After his bizarre press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Trump has been abandoned—at least for now—by nearly all of his typical allies. While the harshest reviews came from Republicans who have squabbled with him in the past, like Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, Trump was also criticized by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Even Fox News—with the exceptions of stalwarts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity—turned on the president, while his own advisers spun the situation by claiming Trump was “delusional.”
Trump’s only notable defender on Capitol Hill has been Senator Rand Paul. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Paul dismissed the conventional wisdom that Trump had kowtowed to Putin, sold out U.S. interests, and dismissed U.S. intelligence. “Any country that can spy does, and any country that can meddle in foreign elections does,” he told Wolf Blitzer. “All countries are doing this, but we’ve elevated this to a higher degree, and we’ve made this all about the sour grapes of Hillary Clinton losing the election, and it’s all about partisan politics now. This is truly the Trump derangement syndrome that motivates all of this.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump embraced Paul, quoting his endorsement of the president’s “witch hunt” claim in a tweet.
This tells us two things. The first is that Paul is once again inching closer to the president, with whom he’s had a mercurial relationship. Paul had been labeled the new “Trump whisperer” in the fall, though the two quickly drifted apart again. Most recently, Paul had threatened to oppose the nomination of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As with his (likely overblown) concerns about Kavanaugh, Paul is most likely using this situation to add to his libertarian credentials.
The second is that, despite near universal condemnation, Trump is not backing down. Trump has publicly praised Carlson, Hannity, and Paul, his only defenders. And, despite all of the concern tweeted out by congressional Republicans, he won’t face any consequences, aside from a sternly worded resolution that may pass the Senate.