Republican senators suspiciously clam up as Trump's defenses crumble
As House Democrats began to move en masse Monday toward impeachment proceedings, Senate Republicans were holding tight to Donald Trump's party line. Asked about the whistleblower allegation that wasn't fully public yet, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio simply elevated Trump's Biden conspiracy theory.
"I personally believe that is a legitimate issue," he told Fox News reporter Chad Pergram. "I mean the Vice President brags about getting a prosecutor fired that was looking into the company that his son was running."
That's a totally debunked lie. The Ukraine prosecutor himself was corrupt, and the investigation against the company for which Hunter Biden was a board member had long since been closed. But the point is, Rubio's go-to response to Trump's clear corruption was the same rote GOP play: spout a baseless distraction.
On Tuesday, as news suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was moving toward impeachment, Rubio grew more somber, tweeting that impeachment was an "extraordinary measure" and "deeply divisive."
"And yet many didn’t even wait to read the transcripts or the complaint before making up their minds," Rubio added, pointing the finger at Democrats. But at least it was on topic.
Fast forward to Thursday, following the release of both the damning notes of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the whistleblower complaint. Now Rubio has clammed up while he awaits more facts. Wow—facts.
“I’m not talking about this issue until all the facts have come forward," Rubio told reporters as he walked away from them. He added that the whistleblower complaint left him with "more questions than answers."
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who's running for reelection in 2020, went through a similar transition from Wednesday when the call notes were released to Thursday after the complaint had been made public. "I’ve looked at the transcript; I don’t see anything there," she offered on Wednesday. But by Thursday, nothing. "I haven't read the full report," she told Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, adding that she was happy to talk ethanol.
Other Republican senators not up in 2020 also started to signal mild distance from Trump. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson called the phone call "just classic Trump," but also said he was concerned by reports that White House staff had put notes of Trump's phone calls on "lock down."
“I would not be happy," Johnson said. "To me, of all this stuff, that’s the part that concerns me."
For his part, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn't touching any of it with a 10-foot pole.
Mitch McConnell, who often ignores reporters’ questions in the halls but sometimes engages, just ignored three of m… https://t.co/9wcIRZ9xwe— Manu Raju (@Manu Raju)1569523227.0
No wonder Trump fired off an ALL CAPS tweet Thursday morning, directing Republicans to "STICK TOGETHER" AND "FIGHT HARD." Trump later deleted the tweet.