Opinion

Opinion: The S.S. Trump Is Sinking — Find a Lifeboat

An open letter to House Republicans

If they're smart, House Republicans will see that being tied to President Donald Trump is a recipe for defeat next year, Allen writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Dear Republican member of the House:

Run away from Donald Trump. Run hard. Run fast. And don’t look over your shoulder.

This president doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t share your values, and a dumpster fire would be envious of his reckless disregard for everything and everyone around him. 

Senate Republicans have figured this out, and their distancing act is well underway. Sure, they say supportive things, but look at their actions.

When Trump’s first bill was headed toward the House floor, several Senate Republicans openly pressed their colleagues not to pass it. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t crack down on them a bit. And, when the clunky-at-best legislation was pulled from the floor, he pronounced it dead even as the White House and House GOP leaders were explaining how they might revive it.

Undercover

When House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes decided that, instead of monitoring the Trump administration, he’d rather join it as a secret agent man, his counterpart on the Senate side, Richard Burr of North Carolina, suddenly kicked his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election into bipartisan overdrive.

And if Senate Republicans are fearful, at a time when they have only one clearly vulnerable member and a favorable map for the 2018 midterm elections, you should be figuring out how not to get swept out in what could be a wave the size of the 2006, 2010 or 2014 midterms.

By dozens of points, Trump is the least-popular modern president at this stage in his presidency. While polls are snapshots — and public opinion could surely change between now and next November — are you willing to bet your seat that he’s going to gain enough ground to be helpful to you by then? If you are, let’s set up a regular card game, because I’d be happy to take your money every week.

And that assumes that he would want to help you. What he’s shown so far is a loyalty so shallow that you couldn’t submerge your voting card in it. Trump’s attacked fellow Republicans by name and suggested that voters ought to turn on Democrats and the GOP’s Freedom Caucus — which, as a friend points out, pits him against a majority of the members of the House.

I understand that it’s hard to turn on a president of your own party for reasons of both your own loyalties and the politics of opposing a base that just elected him. But, really, following this guy down blind alleys is a recipe for getting mugged by the electorate.

Try to name someone in his orbit in Washington whose reputation has prospered due to their proximity to him. Certainly not Nunes, who has looked ridiculous in recent weeks. Even worse off is Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida who explained on MSNBC that he thinks Nunes, and presumably the rest of the GOP conference, works for Trump.

Is that the brand of “constitutional conservative” you want to be — the kind who doesn’t even understand the separation of powers?

Dangerous liaison?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that, while Russia clearly tried to throw the election Trump’s way, Trump neither colluded with Vladimir Putin nor won the presidency because of the Russian leader’s efforts.

But his denial of Russia’s actions and his lack of transparency on the subject still amount to a colossal and dangerous mishandling of the situation. Dangerous because he’s empowering Russia rather than striking back.

That’s the kind of poor judgment that should make you question why you would ever follow his lead.

Indeed, his presidency so far has been a comedy — or tragedy — of ill-considered and ill-advised political and policy moves.

Take his hiring of Mike Flynn as national security adviser. Flynn and Trump have both stipulated in the past that anyone who seeks immunity in a legal proceeding is surely a criminal. I’ll give Flynn the benefit of presuming he is innocent until proven guilty — one he didn’t afford to Hillary Clinton when he led chants of “lock her up” at the Republican convention last summer — but the former Trump adviser is now, himself, asking for immunity from Congress and the FBI.

Ostensibly, he was booted from the White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his dealings with the Russians, but it’s clear federal investigators are interested in whether there was anything improper or illegal about his conduct with regard to Mother Russia. In addition, he filed an ex post facto foreign agent registration with the Justice Department for his work on behalf of Turkey.

The criminal statute governing agents of foreign governments requires “prior notification” of the Justice Department. Even if he did nothing illegal, or nothing that would be prosecuted, he should never have been cleared to be the president’s national security adviser.

Far more serious than even the ridiculous accusation that Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower, Trump’s decision to put Flynn in charge of the National Security Council is an example of epically poor judgment.

If you’re smart, you’ll see what all of these signs add up to: Trump is sinking in quicksand. Being tied to him is a recipe for going down. So, cut ties. Sprint to safe ground. And pray that by distancing yourself from him, and hammering away at Democrats, you can save yourself. For some of you, it may already be too late.

With regards,

Jon Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen is a co-author of the New York Times-bestselling Hillary Clinton biography “HRC” and has covered Congress, the White House and elections over the past 15 years.

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