U.S. troops. Republicans are making the appropriate noises about being angry at the bounties on U.S. forces and the need to get tough on Russia, but that involves a lot of dodging and evading the big questions about what Trump knew and when he knew it.
Sens. Cory Gardner and Thom Tillis, both facing extremely tough reelection campaigns, are both calling for Russia to be named a state sponsor of terrorism. Neither appears to have much to say about Trump, though.
Sen. John Cornyn, facing a somewhat less challenging reelection, did have something to say about Trump—an attempt to exonerate him.
“Well, I think the president can’t single-handedly remember everything, I’m sure, that he’s briefed on, but the intelligence officials are familiar with it and briefed him,” said Cornyn. “But again somebody’s leaking classified information and then trying to further a narrative that isn’t necessarily supported by the facts.”
As others have pointed out, Trump has raised the cost of government workers becoming whistleblowers through official channels—and Senate Republicans have made clear that there will never be any consequences for Trump—so where else are witnesses to wrongdoing supposed to go but the media at this point?
Indiana Sen. Todd Young wrote Trump a letter praising his supposed past toughness on Russia and calling for investigations into who failed Trump by not briefing him. “I am alarmed by reports that you, the Vice President, and the relevant Congressional Committees were not briefed on this critical threat to our service members and to our national security,” Young wrote. “I believe that you would have wanted to know this critical intelligence information and be provided with the resources necessary to save the lives of our men and women in uniform. I stand ready to hold any members of your Administration accountable for their gross negligence in performing such a grave responsibility.”
Sure, buddy. Trump really wanted to know.
Sen. Ben Sasse responded with his usual effort to appear to be ready to hold Trump accountable at some point, saying: “Who knew what, when, and did the commander in chief know? And if not, how the hell not? What is going on in that process?” Sasse also jumped on the chance to look like a tough guy, adding: “What are we going to do to impose proportional cost in response? In a situation like this, that would mean Taliban and GRU body bags.”
But as we know with Sasse, the true effort to hold Trump accountable never materializes, and seeing his response next to Young’s shows the next move: Trump was failed by his administration.
These guys all own Trump, and that means they own his non-response here, however it happened.