Witcover: The GOP establishment finally surrenders to Trump

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After nearly a year of very modest resistance to Donald Trump, the old-time Republican establishment has finally thrown in the sponge, with Senate acceptance of his outrageous tax reform package of reverse Robin Hoodism.

By sloughing off the party's traditional commitment to ending deficit financing and balancing the federal budget, it should send the late Bob Taft of Ohio spinning in his grave. The plan offers even greater handouts to the super-flush 1 percent of Americans at the expense of lower- and-middle-class working stiffs.


It does so at the expense of the social safety net born out of FDR's New Deal during the Great Depression, which created the Social Security system and led to subsequent enlightened extensions from Medicare to Obamacare.

The last GOP holdouts caved in to Mr. Trump's hunger for a major legislative achievement after more than 10 months of conspicuous failures, highlighted by defeated efforts to repeal and replace Barack Obama's signature health care law benefiting the non-wealthy majority.


Particularly shamed in the escapade are House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They have swallowed the Kool-Aid of misrepresentations mixed with racial and religious hate that Mr. Trump has bred among a gullible and angry electorate.

Earlier, only the fortitude and steadfastness of a handful of Republicans in the Senate -- John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- had derailed efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Mr. McCain became a hero to those millions when, hospitalized by a newly discovered brain cancer, he nevertheless returned to the Capitol and cast the deciding vote against Obamacare repeal. But to the beneficiaries' chagrin, on last week's tax reform bill Mr. McCain was the sole switcher of the three, apparently as a traditional GOP champion of higher military spending.

His vote gave the party, and Mr. Trump, a 51-49 victory with only a single Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, voting with every Democrat against the tax absurdity,

The narrow outcome was a singular bright spot for the president on a weekend in which more political peril surfaced in the Justice Department investigation into alleged Russian collusion in Mr. Trump's 2016 election.

His fired national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, amid evidence that the president knew of Mr. Flynn's deception when he fired him.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "What we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice" against Mr. Trump for asking FBI Director James Comey not to prosecute Mr. Flynn. As Mr. Comey later testified, reading from notes, the president asked him if he could find his way clear "to letting Flynn go." Mr. Comey said he took no action, and in May Mr. Trump fired him.

In another tweet early last week, the president insisted again: "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!" And this: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI." But earlier, Mr. Trump had mentioned that only Mike Pence had been given that message, not the FBI.


The plot thickened when a Trump lawyer, John Dowd, reported that he had written the tweet for the president, a rare departure from the Trump routine, and that it inaccurately said Mr. Flynn had lied to the FBI as well as to Mr. Pence.

At the least, the latest exchanges illustrate the amateur-hour response at the White House to the investigation that could jeopardize the president's tenure after less than a year in power. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the nation's most relentless lawman, continues to circle the wagons against Mr. Trump for a possible case of obstruction of justice.

In the American justice system, the final outcome of an impeachment trial in the House is in the hands of the U.S. Senate. With a Republican majority there, a Trump conviction is far from certain right now. But considering Mr. Mueller's dogged pursuit of the facts through his subpoena powers, it can't be dismissed either.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is