As Senate Republicans digested the allegations that President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had claimed the president had directed him to use campaign contributions to buy the silence of women with whom he was allegedly having affairs, they avoided commenting to reporters by making a plea of their own: ignorance of the case.
A few have also questioned Cohen’s credibility given that the once-loyal Trump aide and confidant had turned on him.
“I don't know the facts. All I know is Michael Cohen has been on both sides of these issues and his credibility I think will be a major issue,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.
“I think Mr. Cohen's credibility is going to be challenged, is my best guess,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., surmised.
One senator who did express frustration was Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a vocal critic of Bill Clinton and a strong proponent of his impeachment and removal from office.
“Well, these are serious changes and they can't be ignored,” Hatch said, before adding that he wouldn’t go as far as calling them high crimes and misdemeanors – the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
On the substance of the allegations – that Trump directed Cohen to pay hush money to porn stars – Hatch said, “I'm not very happy about it, put it that way.”
He added that the president should not be held responsible for the actions of people he’s trusted, but walked away before he answered a follow-up question about the fact that the president himself directed the action, per Cohen’s plea.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats ramped up their criticism of Trump by saying the Cohen allegations, in which Trump is named as an unindicted co-conspirator, should mean a pause on the consideration of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice.
“I will be canceling my appointment with Judge Kavanaugh because I choose not to extend a courtesy to this president who is an unindicted co-conspirator,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.
For the record, Trump was not named in legal documents as an “unindicted co-conspirator.”
“He's been nominated by a president who's been implicated in a criminal conspiracy,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, of Kavanaugh. “There is no way that his nomination will be untainted. The court itself will be stained.”
But for now, Democrats were keeping the notion of impeachment at bay, even as some House Democrats have already started calling for such proceedings, which would begin in the lower chamber.
“I don't think that we should be talking about impeachment,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said. “I think that this is a time in this nation that is one where we should think about the fact that we have the president of the U.S. has essentially been named an unindicted co-conspirator. This is not a good day for this country. And we need to trust in our criminal justice system, our judiciary.”
“We need to know the facts and the law before we decide upon a remedy. But it has to be a remedy that the American people will be supporting because ultimately the decision will be made not only in the courts but also the court of public opinion,” Blumenthal said.