Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2019

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Nevada deserves lawmakers with the backbone to stand up to Trump

The way most congressional Republicans have dealt with President Donald Trump’s behavior has been shameful, bringing to mind the nervous stammers of parents of a spoiled brat.

“Well, I don’t like the tweeting, but ...”

“Well, I don’t condone that kind of language, but …”

“Well, I don’t share the president’s views on racial matters like this, but ... “

After the events of last week, though, it’s no longer acceptable for Republicans to wring their hands and shrug their shoulders about Trump.

Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, need to tell Nevadans exactly where they stand on the increasingly serious accusations of wrongdoing by Trump.

More than that, the Nevada Republican lawmakers need to affirm that they’re willing to hold Trump accountable.

This is no longer Trump merely doing something inappropriate, like using a profanity while speaking to Boy Scouts.

For the first time, Trump has been directly implicated in breaking the law, via Michael Cohen’s statement under oath that he worked in coordination with and “at the direction of” the president in paying hush money to women with whom Trump reportedly had sexual encounters.

But beyond that revelation, there are Trump’s self-incriminatory comments regarding Cohen’s plea and the conviction of Paul Manafort.

This is a president who has described Manafort as a “brave man” and a “good man” who was unfairly prosecuted in a “witch hunt.” Trump called the Mueller probe a “disgrace,” yet another example of him trying to undermine the Justice Department’s integrity.

Keep in mind that a jury of 12 American citizens convicted Manafort of lying to banks and submitting false tax returns, costing the government millions in tax dollars that had to be made up by other taxpayers. Yet Trump defended him while vilifying prosecutors, then went a step further by praising Manafort because, “unlike Cohen, he refused to ‘break.’ ”

The “refused to break” language is particularly disturbing, suggesting that Trump expects those in his circle to be silent about wrongdoing. A president who has sworn to defend the Constitution and serve as the nation’s top law enforcement authority is not talking about the crimes but instead prioritizing loyalty.

It wasn’t an isolated statement, either, as Trump had issued a previous tweet saying the current White House counsel wasn’t a “John Dean type RAT.”

Not only does that suggest that Trump has something to hide, but for the record, Dean was a hero of Watergate. For the good of the nation, he came forward with the truth about the Nixon administration despite knowing he would face punishment for crimes he had committed himself.

This is no time for Heller and Amodei to be silent.

During the Watergate era, Republicans were initially resistant to take action against then-President Richard Nixon. But as the evidence mounted, they eventually were compelled to put partisan concerns aside for the sake of protecting our democracy.

Then, as today, they faced political repercussions but acted as leaders instead of party representatives.

Heller initially was critical of Trump but has been deferential to him ever since Trump publicly chastised him for not supporting an early vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Locked in a tough re-election battle with Rep. Jacky Rosen, Heller has avoided questions about Trump’s behavior so as not to lose support among Trump voters.

But what’s happening in the White House transcends whether a Republican or Democrat is elected to Heller’s seat, or Amodei’s.

Increasingly, it appears a criminal is on the loose in the Oval Office.

That being the case, Heller and Amodei have a responsibility to live up to their oaths of office and stand up for the rule of law and the separation of powers.

We don’t know what kind of elected officials people in other states want or expect, but Nevadans want, expect and deserve their representatives to stand up — for Nevada, the nation and the Constitution.

This is no time to hide under the covers.

Heller and Amodei owe it to Nevadans to speak clearly and with conscience about the growing stench emanating from the White House. If they hide, they can’t call themselves leaders — only cowards who abandoned America.