Susan Collins sure doesn’t think Trump should promise Jan. 6 pardons — but that won’t dent GOP support for him

Susan Collins sure doesn’t think Trump should promise Jan. 6 pardons — but that won’t dent GOP support for him
Senator Susan Collins of Maine speaking at the 2018 Small Business Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, Gage Skidmore

It’s almost like it’s 2017 again. Or 2018. Or 2019. Or 2020. Donald Trump has said something horrifying—in this case, that if elected in 2024, he would pardon people for their Jan. 6 crimes—and Senate Republicans are trying to get credit for disapproving of what Trump said while also making their loyalty to him clear.

Sen. Susan Collins voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but refuses to rule out voting for him in 2024. If you’re leaving the door open to helping make the guy president, it doesn’t really matter that you’re saying “I do not think the president should have made—that President Trump should have made that pledge to do pardons.” But Collins is far from the only one walking that tightrope.

Many Republicans are dodging the basic question of whether it’s acceptable for Trump to publicly dangle pardons for people who committed crimes to try to overturn his election loss.

Sen. Rick Scott, a former governor of Florida, dodged by talking about how he had done pardons: “The way I would do it is go through every case, everybody's cases, and that's what I did when I was governor, case by case.” Yeah, okay, that’s not what Trump’s saying he would do if given the chance. What do you think about what he’s publicly pledging, Rick?

”I can't speculate on anything,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley. It’s … not speculation that he said it, Chuck.

Sen. Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the statements, which is a particularly transparent dodge since it would take all of 30 seconds for him to familiarize himself with them. Sen. Mike Braun said he saw Trump’s remarks, but “didn’t really think much about it” because “he says a lot of things that, at the rallies, that I don't know if he means it or not.” But he said it, Mike, whether or not he really meant it, and saying something to a large audience—say, of people who may in the future be deciding whether to commit crimes to help you win an election—has its own relevance.

Braun also said, “I'm going to support whoever the Republican nominee is.” Sen. John Cornyn said, “I will support the nominee of my political party,” which means there was absolutely no weight to his statement that, “I just think people who broke the law on January the 6th need to be held accountable. Period.” There’s no “period” about it if you’re saying you’d try to elect the guy saying he’d pardon those people who broke the law. Senate Minority Whip John Thune doesn’t like Trump’s repeated lies about the 2020 elections and thinks dangling pardons is “only going to encourage unlawful behavior,” but “I'll support our nominee.”

Then there’s Sen. Josh Hawley, he of the raised fist of solidarity with the Jan. 6 attackers, who showed his utter subservience to Trump by saying he would “never judge the appropriateness or not of his comments ... That's not my role.” Never. No matter what Donald Trump says, Hawley would not even judge whether it was appropriate. That’s an amazing statement for a sitting senator to make, but because he cloaks it in this “not my role” language, he makes it sound like something other than “I’m on board with anything.” Which is what it is.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Democratic senators are ready to throw President Joe Biden under the bus the instant he says something that the media wants to use for “both sides do it” faux-balance.

Spare us the fake frown-y faces. The only thing that matters is whether congressional Republicans will support Donald Trump next time, and the answer is yes, despite Jan. 6 and virtually no matter what he says or does between now and 2024.

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