Conservatives clash on MSNBC's Morning Joe over GOP response to Trump's embrace of Putin
Eric Bolling and Charlie Sykes (MSNBC)

A pair of conservative commentators squared off on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" over Republican inaction against President Donald Trump as he moves closer to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Eric Bolling, who was forced out by Fox News over sexual harassment claims, complained that Trump had been treated unfairly by the FBI during an investigation of his ties to Russia -- but broadcaster Charlie Sykes said GOP lawmakers allowed the president to get away with constitutional abuses.

"Members of Congress are going to have to realize they're not just potted plants," Sykes said. "The senators are incredibly powerful, no senator ever became great by being a lap dog. They're not simply ciphers, and there are things they could actually do to reassert their constitutional authority without derailing the Republican agenda. without derailing the conservative agenda."

"It's sort of time for members of the Senate to look around and say, you know, we're an important body here, you know," he added. "The Congress of the United States is a coequal branch of government. We don't have to take, you know, our cue from Fox News hosts, we don't have to cower and be afraid of the president's tweets."

Bolling challenged Sykes to identify actions Republicans could take to challenge the president, but he didn't seem especially interested in hearing what lawmakers could do.

"Okay, so what what would Charlie Sykes have the Senate body do differently right now and why?" Bolling said. "I mean, things are -- the economy's popping. I haven't heard anyone mention ISIS other than a comedy skit in the better part of a year or year and a half. I remember two years ago, journalists heads being beheaded.

Sykes interrupted and asked if he wanted to hear an answer to his question, and Bolling agreed to listen.

"No. 1, bare minimum, they can pass a resolution reaffirming support for our intelligence agencies and making it clear Russia will be held accountable," Sykes said.

Bolling said those activities had been going on for decades and complained that congressional action would be a "waste of time," and Sykes again asked him to wait for an answer to his question.

"Do you want to hear my answer?" Sykes said. "They could pass a resolution of censure of the president for his behavior with Vladimir Putin. They could pass a resolution that could trigger sanctions if, in fact, the Russians continue to attack our election process."

Bolling insisted sanctions were already in place, but Sykes could not be deterred.

"Do you want to hear my answer?" Sykes said. "You asked me a question. They actually could pass legislation that would protect (special counsel Robert) Mueller from being fired."

He said the Senate Foreign Relations could hold hearings on the NATO alliance and Trump's threats to that treaty organization, and he said lawmakers could enact new legislation to uphold ethical principles.

"You know, post-Watergate, members of Congress were able to pass very sweeping public integrity and ethics legislation making it clear that no one in this country is above the rule of law," Sykes said. "There are a lot of things that can be done. The history of the American Congress is rich with examples of members of Congress being willing to push back on the executive, and I think people ought to take a page from that."