Republicans like Rep. Jeff Denham are being forced to choose between defending Trump's unhinged lies or angering his fans.
Trump’s desperate rantings about the Mueller investigation are a gift to Democrats, as more Republicans will be asked to weigh in on them going into the midterms.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) was the latest Republican to face the Trump dilemma Tuesday morning, when CNN host Jon Berman asked him to weigh in on a Trump tweet predicting that Robert Mueller and his investigators “will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections.”
“Do you think Robert Mueller and his investigators are trying to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections?” Berman asked.
After a long pause, Denham replied “I don’t know that I can give any credence to that.”
“Is there any evidence on planet earth, or beyond, that Robert Mueller and his investigators are trying to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections?” Berman pressed.
“I’m not seeing anything on that,” Denham said, then tried to change the subject by claiming “there’s just not a lot of people in my district talking about Russia or this investigation.”
Berman was undeterred, and asked Denham, “When the president suggests that the special counsel is meddling in the 2018 election. is there any basis in truth, is there any connection to reality?”
“I’m not seeing anything on it,” Denham replied.
Berman’s repetition of that response — “I’m not seeing anything on it” — underscores the fact that while Denham isn’t agreeing with Trump, he’s also not ruling Trump’s nonsense out. Denham’s just saying that he hasn’t seen proof of it yet.
Denham’s palpable desperation to change the subject is understandable, given the results of this exchange. His inability to completely go along with Trump won’t endear him to Trump’s fans. But his weak, hedging response demonstrates the political cowardice that all Republicans grapple with in the Trump era.
That dilemma will haunt the GOP in the midterms, where Trump’s demonstrated toxicity figures to be the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats.