The Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is the man who broke America:
By rights, McConnell’s tombstone should say that he presided over the end of the Senate. And I’d add a second line: “He broke America.” No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.
After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.”
McConnell is no idiot. He is a clever man who does what works for him in the moment, consequences be damned.
The Turtle Man also blocked a more forceful response to Russian interference in the 2016 election by the Obama administration by threatening partisan politicization, U.S. national security be damned.
As Steve Benen summarizes:
[T]he Obama White House, swayed by the evidence compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, wanted bipartisan support to push back against Russian intrusion, and in mid-September 2016, the then-president dispatched counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, then-FBI Director James Comey, and then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to brief top members of Congress.
Obama didn’t want to be seen as using intelligence for partisan or electoral ends, so he sought a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against foreign manipulation of our democracy.
That didn’t happen – because McConnel refused. As the Washington Post previously reported, when national security officials told congressional leaders about Russia’s interference, it was McConnell who not only didn’t want to alert the public, he also questioned the validity of the intelligence.
Brian Beutler put it this way: “McConnell ran interference for Trump during the campaign to stop Obama from warning the country about things Trump was lying publicly about.”
By way of a defense, McConnell’s office points to the September 2016 letter, signed by congressional leaders from both parties, which was sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors. It warned state officials about possible hacking efforts. (This is what I suspect the senator was referring to yesterday.)
But this wasn’t the statement American intelligence officials wanted McConnell to endorse, and the letter made no reference to Russia’s attack, which McConnell was briefed on at the time.
Denis McDonough told NBC News’ Chuck Todd over the weekend that this statement was “dramatically watered down” at McConnell’s insistence – and he has no idea why.
Vice President Joe Biden has confirmed this. Biden: McConnell wanted no part in bipartisan warning about Russia.
Now that Putin’s puppet in the White House is threatening to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller in an attempt to derail the Russia investigation, the Turtle Man is once again running interference for Trump and undermining the rule of law, the Constitution be damned. Senate leader appears to kill special counsel protection bill’s chances:
The Senate’s top Republican appeared Tuesday to quash new momentum behind a bill giving special counsels such as Robert S. Mueller III legal recourse if they are fired, telling Fox News that he would refuse to put it to a floor vote.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That is my responsibility as the majority leader. And we’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
McConnell’s statement comes barely a week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the panel would take up and vote on the measure during a business meeting April 26. For months, Grassley had refused to weigh in on legislation to protect a special counsel from being fired without cause, insisting that the committee would consider only one such bill, if it took up any at all.
UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee is delaying legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller until next week. Senate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week.
The bipartisan pairs of senators behind two similar bills struck that long-awaited compromise last week, with a measure that would give an ousted special counsel 10 days to appeal his or her dismissal to a panel of three federal judges, who would ultimately decide whether the firing was legitimate. During those 10 days, the government would be forbidden from destroying records or making any other staff changes to the team around the special counsel.
* * *
In the months since Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), filed their bills, the GOP has roundly rejected the idea that Trump would actually seek to have Mueller fired, and raised constitutional concerns about whether a president’s hiring and firing decisions can be subjected to judicial review.
Grassley was among those raising constitutional concerns. Nevertheless, when the bipartisan quartet of senators behind the measures struck a compromise deal last week, Grassley was quick to promise their bill time in the Judiciary Committee — and even proposed an amendment of his own to give Congress an additional backup option to better review an order to fire a special counsel, even if the courts strike down the specific judicial-review procedure outlined in the measure.
McConnell’s reaction was quite different — in the Fox interview, he questioned why Congress would expend effort on trying to get a bill passed that the president was unlikely to sign.
“There’s no indication that Mueller’s going to be fired . . . and just as a practical matter, even if we passed it, why would he sign it?” McConnell said, adding: “This is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary, in my judgment.”
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), the lead sponsor of a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from interference by Trump, has an impassioned response for his cult of Trump critics: ‘Spare me’:
“Courage is when you know you’re going to do something that’s going to anger your base,” Tillis said in an interview in his Senate office.
“The same people who would criticize me for filing this bill would be absolutely angry if I wasn’t pounding the table for this bill if we were dealing with Hillary Clinton,” he argued. “So spare me your righteous indignation.”
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes, Mitch McConnell is inviting a constitutional crisis:
Let’s cut through all this: Republicans are petrified of provoking Trump (“the bear”), whom they treat as their supervisor and not as an equal branch of government. The notion that Congress should not take out an insurance policy to head off a potential constitutional crisis when the president has repeatedly considered firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein defies logic. By speaking up in such fashion, McConnell is effectively tempting Trump to fire one or both of them. That will set off a firestorm and bring calls for the president’s impeachment.
“There is evidently no limit on the complicity [McConnell] is willing to shoulder,” argued Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics counsel during the Obama administration. “Even as bipartisan support for the legislation is emerging in both houses of Congress — or perhaps because it is emerging — he stands in the way.” He added: “It is a betrayal of the rule of law for McConnell to take this position when the president has reportedly tried twice to fire Mueller, and discussed it frequently, and is now agitated over the Michael Cohen developments. McConnell will be fully as responsible as Trump if the special counsel is fired.”
At critical points during this saga, McConnell has put party over country, and fidelity to the executive branch over the concerns of an equal legislative branch. Remember, according to multiple news reports, McConnell is the one who, before the 2016 election, wanted to water down a bipartisan warning to the country about Russian interference. It was McConnell, together with Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who refused to set up a select committee or an independent commission to address possible Russian collusion. It was McConnell who pushed through the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite ample evidence that he had not been truthful with the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his contacts with Russians. His refusal to consider legislation that might head off a crisis is remarkably reckless.
“As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell has extraordinary power to control the nation’s legislative agenda — and that power carries great responsibility,” said constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe. “By standing in the way of serious legislative efforts to protect the special counsel’s inquiry into presidential obstruction of justice and cooperation with Russia to win the election, McConnell has totally failed to discharge that responsibility.”
There is no one — with the possible exceptions of Ryan and House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — who has done more to embolden Trump. Seeing no opposition, Trump has continued his crusade to intimidate and bully the Justice Department and the FBI. As Trump has trashed one democratic norm after another, McConnell has remained silent.
Put aside the Russia investigation for a moment. McConnell hasn’t said boo about Trump’s foreign emoluments, his grotesque conflicts of interest, or the nepotism and self-enrichment that are endemic to his administration. If a Democrat was in the White House, McConnell would be leading the inquests into wrongdoing and cheering for impeachment.
McConnell’s seat is not on the ballot in November, but eight other Republican ones are. If McConnell loses a net of two seats, he will be in the minority and no longer able to run interference for Trump [he still has the filibuster]. It’s difficult to come up with a better reason to dump the GOP majority than its abject refusal to live up to its oath, act as a check on the executive branch, and take the necessary steps to protect the country and Constitution from Trump. Looking ahead, is there any doubt that McConnell — no matter what Mueller finds, no matter how robust are articles of impeachment that might be sent from the House — would once again ride to Trump’s rescue and shield him from accountability?
Aside from his failure to live up to his constitutional responsibilities, the majority leader is taking an awfully big political risk. “It’s very nice that Sen. McConnell is confident President Trump will not interfere with the work of the special counsel, but that does not help me sleep at night in view of the President’s constant threats to fire Mueller,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told me. “It is outrageous that Sen. McConnell and other Republican leaders won’t allow a vote on a bill to protect the investigation — a bicameral, bipartisan bill that continues to gain support on both sides of the aisle.”
Well, if Trump does fire Mueller or Rosenstein, the country will rightly blame McConnell and the GOP-controlled Senate. It would be quite a political legacy.
I have said before that Mitch McConnell belongs in the pantheon of the worst senators in U.S. history. He is demonstrably a villain who believes in authoritarianism, as long as his party and he remains in control. No one has abused the rules of the Senate and American democracy more than has Mitch McConnell. History will not remember him kindly, nor should it. His name should be spoken with disdain as we do for those most despised villains in American history.