What Will It Take for Republicans to Turn on Trump?

Berating allies? Firing the director of the FBI? Sharing classified information with the Russians? When will enough be enough?

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of the United States walk together on the White House grounds in Washington DC, May 11
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of the United States walk together on the White House grounds in Washington DC, May 11 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

What does Donald Trump need to do for Republicans to lose faith in him?

The latest revelation from The Washington Post is that Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office.

The president reportedly bragged about the “great intel” he was getting and went on to discuss aspects of an Islamist threat the United States learned through the espionage capabilities of a key partner.

Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the American intelligence partner detected the threat.

None of which should have been relayed to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister of all people. According to The Post, the information hadn’t even been shared with American allies.

The story was confirmed by Reuters and other news organizations.

“He doesn’t care”

Mike Allen cites an Obama-era official saying, “He just didn’t know any better,” and a West Wing visitor describing Trump’s attitude in such high-level conversations: “He just rambles. He doesn’t care.”

Remember how it was reported Trump billed Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, for protecting her country under NATO? Or how he threw a tantrum in a phone call with the prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull?

Just the other week, Trump told Time magazine he wanted the Navy to abandon years of research and hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in a new catapult system for its aircraft carriers because he doesn’t trust “digital”.

The president also gave an interview to The Economist in which he talked nonsense about trade, taxes and government spending.

Politico learned that Trump ordered his team to literally lift a tax reform plan from the pages of The New York Times.

And then he fired FBI director James Comey. His underlings insisted it had nothing to do with the bureau’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia until the president himself admitted in an interview with NBC News that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Which ought to have been the most shocking thing to happen this week — the president admitting to obstruction of justice — except then Trump put a mole’s life in danger and jeopardized American intelligence relations around the world, all to impress his Russian guests.

Apologists

Trump was clearly not prepared to be president. It was one of the reasons center-rightists like me opposed him during the primaries and why we urged a vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Trump’s apologists argued three things:

  1. He would learn on the job;
  2. Clinton was unacceptable because of her email “scandal”; and
  3. Trump would appoint conservative judges and rubber-stamp conservative policies.

The last argument may still apply if you don’t mind Trump’s assault on the judiciary and disagree that he does more to undermine public support for right-wing policies than advance them.

But the first two arguments are now so patently absurd that anyone still making them deserves to be laughed out of court.

Trump hasn’t learned and he isn’t learning. He hardly seems interested in governing at all.

Aides are forced to condense policy briefs to the bare minimums, because the president gets bored quickly and doesn’t like to read.

NATO officials have asked other leaders to limit their speeches at the alliance’s upcoming summit to a few minutes in order to avoid taxing Trump’s “notoriously short attention span.”

Half the job of president has been delegated to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

As for Clinton mismanaging (retroactively) classified information during her tenure as secretary of state — are you serious? If that was the reason Trump skeptics couldn’t vote for the Democrat, then how do they feel now?

Take a stand

Eliot A. Cohen, a neoconservative scholar, is hopeful that at least some Republicans will now take a stand against their own party and for the law and the Constitution.

If Trump nominates any kind of Republican political figure, no matter what their previous record, as FBI director, they must oppose it. They should denounce his misconduct for what it is.

I’m not holding my breath.

Cohen has repeatedly admonished fellow conservatives to not trade principles for party loyalty. Few have taken his advice.

Better late than never, but if everything Trump has said and done so far wasn’t enough to convince Republicans to turn on them, why should they now?