IT’S NOT THE CRIME. IT’S THE COVER UP:
— From Walter Pincus’s column for The Cipher Brief: “What did the President know, and when did he know it? For those of us who went through Watergate, that question, first posed by Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), is the one most relevant today as the current White House drama unfolds … At 6:28 a.m. yesterday morning, Trump wrote from the White House: ‘The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?’ That presidential tweet should make people uneasy, the way we felt nervous during Watergate about what military actions President Nixon might undertake as the truth began to threaten him personally. Trump was initiating what can only be described as a typical attempt to divert his roughly 25 million followers from paying attention to what he and his own White House has been caught doing.”
Walter, one of the wisest men in Washington, offers sage advice that the Trump high command might want to heed: “More than 50 years ago, on the very first day I showed up for work to run an investigation of foreign government lobbyists for Sen. J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.), then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he told me, ‘Remember, it’s not what you did that counts, it’s what you did after you were caught.’ Washington, believe it or not, is a very forgiving town to government officials, including members of Congress, if they confess to misdeeds. But what has always brought people down is when they try to cover up what they have done.”
WILL REPUBLICANS CONTINUE TO STAND BY TRUMP AS HIS NUMBERS SINK?
— It has become politically more difficult for congressional Republicans to walk in lockstep with the president. From Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that it was “highly likely” that the events leading to Flynn’s departure would be added to the broader probe into Russian meddling in the election.
The top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), stood side by side to announce that the committee’s ongoing probe must include an examination of any contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of Senate Republican leadership, told a Missouri radio station that the Senate Intelligence Committee should look into Trump’s Russia connections “exhaustively so that at the end of this process, nobody wonders whether there was a stone left unturned, and shouldn’t reach conclusions before you have the information that you need to have to make those conclusions.” “For all of us, finding out if there’s a problem or not, and sooner rather than later, is the right thing to do,” he said.