In two days, two powerful Republican congressional leaders have broken with the president on two of his major Russia-related arguments.

President Trump claiming there was a spy in his campaign and threatening to pardon himself is going too far, it seems, even for a Republican leadership that has been criticized by some of its own members for being too subservient to the president.

Making these breaks even more dramatic: The latest disagreements between Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Russia are pretty black and white.

Trump claims the FBI inserted a spy into his campaign and for the past few weeks has refused to let this go.


Ryan, who was briefed on the evidence by the Justice Department, was clear Wednesday he doesn't think there's any evidence for the president to say as much.


“I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment Chairman Gowdy has made,” Ryan, referencing Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), told reporters on Wednesday, which is a wonky way of saying: No, Mr. President, an FBI informant was not spying on your campaign.

Trump also asserted he has power to pardon himself from anything that comes out of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.

Ryan and McConnell don't think that's nearly as good an idea as Trump does.

“Obviously, the answer is he shouldn't, and no one is above the law,” Ryan told reporters on Wednesday.


McConnell was a touch more subtle on Tuesday, but the message was just as clear: “I don't think the president needs any advice on pardoning himself,” he said. “He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do.”



This isn't a wholesale break from the president on the special counsel investigation into whether Trump's campaign worked with Russia to win the 2016 election. GOP leaders have warned Trump about firing top officials in the Russia investigation, but Republicans in Congress are still standing by Trump on Russia.

Ryan has largely backed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as he investigates the Justice Department and Hillary Clinton and releases factually questionable reports that call into question the FBI's intentions investigating Trump.


In May, Ryan raised eyebrows when he said he would like to see the Mueller investigation "wrapped up." Ryan had previously only urged Trump to be patient and let the investigation take its course.

Trump has considered firing Mueller several times, and his attorney general and deputy attorney general appear to be keeping their jobs on a day-to-day basis. Yet McConnell has said he won't support a bipartisan bill to protect Mueller or the independent investigation he leads.

From what we know, it doesn't appear Republican leaders have a game plan for how to deal with that, when the time comes.

But as Trump wades deeper into conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation and plays with the line on what's constitutionally allowed to get himself out from under it, he's losing some of his steadiest and most powerful defenders on two key sticking points.