The ongoing Russia scandal continues to bedevil the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, and new revelations may cause his own party to distance itself from the White House.
Democrats continue to accuse Russia of meddling in the U.S. election. In the latest chapter of this ongoing controversy earlier this week, emails surfaced between Trump's son and a Russian lawyer who allegedly had access to compromising information on then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Critics said this is an evidence of collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia, although the lawyer denied having worked for the Russian government.
The ongoing Russia scandal could ultimately harm Trump's agenda, and the biggest danger is that Republican lawmakers in Congress might start to distance themselves from the president in the lead-up to the 2018 Congressional elections. That could derail Trump's legislative agenda and hurt his chances of passing meaningful legislation, political experts said.
"The new revelations are very damaging because they draw a direct tie between the Trump campaign and Russian government representatives," Darrell West with the Brookings Institution said.
"His own son, son-in-law, and campaign manager had a meeting seeking damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Even if the meeting yielded no real information, the intent was to get information that would aid the Trump campaign," West noted.
"The evidence is through a series of emails so President Trump no longer can say this is fake news and a Democratic witch hunt," he said.
"For months, the President has denied the validity of the investigation and said there is no basis for all the attention devoted to the Russia story. No one is going to believe this denial anymore so the President is going to have to cooperate with the investigation," West added.
Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua that these are damaging revelations because until now, the issue with Russia could be described as a lot of smoke, but no sign of the fire.
"This meeting, and the emails describing it, are the first evidence of 'the fire.' The administration will continue to downplay the importance of these meetings ...but the material -- strangely released by Donald Trump, Jr., himself -- speaks for itself," Mahaffee said.
Indeed, experts said Congress may be getting fed up with Trump's ongoing scandals.
West said Republicans in Congress are getting tired of what he called the "ineptitude of the Trump operation. Every day spent talking about Russia is a day not devoted to healthcare reform, tax reform, and infrastructure repair."
"It is going to be very difficult to pass the president's agenda when there are so many distractions that take place on a regular basis," he added.
West believes Republicans will start to distance themselves from Trump "in order to avoid fallout in the 2018 elections."
Mahaffee said Republicans in Congress, along with others in business, lobbying, and elsewhere, have been willing to tolerate a wide range of scandals from both Candidate Trump and President Trump for the sake of moving on things like tax reform and healthcare.
"That said, with control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Republicans haven't been able to move any meaningful legislation. There were already strong headwinds to meaningful legislation, and with these revelations, the wind is blowing harder," he said.
Mahaffee said "this scandal is a major distraction" for the Trump administration.
"While other White Houses have been able to reboot and reorient following scandal ... and still make significant accomplishments, this administration seems incapable of acknowledging the scandal, cleaning house, and moving on," he added.
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)
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