Just how far will Republicans go in following President Donald Trump’s embrace of Russia? An answer may be crystallizing as the GOP mobilizes its defense of the president against impeachment.
Both congressional Republicans and conservative commentators are defending Trump from impeachment partly by accusing Ukraine of intervening against him in the 2016 presidential election—despite repeated warnings from national-security and intelligence officials that those claims are not only baseless, but advance Vladimir Putin’s goal of discrediting Ukraine.
Earlier in Trump’s presidency, many Republicans sought to distance themselves from his warm tone toward Putin. But just this week alone, a number of Republican lawmakers, the official House Republican report rebutting impeachment, and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson have repeated Kremlin lines on Ukraine.
This flurry of GOP rhetoric comes as Democrats are raising alarm about the Republican-controlled Senate’s refusal to take action on the DETER Act, a bipartisan bill that would impose sanctions on Russia if it interferes again in 2020.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the act’s sponsor, has been unsuccessfully pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to attach the bill to a defense-authorization bill now in conference between the House and Senate, which would ensure its passage.
“Nobody has provided any substantive justification for opposing this measure,” Van Hollen told me in an interview. “All the testimony has been supportive of the DETER Act. And yet when you get behind closed doors, it’s not that anyone says they are opposed to it; they just won’t engage. McConnell would like to see this defeated without any of his fingerprints on it, but his fingerprints are there because he has refused to engage.” [Continue reading…]