Opinion | What’s the Matter With Republicans? – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

Peter Wehner

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

“In a sane world, the reaction of Republicans to the “memorandum of telephone conversation” between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, combined with the whistle-blower complaint filed by an intelligence officer describing a White House cover-up, would be similar to the response of Republicans after the release, on Aug. 5, 1974, of the “smoking gun” tape that finally broke the Nixon presidency. Republicans would begin to abandon Mr. Trump, with senior figures urging him in private and in public to resign.

This may be asking too much of Republicans, who have lost their way in the Trump era. One might hope that some of the party’s elected officials would forcefully condemn the president on the grounds that there is now demonstrable evidence that he had crossed an ethical line and abused his power in ways even beyond what he had done previously, which was problematic enough.

But things are very different today than they were in the summer of ’74. Mr. Trump was on to something when he famously said, during the 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.? It’s, like, incredible.” What most people took to be hyperbole turned out to be closer to reality.

This isn’t to say that some Republican members of Congress aren’t deeply uneasy with Mr. Trump’s conduct. A few, including Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, have expressed their concern. But many others, from Senator Lindsey Graham to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, are aggressively defending Mr. Trump, going so far as to argue that the notes from his July 25 conversation with Mr. Zelensky are exculpatory.

They are hardly that. Not only did the president ask a foreign government to intervene in a presidential election by digging up dirt on a political opponent, as he did in 2016 when he invited Russia to search for Hillary Clinton’s emails; this time, invested with the enormous power of the presidency, Mr. Trump appears to have used hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to pressure a foreign leader to act as the head of his opposition-research unit.”