GOP senators play dumb on Trump's crimes to avoid investigating them

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Republican senators are taking a page from the Paul Ryan playbook by pretending they don't know enough about Trump's illegal hush money payments to comment on them — or investigate them.

Playing dumb appears to be the only way Republicans can avoid having to answer tough questions about Trump's lawlessness.

Two top GOP senators — including the president pro tempore of the Senate — claim not to know anything about Trump's hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, in order to brush off questions about whether they should investigate Trump's illegal scheme to bury a damaging news story ahead of the 2016 election.

"You always ask me questions that I haven't studied," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the highest ranking senator in Congress right now, told CNN Tuesday when asked about whether he was concerned about Trump's hush money scheme. "So I can't say."

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Sen. Joni Ernst, another Iowa Republican who is up for reelection in 2020, also claimed to be ignorant of Trump's hush money payments when asked about whether the Senate should investigate them.

"Possibly at some point — I don't know enough about it," Ernst told CNN.

Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal lawyer and self-proclaimed "fixer," testified about the hush money payments just last week in a blockbuster hearing before the House Oversight Committee.

That means Grassley and Ernst want us to believe they paid zero attention to a hearing that took place across the Capitol and which dominated news coverage. Maybe they had blindfolds and earplugs in.

But even if you believed they didn't pay attention to the Cohen hearing, you'd also have to believe they have paid zero attention to the news for more than a year.

That's because the hush money payments Trump made to two of his former mistresses have also been in the news for more than a year, including after Cohen himself pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws with the payments last summer.

As of March 2018, only 16 percent of registered voters had heard "nothing at all" about "adult film star Stormy Daniels receiving a payment of $130,000 from President Trump's attorney before the 2016 election," according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.

That's a tiny minority of registered voters — and that was a year ago, before the scandal got even more traction.

Of course, denying knowledge of well-known news stories is nothing new for congressional Republicans who are desperate to avoid criticizing Trump.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan used to deny having seen Trump's most offensive tweets to get out of having to comment about them. Maybe Grassley and Ernst learned their head-in-the-sand technique from him.

Either way, these Republican senators are either living under a rock, or they're lying — neither of which should give the American public confidence in the job they're doing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.