From The New York Times — Written by Jonathan Martin and Jennifer Steinhauer — Image Courtesy of Yuri Gripas / Reuters
As James B. Comey was testifying that President Trump was a liar, Senator John Hoeven held two meetings about health care, and pondered ideas about infrastructure.
“We’re working,” said Mr. Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota, though he conceded that the president’s travails “make it tougher.”
For their part, his Republicans colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee made it clear at Mr. Comey’s hearing that they had no appetite to confront the president, saving their criticism for Hillary Clinton and spending much of their time focused on the fact that Mr. Trump himself was not under investigation.
As they have traveled through the various stages of grief over the unpredictability of their president and the realization that Mr. Trump is unlikely to change, congressional Republicans appear to have landed at acceptance, basically hoping that the president does not get in their way.
They have largely ceased defending or explaining Mr. Trump’s more ostentatiously reckless remarks or Twitter posts, and at their most critical they casually chide his behavior — as did Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who told Mr. Comey at the hearing that Mr. Trump “never should have asked you, as you reported, to let the investigation go.”
The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, seemed to chalk up Mr. Trump’s attempt to pressure Mr. Comey into backing off an investigation into his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, to the incompetence of a newcomer. “The president’s new at this,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Realizing that Mr. Trump has served as neither a strong advocate for their positions — indeed he often criticizes them — nor a focused student of public policy, Republicans are letting Democrats serve as Mr. Trump’s loudest critics while trying to establish the president as inept, perhaps, but not criminal.