It was a fairly strong signal that the Devin Nunes memo was going to be a dud when allies of Nunes and Donald Trump privately told them not to release it, and then leaked those conversations to the media so everyone would know they weren’t on board with the gambit. Now that the memo has not only landed with a thud but backfired spectacularly, the Republican Party is bending over backward to publicly distance itself from the entire fiasco.
Four different Republican members of Congress, headlined by Trey Gowdy, appeared on this weekend’s morning talk shows to make clear that they don’t view the memo in the same way Trump views the memo. The GOP is emphasizing that the memo isn’t justification for firing anyone involved with the Trump-Russia investigation. Gowdy all but endorsed Special Counsel Robert Mueller for President.
The GOP doesn’t have any semblance of a coherent strategy for dealing with the historically unpopular and increasingly scandalized Trump. House and Senate Republicans have more closely resembled panickers running around in a fire drill over the past year, as they try to avoid taking the blame for Trump without having to outright oust him. This weekend does represent a shift amid the chaos. Gone is the brief attempt at publicly rallying around Trump in over the top fashion, heaping cartoonish praise on him in the hope of propping him up just long enough to pass partisan legislation. Now we’re firmly in the butt-covering stage.
That’s not a surprise. Robert Mueller is rapidly closing in on Donald Trump, who will imminently have to decide whether to agree to a criminally damaging interview, or invoke the politically fatal Fifth Amendment. One might have expected the GOP to lay low this weekend and hope the blame for the memo landed solely on Trump and Nunes. Instead, Republicans are panicked enough to get out there and make sure it happens.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report