Senate Republicans second only to Putin in their reckless disregard for U.S. democracy

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who's up for reelection this fall, took a bold stand for the republic Thursday after Donald Trump had brazenly refused the day before to commit to a peaceful transition of power. “He says crazy stuff," said Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

Wow, strong stuff. Sasse really drew a line in the sand. But despite his hardball tactics, Trump shockingly went straight back at it Thursday. Asked again if he would accept defeat if he lost the election, Trump responded, “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.” Because there's nothing Trump values more than honesty. 

Sasse, his pathetic response, and those of all his Senate GOP counterparts—with the possible exception of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah—are exactly why Trump is destroying this nation without a single care in the world. Every time Trump has done something totally unconstitutional or illegal— like deliberately corrupting our once-sacred elections—GOP senators have waved it off with a wink and a smile. Or worse yet, they've actively worked to band together and save Trump’s presidency, even in the face of a mountain of evidence. Voting to acquit Trump of impeachment charges without hearing from a single witness was both a masterpiece of cowardice and the height of complicity. 

Once Senate Republicans proved to Trump that no matter what he did, they could always be counted on to either look the other way or even exonerate him, Trump was free to do absolutely anything. And so he does. 

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who did her part to give Trump his get-out-of-jail-free card during the impeachment trial, had the gall to later suggest that Trump had learned "a pretty big lesson.” Now, there's some serious duplicity. Hope Collins is resting easy at night—maybe just skip that last look in the mirror before bed.

On Thursday, I made an honest mistake while writing up a story for the Daily Kos website. I published a piece that included an outdated poll of the presidential election. I should have caught it, but I didn't. When I realized my mistake, I started shaking as my blood pressure spiked and I sought to get it off the site immediately, which honestly took longer than I had hoped. It's certainly not the first mistake I've made as a reporter/blogger and, frankly, I've done worse.

But in this moment when the world feels upside down and we are all collectively pushing as hard as possible to save our democracy, it just felt horrible to think I may have misled people, however unintentionally, especially given all the misinformation out there. 

I went for a walk to shake it off. Later in the day, I started revisiting the damage done with a touch more perspective. No one had lost their job. No one had died. I hadn't irreparably harmed our democracy or willed future generations to suffer decades of fascist rule. I hadn't personally let children go hungry during a pandemic (though children are going hungry) out of sheer malice. I hadn't left struggling families without food, shelter, health care, and a basic sense of safety and dignity. And on top of the 200,000 already dead, I hadn't consigned tens of thousands more Americans to death in the coming months through the indifference and incompetence of my leadership.

Nope. That's what Senate Republicans like Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, and their entire band of miscreants have done. Through their conniving, they have lent a helping hand to Donald Trump as he's worked to flush every last vestige of this centuries-long experiment down the toilet and hang the American people out to dry.

Pondering all that really put my own misstep on the day in a new light. How do these people sleep at night? Do any of them have a conscience? Do they have kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews they care or worry about? And it may sound silly to even ask, but do they give a damn about anybody else at all but themselves? 

Following Trump’s failure to commit to leaving office peacefully, just one lone Republican senator dared to stand up for our democracy, however small a gesture it was. "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable," Romney tweeted Wednesday evening.

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who trampled the Constitution to steal a Supreme Court seat, promised an "orderly transition" in a tweet without ever mentioning Trump. That's worthless as ever. Mitch McConnell doesn't believe in democracy, he believes in raw power. And if Trump has an opening to contest the election and hold on to power, McConnell will back him 100%. Just like with impeachment.

All that is to say, these people are simply horrific. Perhaps only Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has shown more disdain for U.S. democracy. Frankly, no one summed it up better than the satirical website The Onion. 

GOP Lawmakers Watch Silently As Trump Strangles Each Of Their Loved Ones In Turn https://t.co/rcGwLVYjHW pic.twitter.com/xZeQNpEzK8

— The Onion (@TheOnion) September 24, 2020

This scandal has to be the last, no this scandal has to be the last, no this scandal has to be …

Since Tuesday, America has been caught up in the effort to process the fact that Donald Trump wasn’t simply ignorant and bull-headed when it came to failing to address the coronavirus pandemic. Trump was fully aware of the danger, repeatedly briefed on necessary actions, and fully cognizant of what was required to save American lives. He choose to … go another way. A way that involved repeatedly lying to the nation and talking about how the virus would “just disappear” even as he was privately admitting that he knew better.

That admitted lie is so shocking that it’s hard to remember that, just a week ago, the nation was busy being shocked to learn about the depth of Trump’s disdain for veterans. Multiple sources both within the White House and the military confirmed that Trump had not only displayed incredible disdain for John McCain, but for fallen soldiers at a military cemetery, calling them “suckers” and “losers.” Even Fox News had no problem confirming the story. Trump even explained to military leaders—military leaders—that he didn’t want veterans in his parade, because he found amputees unsightly.

A week before that was the news that the Department of Homeland Security had deliberately covered up evidence that Russia was working behind the scenes of the 2020 election to assist Trump with false claims about Joe Biden’s competence. That effort included dismissing the official in charge of counterintelligence, telling Congress they would get no more briefings on election security, and refusing to hand over standard reports. All while Trump was not only continuing to lean on the Russian talking points, but making racist claims about Kamala Harris. And in the middle of all this, snippets from Michael Cohen’s book suggested that not only had Trump extorted support from a televangelist with threats of revealing a pool boy three-way, but he gave a pretty good indication that the Russian “pee tape” is a real thing. 

There’s a reason the Fascism Watch ticked down to midnight back on Jan. 31. That’s when Republican senators made it clear that Trump was free to do anything he pleased, no matter how odious. America might not have gotten that message. Trump already knew it. 

It wasn’t until Feb. 6 that the Senate actually voted to give Donald Trump an official pass, despite a mound of evidence that he had used his high office to extort a foreign power into lying about a political opponent under threat of withholding military and economic assistance. It was exactly the sort of abuse of power available only to the White House. Exactly the kind of crime for which impeachment was created. There is not the slightest shred of doubt that Trump did it. But Republicans not only refused to hold Trump accountable—on Jan. 31 they made it clear that they would not even allow a single witness to speak in Trump’s “trial.” They didn’t care about Trump’s misuse of power. They didn’t care about lying to both Congress and the public. They just “owned the libs,” gave themselves a high five, and went on vacation.

Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans handed Donald Trump not just an absolute pass, but a clear signal that they would neither hold him to account for any action, nor challenge any statement he made. Why is it then any surprise that the next day Trump felt free to say that COVID-19 would go away in April? Why is it any surprise that Trump decided to cancel a planned national testing strategy because he thought COVID-19 would kill more people in Democratic states? What possible reason would there be for Trump to not cooperate with Russia in planting rumors about Biden? It’s not like anyone is going to do something about it. 

And, of course, why shouldn’t Trump feel free to lie about COVID-19? It’s not just the Senate that’s happy enough to go along with whatever Trump has to say. The media is right there for him, supporting him in a very special way.

A tale of two front-pages: @nytimes the morning after the Comey letter telling of discovered duplicative emails...and this morning's after we discover Trump knew and lied about a virus which has gone onto kill almost 200,000 Americans. pic.twitter.com/VjdgmvmmR0

— person woman DAN camera tv (@DaytimeDan) September 10, 2020

Following the astounding revelation that the FBI had found some additional copies of unimportant emails it had already seen, The New York Times not only filled every single column of its front page with this critical story, it handed over a large portion of that page for comments from Donald Trump. When Trump admitted lying to the nation about COVID-19, the “paper of record” not only thought this was a good day to devote two-thirds of its front page to an accidental explosion had happened over a month before and 9,000 miles away, but neither Biden nor any other Democratic leader was sought out for comment. Instead, the Times continued to represent the epitome of access journalism. It may seem that they, like much of the media, have learned nothing since 2016, but that’s not really true. They’ve learned exactly what it takes to keep getting interviews with Trump.

Republicans have learned they can get from Trump an endless stream of judges whose reading of the Constitution includes only one amendment, massive breaks for billionaires, and dropping all pretense of fighting corruption. And outlets like The New York Times have also learned that Trump will come through for them with an endless stream of jaw-dropping scandals that make great copy … so long as no one sticks with one story long enough to make impact. All for the low, low price of surrendering any pretense of integrity. A bargain.

Republicans are not about to call out Trump for his murder of 200,000 Americans. Or for his lies. Or for anything else. They made it all possible. So did a media more interested in seeing what the next scandal is than really driving home the impact of the last one.

For both of them, Trump is the fascist goose who laid heaps of gold-plated, if foul, eggs. Propping him up may be distasteful, but they like the results.

Republicans devolve into party of warring vagrants as prospect of electoral doom looms

Republican lawmakers long ago surrendered any hint of principle or ideal in subservience to a single man—a mad man at that—who is now dragging their party toward a frightful fate in November. Flailing and rudderless, they have now turned into a ship of warring vagrants wildly trying to save their own hides in an election that could deliver total wreckage to what's left of their party.

As the coronavirus continues to roil the nation, Republicans have no one who's even capable of stepping into the leadership void left by Trump and his aides. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't even turn up on the Senate floor Thursday morning to deliver a vision for stewarding another relief package through Congress, despite the fact that House Democrats passed their version of the bill over two months ago. As Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted Thursday during a joint press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republicans "dithered" and now congressional lawmakers are "up against a cliff" as expiration of the original relief package looms.

Over in the House, where fringe Republicans have run roughshod over the caucus leadership for a solid decade, Trump's toadies are making war on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking Republican woman on Capitol Hill whom they apparently deem to be a traitor to their cause—Trump. The House Freedom Caucus is calling on Cheney to step down from her leadership post for daring to defend Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's outspoken and highest profile infectious disease expert, against Trump's attacks. 

And on the electoral front, retiring GOP Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts officially backed the opponent of one of Trump's most loyal allies—immigration right winger and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Republican prospects for holding the U.S. Senate have dimmed to the point where many Republicans argue a Kobach primary win could jeopardize the GOP majority in November. Kobach famously lost his 2018 bid to become governor of the state to Democrat Laura Kelly. 

As Republicans factionalize over how to move forward with the next relief package, their closed-door quarreling has gone public. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz captured the spotlight Tuesday during a closed-door caucus session, asking, “What in the hell are we doing?"—a widely reported quote about his misgivings over the ballooning price tag of the legislation. But what's perhaps most stunning is that the counterweight to Cruz's argument is coming from right-wing stalwarts like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who advocated for including slightly more relief for struggling Americans in the bill in the hopes of protecting GOP counterparts facing tough reelection bids. 

Naturally, Trump isn't doing anything to quell the GOP controversies erupting into full view. He's deployed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to look over the shoulder of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is once again taking the lead on negotiating the relief package for the White House. Meanwhile, neither Senate Republicans nor White House negotiators have included a single Democrat in their floundering talks over the legislation. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion package in May as Republicans eye a price tag of closer to $1 trillion—and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of differences that could sink the bill. 

Both Speaker Pelosi and Schumer denounced their exclusion from the GOP talks. "What we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus and to open our schools and to open our economy," Pelosi said their joint press conference.

Schumer added, "Republicans need to pull their head out of the sand, get their act together, sit down with Speaker Pelosi and me, and start negotiating a real package."

Republicans have apparently forgotten that the only way to pass another bill is through bipartisan compromise. But McConnell is such a weak leader that he can't even forge the semblance of some consensus within his own caucus. That’s his job, but McConnell couldn't legislate his way out of a paper bag. The only time McConnell ever manages to keep his caucus in line is when it's in support of his abuse of power. Take, for example, the Senate GOP vote earlier this year to kill the prospect of hearing from any witnesses during the impeachment trial of Trump. Republicans fell in line for that vote at McConnell's strong urging, and now they're all saddled with having acquitted who ultimately botched the pandemic response, stoke racial divisions nationwide, and is now repeatedly siccing unmarked federal troops on peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights.

As for the House squabble, Trump stoked divisions Thursday with a tweet targeting Cheney's criticism of his foreign policy, including his plans to pull troops out of Germany and Afghanistan. “Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars,” he tweeted. “I am also making our so-called allies pay tens of billions of dollars in delinquent military costs. They must, at least, treat us fairly!!!”

Cheney responded Thursday by promising she would "continue to speak out" against Trump policies with which she disagreed.

In any case, don't expect the collective GOP meltdown to end anytime soon unless Trump's polling numbers miraculously rebound. And the only way for that to happen is for Trump to start governing—something he's both constitutionally bound to do and constitutionally incapable of doing

Senate Republicans recommit themselves to Trump—no matter how much he endangers the country

Sure, Donald Trump is unfit. Sure, Trump may have begged yet another country—China—to help him win reelection. Sure, Trump is emotionally damaged and intellectually addled, according to a written account by his former national security adviser John Bolton. 

But does that matter to the Senate Republicans who cosigned Trump's presidency by saving him from conviction without hearing from a single witness? Are you high? No effing way do they have the integrity required for a little self-examination, according to CNN reporting. They're in the tank for Trump—always have been, always will be, no matter what.

Wanna give Senate Republicans the boot? Give $2 right now to say “Bye Felicia” this November.

Asked whether Senate Republicans should have sought to secure Bolton's testimony now that his book is out, the ever-reflective Sen. Ron Johnson responded, "No," adding, "We never should have had an impeachment trial."

Of course, that's not what Bolton said. Based on Trump's persistent pattern of placing his own personal and electoral needs over duty to the country, Bolton said Trump should have been investigated and impeached for more, not less. Trump engaged in "obstruction of justice as a way of life," as Bolton said, referring to his interventions in criminal investigations for personal favors.

Still, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who's likely one of the top two most-endangered GOP senators seeking reelection, had the nerve to speak up and blame House Democrats for not taking Bolton to court over this unwillingness to testify. "The House didn't think it was important," Sen. Gardner quipped. What a weasel. Bolton, who's no hero, did publicly express his willingness to testify in front of the GOP-led Senate—the Republican caucus just refused to hear from him, or any other witnesses for that matter.

The sole Republican senator to express regret about not hearing from Bolton also voted in favor of having witnesses at the trial. “I wish we had a trial with the people testifying under oath,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters.

But most Republicans did the only logical thing one could do in the face of a 500-page manuscript documenting the myriad ways in which Trump is selling out and endangering the country: They refused to comment. 

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, however, really went the extra mile, affirming that he's more convinced than ever that Trump's the right guy for the job despite begging China to buy more agricultural products in order to secure his reelection. "Different people use different sales techniques," Barrasso offered. Whether they’re legal or not apparently isn’t relevant. "Every president has, one way or another, thought they ought to be reelected. I think President Trump should be reelected. I support his reelection, I'm for it."

Do Republicans even know the Constitution exists? They are  proving themselves more useless by the day, and have no business stewarding the country.

The worse Trump does, the more pathetic Senate Republicans’ blind fealty to him looks

Republican lawmakers are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to save their own hides without attracting the rage and fury of Donald Trump.

Four of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans have already disappeared Trump from their TV ads as if the bloviator in chief doesn't actually exist. In essence: Trump? Yeah, never heard of him, except that one time I voted to clear him of all impeachment charges without ever hearing from a single witness.

That would be Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. All of those Republicans, while trying to dodge Trump's ire, have figured out there's no upside to overtly aligning themselves with a guy whose approvals are cratering as he blows it on the nation's two biggest crises. 

But stuck in the middle are GOP senators like Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas, and David Perdue of Georgia—who haven't yet reached the point of no return where they realize Trump is clearly dooming them. 

Perdue, for instance, wasn't willing to answer reporter questions on Trump spinning conspiracy theories about a 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police officers. But asked about attacks on Perdue's fealty to Trump, his spokesperson offered: "Bring it on," according to the AP.

Anti-Trumper and GOP strategist Tim Miller calls Republicans "hostages" but is still mystified that they couldn't find the basic resolve to separate themselves from Trump's insane attack on an elderly protester. 

“I’m not asking them to become Twitter trolls,” Miller said. “But I don’t see why they don’t take opportunities to put a little distance between themselves and the president.”

Of course, that's how we arrived here in the first place. Republicans are truly spineless—they haven't shown a lick of integrity or concern for their oaths of office since the day Trump took office. Just reckless acquiescence to a man who is clearly physically and mentally not well. So the idea that they might show a bit of dignity or put country first at risk of drawing a mean tweet from Trump is just unthinkable to them.

What remains to be seen is how many Senate Republicans running for reelection this November are willing to get on a stage with Trump. Remember, the last GOP politicians in tough races to do some high-profile campaigning with Trump were 2019 GOP gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin in Kentucky and Eddie Rispone in Louisiana. They both lost.

Trump mysteriously disappears from Senate Republican campaign ads

In early February, all but one Republican senator outright voted to acquit Donald Trump of impeachment charges without so much as hearing from one single witness. But judging by Senate Republican campaign ads four months later, you'd be forgiven if you thought Trump had been convicted and booted from office.  

In 15 campaign ads released since March by Senate Republicans in competitive races, pictures of Trump were nowhere to be found in any of them, according to a review by the Daily Beast. Trump managed to get a single mention in a late April ad by North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis bragging that the senator had been appointed to the now irrelevant White House coronavirus task force. That ad has likely already been benched since Trump's all but tweeted “uncle” at the virus. 

Tillis, who has voted with Trump more than 93% of the time, has gone through quite the transformation in the last several months. When Senate Republicans voted to save Trump's presidency, Tillis released a Trump-centric ad defending that vote, touting Trump's trade deals, and reminding voters that Trump would indeed be on the ballot in November. Oops.  

In a do-over this week, Tillis sympathizes with the economic difficulties many residents in his state are facing while entirely abandoning Trump and his happy talk about jumpstarting the economy and "TRANSITIONING TO GREATNESS."

A similar erasure of Trump is happening in ads from GOP incumbents in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and Montana. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who's voted with Trump 89% of the time, skips over Trump completely while hyping his bipartisan work with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to confront the coronavirus. Maine Sen. Susan Collins appears to have switched parties in one ad featuring her alongside Democratic senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Looks like GOP senators took to heart that memo released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee advising against defending Trump. None of these senators are trying to defend the indefensible, even after they voted to keep his presidency alive. Instead, many have taken the memo's advice to scapegoat China for Trump's failures at every turn.

Even Arizona Sen. Martha McSally—who has voted with Trump 95% of the time—moved away from ads earlier this year skewering her Democratic challenger for supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal. Now, McSally's busy playing up the business ties of Democrat Mark Kelly, who's trouncing her in the polls, to China. 

Sure, Senate Republicans are fundraising off Trump in targeted emails, but they're not touching him with a 10-foot pole in their large-scale ads. Expect to see more of the mysteriously disappearing Trump since more GOP Senate seats are in play by the week, it seems. Trump's simply too toxic to touch—too bad all the Senate Republicans up for reelection this cycle put their personal stamp of approval on Trump with their acquittal votes.

Below are several examples of recent ads.

Sen. Cory Gardner

Sen. Martha McSally

Sen. Susan Collins

Prospects for Senate Republicans in November just keep getting worse, worse, and worse

Senate Republicans just can't put out the fires Donald Trump keeps setting fast enough. At first, their effort to maintain their majority in November centered around defending four main seats in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina while hoping for a pickup of Sen. Doug Jones' seat in Alabama.

But Trump's cratering approvals and his spectacularly horrible leadership skills in a crisis just keep sucking more states into play.  

Are you just plain sick of Senate Republicans? Do something about it! Give $2 right now to the effort to kick Mitch McConnell and his GOP majority to the curb. 

For starters, Trump's approvals keep sinking. Gallup just put him at 39% in a poll taken from May 28 to June 4, slipping 10 points from 49% in late March. Notably, only 47% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy according to Gallup's latest survey, which is a steep tumble from 63% approval in January. The economy has always been Trump's strongest issue area.

Bloomberg News reports that Trump huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday, the same day Gallup's new poll was released. Neither one of them disclosed their private conversation, but it hardly matters—Republicans are irrevocably tied to Trump at this point. Not only have they simply surrendered like a bunch of lemmings, they built him into the lawless monster he's become and then voted to save his presidency without even fielding a proper impeachment trial.

What that means is that Democrats' pickup opportunities in the Senate just keep expanding beyond those seats held by Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis. Overall, Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats to just 12 for Democrats. The new states that Democrats are eyeing include Iowa, Montana, and Georgia. Here are some basic data points for each:

Iowa: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put $7.3 million into TV/digital ads targeting Sen. Joni Ernst's seat, with two recent polls showing Ernst's Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, up by several points. 

Montana: The DSCC also directed $5.2 million to Montana to help Democrat Steve Bullock, the state's current governor, topple incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.

Georgia: No DSCC action here yet, but Cook Political Report recently re-rated incumbent Sen. David Perdue's seat to "Lean R," making it more competitive. Ernst's and Daines' seats are also in the Lean Republican category, as is the seat of the other Georgia GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler. 

Other possibilities remain, such as in Kansas, where GOP right-winger Kris Kobach—who lost his 2018 gubernatorial bid—could become the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. 

Republicans are also putting money into defending states beyond the original four. The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super PAC, reserved $10.1 million in radio/TV space this month in Montana, and Iowa was part of the PAC's $67.1 million ad buy in March. That buy also included Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Kentucky (McConnell's seat!).

A spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee made the laughable argument that once more money was spent defining these Democratic challengers, they wouldn't look so hot.

“A lot of these Democrats haven’t had much money spent against them yet and once their records are litigated voter opinion will turn against them,” Jesse Hunt told Bloomberg.

The idea that any of these Democrats' records could be worse than voting to save Trump's presidency just in time for him to screw up a pandemic response and a national reckoning on race is sheer folly. Senate Republicans can spend all the money they want—they will rise and fall with Donald Trump. He is their fate.

Senate Republicans saved Trump’s presidency. Now they’re ducking questions on his use of force

A day after Donald Trump deployed police force against peaceful protesters outside the White House for a photo op, the cat's got GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell's tongue.

Asked Tuesday about Trump's threat of unleashing military force on American cities, McConnell dodged, declining to answer reporter questions as he exited the Senate floor.

McConnell was uniquely responsible for saving Trump's presidency, convincing his caucus to not only acquit Trump of impeachment charges but to do so without even hearing from witnesses at the show trial they staged. 

As law enforcement officer-turned-Congresswoman Val Demings wrote on Twitter Monday night: "When we impeached this president, we warned that he was a dictator in waiting. I believe now what I believed then: this president is a threat to our democracy, our families, and to us."

As I have noted before, McConnell and Senate Republicans are uniquely responsible for turning Trump into the monster he is today precisely because they have condoned every single one of his lawless actions, from colluding with Russia to enlisting Ukraine's help in stealing the upcoming election to blocking all congressional oversight.

Now Trump wants to use the U.S. troops to deploy military force against American citizens and they've got nothing to say?

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas went a step further, criticizing Joe Biden's speech Tuesday morning as a campaign stunt.

"What we expect from leaders is to try to unify us, not point the finger of blame," Cornyn told Fox News. Is he f-cking kidding? Trump has spent his entire presidency sowing division among Americans and blaming everyone in the world but himself for his unprecedented string of failures. 

A quick check of the Twitter feeds around 11:30 AM from Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Thom Tillis turns up zilch about any of the events Monday night or Trump's threat of force against American citizens.

Through their silence, Senate Republicans are complicit.

They are embracing the dictatorial tactics of Trump without saying a word, just like they have condoned every other lawless act Trump has committed since setting foot in the Oval Office.

They must be voted out because they clearly no longer support democracy.  

Senate Republicans made Trump a monster. Americans deserve answers

When Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas asked me last week whether I had any burning questions to ask at the White House press briefings, I had an immediate sense of revulsion at the idea of being in that press room. Even though I spent several Obama-era years as a White House correspondent, nothing about the idea of sitting in that COVID-infected room only to be lied to by Trump's latest media hack sounded even remotely enticing or worthwhile.

But after reflecting on my reticence, I realized there was a place I'd like to be wandering around asking questions: Congress. Specifically, for a journalist looking to make newsworthy inquiries, Senate Republicans are the people to be bird-dogging, buttonholing, and peppering with questions. That's where the juice is this election cycle.

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Practically anything at all Senate Republicans say about Trump right now is newsworthy, particularly those in tight reelection bids this year. Naturally, I'm thinking of Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, David Perdue of Georgia, and others too. Precisely because they are the caucus that voted to save Trump's presidency and keep him at the helm of the country's pandemic response, reporters should make Senate Republicans own up to that decision and either stand by it or flee. And Trump offers a never-ending stream of material with which to work.

For instance, do any of them regret voting to acquit Trump without even staging a real trial? Gardner pitched a fit last week because the GOP caucus was leaving town without acting on more coronavirus relief—inaction initially backed by both Trump and McConnell. "Senator Gardner, do you stand by your vote to keep Trump in charge of the national response to the coronavirus?" Gardner could either run down a hallway or say that wasn't what the impeachment vote was about. "But you voted to keep Trump in charge of the country without hearing from any witnesses, right? Has he proven worthy of the vote of confidence you gave him?" Don't Coloradans deserve to know how their junior senator grades Trump's performance over the pandemic response?

As a reporter, when you know approximately the type of response you're going to get, the newsworthiness is usually about the phrasing of the question. Not every interaction goes as anticipated and by no means do they all end up being newsworthy. Plus, sometimes as a reporter, you're really just trying to gauge the progress of certain legislation, etc. But just five months out from November, my full attention would be trained on the electoral fate of the Senate.

"Senator Ernst, has Trump come through on the promises he made to Iowa farmers? Now that he's blaming China for spread of the coronavirus, do you think he'll really be able to seal the trade deal?" No, he won't. But don't Iowans deserve to know whether Ernst thinks Trump will deliver for them? "Senator, why isn't Trump prioritizing the trade deal over scapegoating China? Is finger pointing more important than saving Iowa farms from going under?"

I'm a little rusty, but you get the idea. "Senator Collins, if you really wanted action on coronavirus relief last week, why are you still voting to rubber stamp Trump's nominees?" Collins could be leveraging her votes in order to get action on more relief, or she could easily be registering protest votes and she’s not. One could also ask at-risk senators about the comments of other senators and GOP leadership, in particular. "Senator Collins, do you agree with Leader McConnell that there's zero urgency about bringing more relief to Mainers and other Americans?" (Mitch McConnell is currently changing his tune on that relief, but time is still of the essence.) Of course, McConnell is up for reelection too in Kentucky and while unseating him will be tough, he has more than just the GOP caucus to think about—he still has to get himself reelected. 

The Senate GOP is actually a total mess if reporters would just take the time to explore the fissures. Does Sen. Perdue think his governor made the right call to reopen Georgia? And if he does, does he support the notion that Trump should butt out of the state's business since Trump himself left it up to the governors? (Trump initially objected to Gov. Brian Kemp’s rush to reopen.)

Again, there's a million places to go. Do GOP senators support Trump promoting conspiracy theories and piddling away precious hours on the links right as America was reaching the deeply unsettling milestone of 100,000 deaths due to coronavirus? Do they worry that Trump still hasn’t developed a legit testing, tracking, and containment plan in case of a second wave? Every day, there's something more to ask about, and there's almost always something state specific—because Trump is a terrible politician and he is constantly hanging out GOP lawmakers to dry.

Every one of those GOP senators should have to answer for their failures to rein Trump in. They should all be held accountable for the fact that their repeated failures to act in the country's best interests helped turn Trump into the incomprehensible monster he is today. If you're a reporter in D.C. covering electoral politics and asking these kinds of questions isn't your mission in your life, you're entirely missing the biggest story of the election. Constituents should hear what Republican senators have to say for themselves. After all, Americans will be determining the fate of the GOP majority this coming November and they deserve answers. 

Senate Republicans have no excuse for their piss-poor coronavirus response. No excuse whatsoever

As the U.S. death toll due to the novel coronavirus climbs, congressional Republicans want to make sure they aren't left holding the bag for the federal government's piss-poor response in the early days of the burgeoning crisis. This week, GOP lawmakers have been trying out a new excuse: impeachment. That's right—that moment when 52 of 53 Senate Republicans voted to acquit Donald Trump, ensuring he would be at the helm right as the country was facing a burgeoning public health crisis unlike any seen in decades.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave their new excuse a test run on Tuesday during an interview with a conservative radio host, arguing impeachment had "diverted the attention of the government.” Later Tuesday, Trump himself shot that idea down, saying, “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached." But after being singularly responsible for voting to keep the most incompetent president in history in charge of the federal response to a pandemic, Senate Republicans are pretty desperate to pin the blame on Democrats. 

“It’s unfortunate that during the early days of a global pandemic, the Senate was paralyzed by a partisan impeachment trial,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told Politico in a deeply reported piece on the congressional response. A GOP aide added, “The entire executive branch was consumed by impeachment, and it totally distracted Congress, too.” But for impeachment, the aide said, there would have been "a lot more public oversight to scrutinize all of this.”

So on one hand, Republicans are pinning the blame on Democrats for being the only party responsible enough to hold Trump accountable for trying to extort a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 elections. On the other hand, Republicans want the public to believe the party that has spent the last decade obsessed with stripping some 20 million Americans of health care access was suddenly going to take a keen and pointed interest in, well, health care.

Of course, when Republicans had the chance to feign interest in the issue, they didn’t. Here’s what happened: On Jan. 24, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an all-Senators briefing on the novel coronavirus. It was poorly attended, with only about 14 senators present according to Politico. But that was the briefing that first kicked off an urgent round of stock sell-offs by several GOP senators and a Democratic one. Nonetheless, the bipartisan statement following the briefing from U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Patty Murray of Washington, Jim Risch of Idaho, and Bob Menendez of New Jersey was rather bland, saying they were "monitoring the outbreak" and thanking administration officials for the briefing. "The safety of U.S. citizens here domestically, as well as in China and other affected countries, is our first priority," read the statement. "We will continue to work closely with administration officials to ensure the United States is prepared to respond.”

That's about the level of urgency one might expect from any bipartisan statement. But it was Senate Democrats who picked up from there. On Jan. 26, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged the federal government to declare the novel coronavirus a public health emergency in order to free up $85 million previously allocated funds to battle infection diseases. 

“Should the outbreak get worse they’re going to need immediate access to critical federal funds that at present they can’t access,” Schumer told reporters at his Manhattan office. At that point, just four cases had been confirmed in the U.S. after the first positive test had been confirmed in Washington State on Jan. 20. “We aren’t here to propel panic or stoke fear, but to rather keep a good proactive effort by the CDC from going on interrupted,” Schumer said.

Two days later, Washington Sens. Murray and Maria Cantwell sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar requesting continued updates on the nation's capacity to respond to the highly infectious disease.

“We write to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), to urge your continued robust and scientifically driven response to the situation, and to assess whether any additional resources or action by Congress are needed at this time,” Murray and Cantwell wrote. “A quick and effective response to the 2019-nCoV requires public health officials around the world work together to share reliable information about the disease and insight into steps taken to prevent, diagnose, and treat it appropriately.”

It was also Democrats that pushed for an emergency supplemental funding bill to combat the virus at a private briefing on the matter with Sec. Azar on Feb. 5—the day Senate Republicans ultimately voted to acquit Trump on charges that he had abused his power and obstructed Congress. After leaving that closed-door meeting, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut was apoplectic about the nonchalance of Trump officials. “[T]hey aren’t taking this seriously enough,” he tweeted. “Notably, no request for ANY emergency funding, which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff etc. And they need it now.” 

The first sign the Trump administration might be taking the novel coronavirus seriously originally came on Jan. 31, when the White House issued a ban on travelers from China and declared the public health emergency Schumer had been pushing for.

However, Trump spent the entirety of the next month downplaying the threat. At a Feb. 10 campaign rally, Trump declared, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away." He mocked "Cryin' Chuck Schumer" on Feb. 25 for urging Trump to ask for more than $2.5 billion for an initial supplemental to respond to the novel coronavirus. On Feb. 26, Trump predicted at a White House briefing that in a couple of days the number of coronavirus cases in the nation would be "down to close to zero," adding, "that’s a pretty good job we’ve done." Mission accomplished. 

The only thing Trump was really focused on after Senate Republicans voted to clear him in early February was a complete and total purge of nonloyalists in his administration and getting back to his beloved campaign rallies. 

On Feb. 13, Trump tweeted, "We want bad people out of our government!”

On Feb. 21, the Washington Post reported, "President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election."

Trump tapped Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old personal aide and former body man to the president, to run that operation. Top officials at the Defense Department and White House National Security Council were forced out. The White House was also combing through people at the Justice and State Departments. No mention in the article of the novel coronavirus or elevating people with solid expertise and time-tested credentials in certain aspects of governing. Trump was laser-focused on beefing up his administration with the lard of loyalists. He needed more sycophantic “yes” men, people who would feed his emaciated ego. That was Trump’s main focus in February as he started eyeing his reelection campaign.

Throughout February, the main thing that became clear both in public and private was that most top Trump officials exhibited a distinct lack of urgency about the coming pandemic. In addition, with very few exceptions, Senate Republicans weren't using any leverage to get Trump to act. Almost to a person, Senate Republicans continued to be dismissive about the threat, especially in their public statements. 

Meanwhile, starting in late January, Senate Democrats started sounding the alarm bells both behind closed doors and publicly. Some of the most vocal among them were Sens. Schumer, Murray, Murphy, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was also running for president and pushed hardest on the issue among the remaining Democrats in the race.

Even by March 10, when Trump went to huddle with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, he was still selling the American people a bill of goods about the catastrophe ahead. The novel coronavirus would simply "go away, just stay calm," Trump told reporters, adding, "it's really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen." Senate Republicans just smiled along, giddily grinning ear to ear as Trump minimized the threat. For his part, McConnell announced he would simply step aside and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiate the first major coronavirus relief package directly with the White House. 

By the time Pelosi had finished those painstaking negotiations and passed the relief bill through her chamber on Saturday, March 14, McConnell was nowhere to be found. He had recessed the Senate and skipped town for a long weekend away. Ultimately, the Senate would delay passing the bill—intended in part to help struggling Americans through dire financial times—for another four days.