Over the last 24 hours, journalists have hunted down Republican members of Congress in search of quotes that include words like “Watergate,” “impeachment,” and “obstruction of justice?” And they’ve elicited a few.
But the shift occurring within the congressional GOP is mostly manifesting itself in quieter ways. Take House Speaker Paul Ryan’s comments on Wednesday morning. First, consider what Ryan did not say. He didn’t attack former FBI Director James Comey. When Trump fired Comey a week ago, Ryan endorsed his actions, saying the former FBI Director “had just basically lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats based upon his conduct.”
Ryan did not repeat those criticisms on Wednesday, a day after the New York Times reported that contemporaneous notes from Comey portray Trump privately urging Comey to end the criminal investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And while he mentioned that members of Congress would likely ask Comey why he didn’t “take action at the time” when Trump allegedly pressured him to close the Flynn investigation, Ryan didn’t emphasize the point. Second, he didn’t attack the media. He said vaguely “there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” But he didn’t buttress the central talking point of Trump defenders: that the real scandal is the alliance between Democrats, the “deep state” and the liberal media to bring down a president they hate.