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The GOP Is No Longer Fighting Trump’s Delusions

After successfully seating Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, many Republicans are doubling down on Trumpism

President Donald Trump interacts with fans after speaking at a Make America Great Again rally at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IowaElection 2018 Trump, Council Bluffs, USA - 09 Oct 2018

President Trump interacts with fans after speaking at a Make America Great Again rally at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Nati Harnik/AP/REX Shutterstock

Brett Kavanaugh was officially sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on Saturday, but President Trump wanted to do it again.

“A man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” Trump said during a ceremony at the White House on Monday. “You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.” The first part of the quote is true regarding a criminal trial, not a job interview for the nation’s most esteemed judicial appointment. The second part is a lie. Nevertheless, the president and Republican lawmakers have settled on “due process” as their go-to defense for confirming a man who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, lied under oath about an array of issues and vowed revenge on the political party that dared to notice. Republicans are, after all, the party of “Law and Order.”

Trump’s reverence for “due process” was on full display a night later in Iowa, where he spoke at yet another of his campaign-style rallies. When the president mentioned Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “another beauty,” the crowd began chanting “Lock her up!,” to the delight of Trump. Feinstein’s only crime was receiving a sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee from one of her constituents.

“Lock her up!” is best known as the Pavlovian response of Trump’s supporters whenever the president mentions Hillary Clinton. There are no grounds to jail the former first lady; those who call for her imprisonment are doing so for no other reason than she is a political enemy of their leader. The fact that the call is now being applied to a sitting U.S. senator is not surprising considering Trump’s continued insistence that Democrats are a dangerous band of criminals hell-bent on laying waste to everything Americans hold dear. Never mind that the president has been implicated in multiple federal crimes while several of his closest confidants have been indicted for or found guilty of a variety of charges since he took office.

The rally follows a contentious week during which Trump bashed the sexual assault survivors protesting Kavanaugh in Washington, D.C., as paid “#Troublemakers” who are now even angrier because they have yet to receive their dark money payments. Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have followed Trump’s lead, as has Fox News. Despite the New York Times laying out in pretty plain detail that Trump’s fortune is a sham, and despite the abortion of justice that was carried out in confirming Kavanaugh, the right is doing all it can to shape the national discourse around how the left has lost its mind. “You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob,” Trump tweeted last week. “Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law — not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!”

On Tuesday night, Trump ramped up his attacks. He called Democrats “unhinged,” “crazy” and “wacko.” He repeated his claims about “phony protesters” and referred to the entire Democratic party as an “angry, left-wing mob.” Meanwhile, his crowd in Iowa seemed a little more unruly than usual.

It used to be that when Trump made a reckless claim, Republicans would attempt to distance themselves from him. They’re just tweets, they’d say. I haven’t seen that yet, they’d claim. I don’t agree with the president in this case, they’d manage. But the gap between Trump’s delusions and the Republican Party line is now virtually nonexistent. They’ve rallied behind his desire to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They’ve rallied behind his drive to confirm a plainly partisan judge to the Supreme Court. They’ve rallied behind his antipathy toward the Democratic Party. Even as Republicans said they disagreed with Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford last week, they repeated what he said about the inconsistencies in her story almost verbatim, just without the gesticulation.

On Tuesday, Hilary Clinton spoke about the difficulty in being civil toward a party working to “destroy what you stand for.” Kellyanne Conway called her comments “dangerous” while championing Trump’s calls for decorum. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pointed out on Twitter, Trump once announced that he would pay the legal fees of any of his supporters who assaulted his opponents.

At the same time, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wondered whether this political climate could have some unintended consequences. “I fear that there’s going to be an assassination,” he said in a radio interview, pointing a finger at Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for telling people to voice their concerns to politicians directly. “I really worry that somebody is going to be killed, and that those who are ratcheting up the conversation, they have to realize they bear some responsibility if this elevates to violence.”

Last year, a white nationalist murdered Heather Heyer as she was protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her death came at the hands of a mob — an actual mob — that the president excused as containing “very fine people.” Regardless of whether the senator remembers this, he makes a good point about some of the people ratcheting up the conversation needing to be held responsible for the violence their rhetoric permits.

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