At the heart of the Trump presidency is a lie: almost every Republican elected official in Washington knows Donald Trump is unfit to be president. They knew it on Nov. 9, 2016, at 7 p.m., when they were planning on how to rebuild the party from the disaster of a nominating a know-nothing racist for president; and they knew it at midnight, when they were all frantically calling the oddballs and kooks Trump had assembled into a campaign to lavishly praise their brilliance.
The Republican Party stood by a candidate who ran on a religious test to enter the United States. They knew it was unconstitutional and indecent, but they were silent. All through 2016 I had conversations with what passes for leadership in the Republican Party on the need to stand up to Trump. Most of their responses went like this: “Trump is a disaster and a disgrace. But we have to let him lose on his own. If we, the Establishment, put our thumbs on the scale, when he loses it will be our fault and not the fault of his racism, the alt-right, those idiots at Breitbart. We will have elected Hillary Clinton. We have to let him lose and rebuild.”
To which I always responded, “But what if he wins?” Truth was, though, I didn’t think he would win, and I wasn’t great at making the case for something I didn’t believe. What these Republican leaders were saying wasn’t crazy. It just proved to be wrong. And in that miscalculation began the surrender of any sense of self to Donald Trump. So now the nation is in full possession of the reality that Russians—Russians, for cryin’ out loud—worked on the same side as every Republican volunteer, donor, elected official and Trump voter.