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Republicans convene the cult of Trump

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- That Rep. Devin Nunes serves as the ranking member on something called the Intelligence Committee has always been a contradiction in terms. The California Republican displayed his intellectual heft earlier this year by suing a fictitious dairy cow that was mean to him on Twitter.

Even so, what he said on the House floor during Thursday's debate to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry was jaw-dropping. He railed about the sort of person who believes in "conspiracy theories" and relies on "defamation and slander," who spins a "preposterous narrative" with "no evidence" and only "bizarre obsession."

Surely he was describing one Donald J. Trump to a T?

On the contrary, Nunes applied these Trumpian signatures to Democrats. "What we're seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee," he said, "is like a cult. These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy to another."

It was perhaps the most extraordinary case of projection ever to present itself on the House floor.

Republicans are defending President Trump, who believes windmills cause cancer, in impeachment proceedings literally sparked by his pursuit of a debunked conspiracy theory in Ukraine -- and Democrats are the ones loyally following the conspiracy theories of their cult leader, who apparently is California Rep. Adam Schiff?

 

Maybe this is how Republican lawmakers survive the strain of the Trump era. They represent family values but defend Trump through "Access Hollywood" and Stormy Daniels scandals. They represent military hawkishness but acquiesce to his Syria pullout and subservience to Moscow. They represent free markets and fiscal discipline but justify his trade wars and trillion-dollar deficit. They represent law and order but excuse his obstructions of justice.

Republicans, therefore, need a defense mechanism to displace these unpleasant feelings onto somebody else. The Grand Old Party is grossly projecting.

Trump has repeatedly advanced Moscow's agenda, pulling out of Syria, siding with Russia over U.S. intelligence on election interference and withholding military aid to Ukraine. But Republican Whip Steve Scalise displayed on the House floor a poster of a hammer and sickle and the Kremlin and said Democrats are the ones doing things "Soviet-style."

Trump put national security second to his political needs when he withheld aid to Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. But Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP conference leader, said Democrats are the ones "putting politics above national security."

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