One of the most fateful decisions of Donald Trump’s presidency happened just weeks after Inauguration Day.
In March 2017, Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to demand Jeff Sessions, a former Senate colleague and Trump’s new attorney general, recuse himself from anything related to the investigation into alleged Russian election collusion. Sessions’ two brief meetings in 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak—a figure who appeared often in collusion-related drama—amounted to evidence of collusion, collusion perps insisted.
Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) were just a few top Republicans who asked Sessions to step aside—so he did.
Sessions’ recusal put the Justice Department safely back in the hands of anti-Trump operatives just as their malfeasance was being exposed by Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The cover-up of how the agency targeted Donald Trump and his campaign associates was secure while top officials deflected attention to the concocted Russian collusion hoax.
For an added punch, the same Republicans successfully pushed for a House ethics probe into Nunes, which sidelined his work for eight months until he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
A few months later, Republicans fiercely backed the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians; Robert Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017.
And with that, any hope of cleaning house at a Justice Department teeming with Obama henchmen was gone.
Republicans, perhaps intentionally, blew a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fumigate a wholly corrupt law enforcement agency amid emerging evidence it had used powerful government tools against the duly elected incoming president of the United States.
It’s impossible to think of a greater abdication of political power in recent history. Despite sending harsh letters and making empty threats, Senate Republicans completely surrendered and the lasting consequences of their cowardice will haunt the country for years.
And they’re doing it again—but this time, it’s worse.
Bipartisanship for Suckers
On Wednesday, 48 Republican senators—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and two former chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee—voted to confirm Lisa Monaco as Biden’s deputy attorney general. (Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas voted no.)
Monaco, as I explained here, is an Obama confidante who played a key role in perpetuating the myth about Russian collusion both before and after the 2016 election. The former chief of staff to Robert Mueller when he headed Obama’s FBI and then Obama’s homeland security advisor, Monaco has been a harsh critic of Trump and Republican policies over the past four years. She backs a “whole of government” approach to combating domestic terrorists, code for Americans who support Donald Trump.
Not a single Republican senator should have supported Monaco’s nomination. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month should have featured GOP senators demanding answers about her involvement in the collusion hoax and assurances she would not use her broad authority to keep targeting people on the Right. GOP members should have blasted the department’s already abusive investigation into January 6 and warned that continued overreach would face concerted pushback.
Those same recriminations and threats should have been repeated from the Senate floor before the full vote.
But none of that happened.
Instead, Republicans rewarded Monaco with a near-unanimous confirmation vote. With Garland as a mere figurehead—20 Republican senators backed his nomination, too—Monaco now takes the reins of a Justice Department continuing to avenge the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
In fact, on the same day Monaco was confirmed, the Justice Department announced the arrest of yet another nonviolent January 6 protester charged with 10 counts of various trespassing and disorderly conduct offenses.
To make matters worse, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—unpunished by leadership for routinely siding with Democrats including a vote against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018—was the decisive vote to confirm Vanita Gupta, Obama’s former civil division head, as associate attorney general, the third spot at the department. In a rare moment of courage, Senate Republicans fought Gupta’s nomination over her radical leftist views and for saying mean things about them. (Apparently, the only time Senate Republicans oppose Biden picks is if they’ve made or tweeted nasty comments about Senate Republicans. McConnell whined Gupta had “levied attacks on members of this body.” Oh, no!)
Why Bother With Republicans?
With Garland, Monaco, and Gupta safely installed atop the Justice Department and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence—35 GOP senators voted to put her in charge of the intelligence community despite her close ties to former CIA director John Brennan, among other problems—Republicans can expect worse than unkind words directed at them. (Haines, as I wrote here, wasted no time exceeding her authority to target Americans involved in the January 6 protest. That didn’t stop Senate Republicans from absolutely swooning over her during a recent hearing.)
Rather than act as any sort of barrier to protect America from the arsonist-in-chief hellbent on burning down every tradition, constitutional guardrail, and notion of common decency owed to fellow Americans, Senate Republicans are handing Joe Biden the matches. They’ve made it easy for Biden to put together the team he wants, greenlighting with barely a fight his deeply partisan allies now in full control of vengeful federal agencies.
Only one Biden appointee—Neera Tanden—has been successfully scuttled. Susan Collins, reelected last year to another six-year term, has voted to confirm every Biden nominee. Murkowski has voted for all but one (Xavier Bacerra as secretary of Health and Human Services).
Senators Rob Portman and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have voted for all but three Biden picks. McConnell, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) have voted for the overwhelming majority of Biden appointees.
Only a handful of Republican senators have shown any guts; Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ted Cruz, Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rand Paul have voted against most of Biden’s nominees. (But shame on Hawley, Scott, and Cotton for voting yes on Monaco.)
Contrast that record with what happened during Trump’s first few months in office; by April 2017, his cabinet nominees had received the most “no” votes in presidential history.
Joe Biden, his administration, and congressional Democrats haven’t wasted any time in their effort to radically transform the country, not to mention stoke a dangerous race war. Republicans aren’t just flat-footed in opposition, they are complicit in empowering this destructive regime.
It’s hard to see why rank-and-file Republicans should keep sending the same craven bunch of leftist accomplices to Washington. Maybe one day, they’ll stop.