Congressional Republicans have followed a nearly identical script whenever President Donald Trump enmeshes himself in a national security scandal.
First, they make overtures toward being disgruntled and troubled by the revelation, leading to news reports about a fissure in the Republican Party. Step two is for them to reject Democratic calls for more congressional oversight of the president. The final act is to point out Democratic hypocrisy, while moving on to something else altogether.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) began fitting right into that pattern on Monday after the Washington Post reported that Trump had willingly disclosed national security secrets to Russian officials in a meeting.
"They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening," Corker said, according to CNN. "You know the shame of it is there's a really good national security team in place, there's good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think — it creates a worrisome environment."
More moderate Republican senators sounded similar notes. "Can we have a crisis-free day? That's all I'm asking,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Republicans in the Senate express concern, only to largely reject calls for more concrete action. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has said he was troubled by Comey’s dismissal but hasn’t gotten behind a bipartisan select committee investigation of Trump and Russia. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also said he was troubled that Trump appeared to threaten to have tapes on Comey, but hasn’t joined Democrats in threatening to block whomever Trump taps as his replacement.
Corker and Collins may be dismayed by Trump’s apparently incomprehensible disclosure of national security secrets. The much more important question, though, is what they do next.