Shared from the 1/20/2019 Houston Chronicle eEdition

Find your voice, GOP

Republicans will face political consequences if they stay silent on Trump’s alleged crimes.

Democrats ended last week with loud new calls to investigate and possibly impeach President Donald Trump. As the volume of these calls has risen, the silence of the Republicans has only deepened.

It’s time for that to change. A functioning democracy demands respect for the rule of law from Republicans and Democrats alike.

The renewed calls this week were touched off by an explosive report by BuzzFeed News on Thursday that claims the president ordered his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress when Cohen appeared before members in 2017. Cohen has already admitted lying to Congress, but the new report cites two unnamed federal investigators who say he did so on explicit orders by Trump, who was seeking to tamp down concerns about his efforts to build a Trump Tower hotel in Moscow.

That story has not yet been independently confirmed by other media, and on Friday a spokesman for the special prosecutor said some aspects of it were wrong. Time and testimony will tell whether its underlying claim — namely that when Trump’s lawyer lied to Congress, he did so under pressure from his client — holds up, and whether Democrats’ calls are premature. If they are, they will pay a political price for crying wolf.

But Republicans take a much graver risk by refusing to acknowledge that the waters around Trump’s muddy legal footing are rising — and have been for some time.

Given the sky-high stakes for Trump and his presidency if the reporting is accurate, it’s no surprise that Democrats have quickly called for hearings. The Republicans have instead sat on their hands, when they should be joining the calls for hearings — even if they believe the reporting is flawed. One way or another, America needs to know the truth about these and other claims.

After all, these allegations are only the latest in a long line of potential legal traps for the president.

For instance, we know that he asked former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, his felonious national security adviser. We know that he pressured Comey to kill the broader Russian inquiry — and when he didn’t, Comey was fired.

We know that Trump told Russian officials visiting the Oval Office that relations between the two countries would improve after Comey was fired.

We know that his campaign chiefs, including some family members, eagerly accepted a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Kremlin-connected Russians in hopes of hearing dirt from Moscow about Hillary Clinton.

We know that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in prison, and that he was paid millions for work on behalf of pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine before he was hired, without salary, to resuscitate Trump’s flagging general election campaign.

And we know that despite his denials, Trump was pushing a hotel in Moscow deep into 2016, and that Cohen was lying when he told Congress in 2017 that those efforts had ceased long before the primaries.

At almost every turn, the president and his surrogates have sought to downplay these facts and have called for the investigation — the witch hunt, in the president’s lexicon — to end.

At each of these moments, prominent Republicans should have joined with Democrats to resist that narrative and remind Americans that only a thorough investigation can remove the taint of suspicion from Trump and satisfy voters that their president is not a crook.

The good news is that in the past several weeks, signs of independence among Republican lawmakers began to emerge, albeit only timidly.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn helped rally Texas GOP lawmakers to push back against any effort to use storm relief funds appropriated by Congress to build the Mexican border wall. Good job.

Republican leaders in the House, after years of supine silence, finally took action against U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who was caught defending outrageous comments he made about white supremacy. Leadership would have meant acting before King became a political liability, but in a land of silence, even a murmur gets attention.

Republicans must find their voice — and use it. We may be headed for perilous times, constitutionally speaking, and while it’s certainly fair to demand allegations about the president be proven, it’s long past time to acknowledge that the waters are rising. Leaders, demand the truth, no matter how severe the consequences.

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