“Senator, I wonder if I could get a comment … "
That little scene is being enacted in one form or another across Washington on Monday, following the indictments of three former Trump campaign officials. Reporters are seeking comment from Republican officeholders. Republican officeholders are desperately eluding reporters, conforming to the maxim often attributed to Calvin Coolidge, “You don’t have to explain what you never said.”
Yet what is usually good advice can become, when it fails, spectacularly bad advice. Today is such a day.
The advice I want to offer here is not directed to the brave senator or the principled senator. It is directed to the run-of-the-mill senator—the prudent senator, the self-preserving senator. If you keep quiet today, you are putting yourself in jeopardy. Events are about to start moving very fast, and if you miss this moment, you will find yourself carried along by those events to places where it is not healthy for you to travel.
Here’s your problem, senator: The Trump political and legal strategy is about to get very radical. This weekend, after months of hesitation and distraction mongering, The Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a column advocating the end-the-probe, pardon-everyone position. It also mobilized an array of high-toned op-ed contributors—acclaimed intellectuals, well-known lawyers—in support. Fox News will amplify the argument, your constituents will be mobilized to support it—and you will be trapped. You may think you are biding your time. In reality, you will find that you have preemptively surrendered to an internal takeover.