GOP frustration with Trump exemplified in one congressman’s middle finger
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) in 2010.
Another day, another damning news story about President Donald Trump and Russia that Republicans can’t immediately (or perhaps ever) defend. And Republicans’ frustration with having to deal with this is showing, bigly.
More bombshell news Tuesday night, first reported by the New York Times and later corroborated by The Washington Post, that Trump asked now-fired FBI Director James Comey to lay off the FBI’s investigation into now-fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. The White House denies that this conversation between Comey and Trump happened. But that doesn’t make Republicans in Congress feel any more at ease.
Consider the tweet from Politico reporter Rachael Bade:
That’s Rep Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who represents a potential swing district in 2018, and is used to tough questions from reporters as the former head of the uber-political House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
While a politician flipping off a reporter is shocking anywhere, Issa’s crude gesture is all the more out of place and unexpected in Congress. Capitol Hill is one of the last places in Washington where reporters can roam relatively freely — when lawmakers are moving from point A to point B, a credentialed reporter can just walk right up to them and ask them questions.
We should also add that the reporter he flipped off, Politico’s Rachael Bade, is an absolute pro who has been stalking the halls of Congress for years.
Issa wasn’t the only one trying to avoid being asked about the latest White House turmoil he can’t defend.
Tuesday, Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., ducked into an elevator rather than answer reporters’ questions about The Washington Post reporting that Trump shared classified information with the Russians.
Here’s a telling anecdote from The Post’s Elise Viebeck:
McCain, clearly flustered by reporters pressing for answers, walked off the Senate floor and said that he hadn’t read the reports, adding, "I can’t comment on every breaking news story." So a reporter tried a broader approach: "You wouldn’t approve of a government official sharing secrets with the Russians, right?" "No, I would always approve of such a thing," McCain quipped as he boarded an elevator. As the elevator doors closed, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told McCain: "You can say that and they’d laugh it off, but if I said it…"
Also on Tuesday, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., outright said what most Republicans on Capitol Hill are thinking: This isn’t fun. This is the opposite of fun.
"It’s been frustrating, no question," he told reporters of the recent revelations. "We want this to be moving forward," referring to the GOP agenda.
This also is not what Republicans had in mind when they campaigned for a Republican president. They hoped they would have a president who would, finally, help them move tax reform, repeal Obamacare, pass a real budget, get tough on abortion and loosen gun laws.
Instead, they have a president who almost daily besieges them with scandals to respond to — or not respond to.
As Issa’s middle finger so fantastically illustrates, this week is a tough one in the Trump-Congress relationship. It marks the first time in Trump’s still nascent administration that he has virtually no Republican supporters on Capitol Hill for his latest controversies. A sizable number of Republicans in Congress supported him on his travel bans and his decision to fire Comey (and not immediately fire Flynn). But on the latest revelations, they just can’t find a way to justify their president’s actions.
And many lawmakers’ nerves are frayed just having to respond to this. The unanswered question is: When will the frustration of having a controversy-ridden, unpredictable president start to outweigh the benefits of the fact he’s a Republican?