In a scathing column, the editorial board of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine unleashed criticism not just for Donald Trump's continued lies about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, but also against Republicans who insistently support him.
The editorial refers to the Trump camp's ever-changing story on the Trump Tower meeting that took place June 2016 between the president's son, son-in-law, campaign manager and a Russia lawyer escorting an envoy of her countrymen.
When the meeting's existence was revealed in July 2017, Donald Trump Jr., reportedly at the behest of his father, insisted the meeting was about Russian adoptions that have been banned since the passage of the Magnitsky Act. But after the revelation of an email sent from British publicist Rod Goldstone to Trump Jr. that claimed Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya wished to share some incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, that story was blown out of the water.
"Trump doesn’t deny any of this," the Standard's editorial board wrote. Trump Jr., meanwhile, claimed he was subject to a "bait-and-switch," and although it's "not difficult to imagine him as a dupe," the column continued, "there is no excusing the shamefulness of the thing."
"It’s clear that even these amoral operators understood the meeting was inappropriate," the Standard editors wrote. "How else to explain the cascade of lies they told to cover it up?"
"Among the more dispiriting aspects of this sordid affair is the untroubled, nothing-to-see-here-folks attitude of Trump surrogates, Republican officeholders, and most of the conservative media," the editors contended.
"Once upon a time," the column continued, "conservatives were keenly aware of the importance of norms."
Now, Republicans are instead "covering" for Trump when they "ought to be castigating" him.
"What would it cost them?" the editors asked. "Nothing. They could say, 'While the meeting does not appear to have been illegal, it was unethical and has no place in American politics. Trump and his campaign were wrong to do it and should be ashamed of it.' You can say that and still support the president, still want to vote for him in 2020, still want The Wall."
"The problem, as always, is that Trumpism doesn’t allow for honest appraisals or piecemeal support," the editors identified. "If you’re in for a penny, you must be in for a pound. Defending norms was one of the bedrocks of conservative thought right up until the winter of 2016, at which point Republicans suddenly became contemptuous of the very idea of norms."
Their prediction: that "Republicans will come to regret their new 'anything goes' rationalization."
"The fact that Trump and his closest advisers were keen to get their hands on opposition research generated by America’s greatest foreign adversary is no big deal for Republicans," the column concluded. "How far we’ve come in just two years."