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Michael Cohen's guilty plea exposes Republicans' refusal to check Trump, just in time for the midterms

Voters know that under normal circumstances Congress would have already begun real investigations into Trump.
Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Enters Plea Deal Over Tax And Bank Fraud And Campaign Finance Violations
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City. Cohen reached an agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to charges involving bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The Republican Party had already been staring into a political environment toxic to anyone with an "R" next to their name this time last week. And then on Tuesday, Americans learned that suspicions about the Trump campaign were true when Cohen admitted to breaking federal campaign finance laws at Donald Trump’s direction.

Cohen pled guilty in federal court to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, the latter of which were related to a $130,000 payment to Trump’s one-time mistress, Stefanie Clifford (known professionally as Stormy Daniels), in exchange for her silence about the affair. My organization previously filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking for an investigation because we suspected this to be the case. Having now admitted as much, Cohen has implicated his boss — then candidate, now president — Donald Trump in the crimes.

This, of course, happened on the same day that Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes.

When law enforcement agents raided the homes and office of Michael Cohen, the personal attorney and self-described "fixer" for the president of the United States, it was obvious this saga could end in disaster for the White House.

Under normal circumstances, Congress would’ve long ago begun serious investigations of all of this. Instead of serving as a check and a balance, the Republicans in Congress have done nothing to hold this president and his allies accountable for their sometimes criminal behavior. That is their failure to live up to the most sacred constitutional responsibilities of the legislative branch, and it gives Democrats yet another opening to take back power come November.

There is of course no easy course of action to take when the leader of your party is implicated as a co-conspirator in federal crimes. But, then, no one said serving in Congress would be easy. As a representative of the people, Congress is tasked with making tough choices that ultimately put our nation’s best interests first.

By that measure, this Congress has failed. Republicans have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the worst that Donald Trump’s administration has had to offer or, in some cases, engaged in cover ups, conspiracy theories and outright lies in order to protect their political interests at the country’s expense. While the country has clamored for whistleblowers on call out Trump’s excesses, Republicans have done nothing save for issuing a few harshly worded tweets.

To the lavish private plane travel on taxpayer’s dime by Trump’s political appointees, Republicans shrugged. The painful job losses from Trump’s ill conceived trade war, Republicans chalked up as collateral damage. The endless self-enrichment and pay to play scandals from Trump, his family and his cabinet, Republicans ignored. And as Mueller’s investigation continues to rack up guilty pleas from Trump’s former aides, Republican pretend not to notice.

In a functioning democracy, Congress would instead be passing a law with a veto-proof margin to protect the special counsel’s investigation from Trump’s interference. The House and Senate would be conducting oversight hearings with a focus on each and every conflict of interest for Trump, his family and members of his administration. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should be continuing bipartisan work to get to the bottom of foreign interference in our 2016 election and then recommending legislative fixes that can safeguard our democracy from future interference. And the Senate Judiciary Committee would bring confirmation hearings to a screeching halt with respect to the vacancy on the Supreme Court; no one in their right mind should believe a scandal-plagued president with this many pending legal troubles should be able to fill this vacancy, and especially not with a nominee who shares Trump’s worldview that the president is above the law.

What we have happening now, however, is the exact opposite. Not only is this Congress failing to live up to those responsibilities, but they are engulfed in their own scandals. Two sitting members of Congress were indicted this month alone. A special prosecutor is investigating another member of Congress for election fraud. Partisanship and blind loyalty to the president has compromised the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, preventing him from executing his responsibilities. And the Speaker of the House hides behind cowardly public statements of ignorance when it comes to the president’s indiscretions. Meanwhile, on the other end of the Capitol, Republicans changed long-standing rulesso that they could confirm the president’s first Supreme Court nominee, and are stonewalling the release of critical documents in order to prevent a proper vetting of the second.

The only legislative “accomplishment” that Republicans can tout is a scammy tax law that further rigged the economy for the rich at everyone else’s expense, a bill so bad that even Republicans aren't campaigning on it as we approach the final weeks of the midterm elections.

This is where we are — and the Republicans in Washington (especially those in Congress) are the ones to blame for these failures.

The American public is watching this steady flow of controversy, corruption and scandal unfold, rightfully wondering why no one in Congress seems to be doing their jobs and serving as a check or balance as our founding fathers intended. It’s that failure that was already proving to be catastrophic for the careers of these Republican yes-men in Congress.

This election cycle just went from bad to worse for the GOP thanks to the President’s legal woes, the latest guilty pleas and convictions of those who have surrounded him and the Republican party's inability to exercise basic oversight. They have no one to blame but themselves, and they shouldn’t be surprised when voters this November elect people who will actually live up to their constitutional responsibilities.

David Brock is the author of five political books, including "Killing the Messenger" (Hachette, 2015) and "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative" (Crown, March 2002). He founded Media Matters for America in 2004 and then American Bridge 21st Century in 2011.