Dave Brat has nailed himself to the Trump cross. Or, perhaps he’s just tied himself on, like a lesser thief. Despite his identification with the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, Brat has cozied up to Trump more and more in recent weeks.
During his May 9 town hall, he was asked if he would support a congressional investigation of Trump’s Russian ties. His response left everyone puzzled. He said he saw no need for an investigation, but if people in the audience brought him evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russians, he would pass it on. Such a response struck everyone as odd because Congress has carried out long and expensive investigations of the Benghazi incident, Hillary’s emails, Iran Contra and the Clinton impeachment, among many others.
These partisan-motivated hearings dragged on and on without coming to any negative conclusion. After seven Benghazi investigations, the idea that that the House only responded to public pressure, and was disinterested in an investigation of Trump’s Russian ties seriously undercuts Brat’s assertion that this is an administration of laws, not men.
Brat’s assertion, however, coincides with the views of the administration that the FBI’s investigation of its ties to Russia is “probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate.” Really, Dave, you expect the public to do your work for you?
Handing over Israeli intelligence to Russian visitors in the White House, an event barred to the American press, doesn’t provide much support for Brat’s assertion that this administration is one of laws. Despite White House protests, the American president cannot just declassify intelligence from another county on a whim. Not only is that a violation of the originator’s sovereignty, but it undermines other governments’ confidence in American leadership.
Most recently, Trump fired the head of the FBI which was investigating the Trump transition team’s connection with the Russians. This connection has already cost General Michael Flynn his appointment in the new administration, so there is obviously something there. Brat gave an interview, carried in this paper on May 12, in which he said that the Comey firing demonstrated that America was governed by the rule of law.
Except…Trump destroyed his own credibility by his later interview with Lester Holt stating he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey before the deputy attorney general’s recommendation landed on his desk.
Trump claimed in another interview that he fired Comey because he was “grandstanding” and “showboating.” Yet Brat is quoted as saying Trump was defending the rule of law. Trump claimed that low morale at the FBI also encouraged him to fire Comey.
The acting director of the FBI testified before Congress that morale at the FBI was just fine, thank you very much. None of this supports Brat’s assertion that Trump is faithfully following the rule of law.
Before Trump dismissed Comey, claiming that he had been obliged to act because of the way Comey handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton, he had previously fired Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Yates and Bharara were conducting investigations of the administration’s ties to Russia. Brat continues to insist that Trump is a reasonable fellow.
During the last election, with the polls running against Brat, then-candidate Mike Pence was photographed bringing pizza to Brat’s staff. For all his Tea Party Freedom Caucus rhetoric and Calvinist theology, Brat probably understands that he is not now very securely popular. Perhaps that realization, and the Trump’s threat to run an opposition candidate in the primaries against those that cross him, has caused Brat to join his cause with Trump’s.
Brat must calculate carefully. Midterm elections are coming and Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall. Speculation has begun that the GOP’s current House majority may be in jeopardy. At the 100-day mark, Trump’s approval rating is lower than any past president since polling began. Even this White House knows that most presidents who have governed in the modern era have seen their approval ratings slide between the 100-day mark and the subsequent midterm elections. So there is more slippage to come—you can count on it.
Trump’s legislative agenda is also in peril as House Republicans have done little to demonstrate that they are ready and able to be a successful governing party. At his Midlothian town hall, Brat kept asserting that the Republican “repeal and replace” so-called health care bill protected preexisting conditions. But he and the audience knew the bill allows the states to get a waiver from such a circumstance, thus putting millions in jeopardy. It’s a dishonest bill that will throw millions off their insurance. Brat ought to be ashamed of himself for supporting it.
Brat’s close association with the Trump may be costlier than he thinks. If the Republicans stop protecting the current occupant of the White House over his close ties with Russia, his exposure of Israeli intelligence and his continuing mindless ranting, and Trump subsequently goes down, he may carry Brat and other hardliners down with him. Then, maybe, this country can start pulling itself back together. We must work hard to do that, merely hoping it will happen will not do the job. Resist, insist, persist, enlist.
Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with author’s permission and originally appeared here.