The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The GOP makes its choice: Trump, yes. Rule of law, no.

Banners reading "Arrest Trump" and "Trump 2024" are displayed outside the Trump Tower building in New York City on Aug. 9. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

The GOP seems to be settling on a snappy slogan for November’s elections: Vote Republican. Because Donald Trump is above the law.

That’s the logical conclusion after a regiment of Republican politicians, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), denounced the FBI’s court-sanctioned search of Mar-a-Lago on Monday even though the fulminators had no idea what Trump may have done to lead a judge to approve it.

Hugh Hewitt: Trump should make the search warrant public

The possibility that all these Republicans may be jumping on a sinking ship was brought home Wednesday when Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a civil inquiry into his business dealing by the New York state attorney general’s office. You wonder if any of the party’s leaders will show a smidgen of curiosity about what it was that Trump didn’t want to talk about.

Trump pleads Fifth Amendment in New York civil probe

Judging from the reaction to the Mar-a-Lago search, a lot of them will keep averting their eyes. McCarthy made clear on Monday night that a vote for a Republican-led House would guarantee a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Attorney General Merrick Garland for having the nerve to investigate Trump.

“Attorney General Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” the California Republican declared in a tweet. McCarthy was no doubt proud of the bravado that, in fact, masked cowardice. Under his leadership, Congress would happily do Trump’s bidding and set the party of Lincoln against the rule of law.

Dana Milbank: GOP hysteria over the Mar-a-Lago search is an invitation to violence

Tuesday’s primaries offered a hint as to why so many in the GOP are afraid. The outcome in Wisconsin was especially revealing. Recall that in the 2016 presidential primaries, Wisconsin was one of fewer than a dozen contests in which Republicans handed Trump a decisive defeat.

Follow E.J. Dionne Jr.'s opinionsFollow

On Tuesday, the thoroughly conservative former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch — supported by Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, and much of the local Republican party, including former governor Scott Walker — fell to Tim Michels, a wealthy construction executive. Michels’s main advantage? He was endorsed by Trump.

The Trump-at-any-cost crowd scored another win with the conclusion of the long vote count in Washington state as Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment, fell narrowly to Trumpist Joe Kent. Only two of the Republican impeachers survived GOP primaries. Three lost, four have retired and Rep. Liz Cheney awaits her fate in Wyoming’s primary Tuesday.

E.J. Dionne Jr: Vote for Liz Cheney. (I never thought I'd say that.)

Hugh Hewitt

counterpointIt’s too soon to judge Trump on missing documents and fake slates

Space does not permit a full recounting of all the wild statements Republicans made about how the Justice Department had no right to execute a legal search warrant against their leader, but especially striking was the use of Nazi metaphors to attack an inquiry involving a man who has reportedly said he wanted his generals to be as loyal to him as German generals were to Adolf Hitler. Projection, perhaps?

“The way our federal government has gone, it’s like what we thought about the Gestapo or people like that, that they just go after people,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the man in charge of Republicans’ efforts to reclaim the Senate majority, told Fox Business.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but it’s at once amusing and frightening to see the party that casts itself as championing law and order go after law enforcement. Beyond the laughable hypocrisy, the principle at work here seems to be that the law should be invoked only against political enemies, never allies.

The Plum Line: With FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s whining kicks into overdrive

Some Republicans have seemed (wisely) reluctant to embrace Trump less than three months before a crucial election without knowing anything about the evidence against him.

Thus did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hold his tongue about the Mar-a-Lago episode until pressure from the Trump crowd forced him to issue what — in light of the GOP follies — passed for a measured statement. “The country,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday evening, “deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday.”

Well, far be it from a journalist to oppose transparency. But anything that Garland, the FBI or the Justice Department said now would no doubt be cast by Trump’s allies as a violation of his rights and more evidence for a “politicized” investigation.

Analysis: What we know about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

The man who has every right to make the search warrant public is Trump, as Post contributing columnist Hugh Hewitt (no anti-Trumper) has pointed out. You’d think that if the master of Mar-a-Lago believed even half of his own attacks on the Justice Department, he’d be eager to do so. Then again, as Trump’s silence Wednesday in the New York case showed, he doesn’t seem eager to be open about much of anything.

What this episode has made visible is how eager legions of Republican politicians are to be judged by their loyalty to Trump, no matter what he did. Voters should render their own decisions accordingly.

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