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AFP
August 27, 2018

Needing Trump’s backers, Republicans shrug off his mounting woes

World

AFP
August 27, 2018

WASHINGTON: “Convictions tighten squeeze on Trump” and “Trump’s moment of truth is at hand,” read two of many banner headlines about the recent sensational testimony of the president’s former lawyer. Yet through it all, Donald Trump has learned he can count on the unwavering support of Republican leaders.

“How does this implicate the president?” was the laconic comment of one senior Republican senator, John Cornyn.That reaction typified his party’s response to the sworn testimony Tuesday by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump had directed him to pay two women for their silence to avoid damaging scandals on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

On the same politically jarring day, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on several counts of bank and tax fraud.

And yet nothing the president does seems able to provoke a revolt among Republicans — whether it is the protectionist policy he pursues in a traditionally free-trade party, his conciliatory attitude toward Russia in a party long leery of its Cold War foe, or his alleged extramarital affairs in a party that claims to embrace family and religious values.

Analysts say that with crucial midterm elections only months away, Republican candidates fear saying anything that might offend a president who remains popular among most of the party faithful — and who savors his ability to make, or break, a candidate with a single tweet.

Manafort was the first person to be tried in the highly sensitive investigation of suspected collusion between the Trump team and Moscow during the 2016 election. While the trial dealt with Manafort’s personal finances, the verdict brought the shadow of special counsel Robert Mueller ever closer to Trump’s inner circle.

But none of this appears to have shaken the faith of the president’s supporters.“There have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign,” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham.

A New York Times editorial on Thursday summed up Republicans’ response this way:“Congressional Republicans have been operating under a see-no-evil policy with President Trump: ignoring his lying, his subversions of democratic norms and his attacks on government institutions or, when that’s not possible, dismissing such outrages as empty bluster.”

Trump’s capacity for survival has surprised even some of Washington’s most experienced political hands.“The only thing that I can see making a real difference in the loyalty shown by Republican officeholders is if Mueller comes forth with a very strong and thoroughly documented report of collusion and obstruction,” said Christopher Arterton, professor emeritus of political science at George Washington University.

Robert Bennett, who was president Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer in the Paula Jones sex-scandal case in the 1990s, said that in his 50 years practicing law in Washington, “I’ve seen time and time again things which would be a death blow to most normal human beings. And he (Trump) walks right through it.”