Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the president, met in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who promised him dirt on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from “Russia and its government.”
In the wake of the revelations, the White House has seemingly distanced itself from Trump Jr., with President Donald Trump making few overtures towards his defense. Other senior administration staff, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have used the crisis as an excuse to push their own house-cleaning agendas — Kushner’s presence at the meeting with the Russian lawyer notwithstanding.
Now, reports suggest Trump Jr.’s ill-advised Russian gambit is sabotaging the administration’s policy agenda well outside of the White House. With Republicans in Congress already struggling to pass a wildly unpopular Affordable Care Act repeal and move on to other complicated issues like tax cuts, the revelations have undermined the GOP’s ability to present a united front across branches of government.
“It’s sucking the oxygen out of the room, everybody knows that,” Sen. John McCain told CNN. “I think it’s very difficult when you have this overwhelming barrage of new information that unfolds every few days. I think it’s obvious.”
Rep. Mike McCaul, who is working on a Russian sanctions bill, added, “It doesn’t help. I mean, these things always take us ... off message when the message should be a unified Congress stands up to Russia and Putin.”
The scandal doubtlessly undermines the credibility of the president, who has already seen pushback to his staff’s attempts to coerce Republicans into a consensus on health care. Several GOP senators criticized Trump’s handling of the issue or suggested it would lend ammunition to the federal investigators looking at his ties to Russia, according to Bloomberg.
On Wednesday, Trump took to televangelist Pat Robertson’s show on the Christian Broadcasting Network to proclaim, “I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give [a health care bill] to me. It has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get it together and get it done.”
The president added he would be “very angry” if the bill failed to pass. But as the Washington Post reported, virtually no one in Congress seemed to take the implied threat seriously.