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As Bad News Piles Up, Republicans Hardly Flinch

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As Bad News Piles Up, Republicans Hardly Flinch

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“His credibility is going to be a critical issue,” Senator John Cornyn said of Michael D. Cohen, who implicated President Trump in criminal activity.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — For those wondering if the latest disclosures from the Trump legal file are finally weighty enough to cause top congressional Republicans to break from the president, the answer is no.

Twenty-four hours after President Trump was hit with a double-barreled barrage of felony convictions against two former close advisers, leading Senate Republicans did not appear particularly agitated. They found several reasons to look past sworn testimony by the president’s former personal lawyer that Mr. Trump had directed him to break the law by preventing two women from providing pre-election accounts of their sexual relationships with Mr. Trump — accounts that could have conceivably changed some votes in November 2016.

There were mentions of the strained credibility of the former Trump lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. And references to Bill Clinton’s dalliances and how Democrats didn’t think those were such a big deal 20 years ago. And a belief that some of that misbehavior was far in Mr. Trump’s past.

“Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican member of the Senate. “I think he has changed a lot of his life once he was elected. I think Trump is a much better person today than he was then.”

Mr. Hatch continued: “I think most people in this country realize that Donald Trump comes from a different world. He comes from New York City, he comes from a slam-bang, difficult world. It is amazing he is as good as he is. If anything, you have to give him plaudits for the way he has run the country as president.”

In addition to crediting Mr. Trump’s presidential performance, other top Republicans suggested that Mr. Cohen was not to be believed and that this was a matter for the courts — not Congress — to explore.

“His credibility is going to be a critical issue because he’s, frankly, told a lot of different and inconsistent stories,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. (The No. 1 Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, did not publicly address the guilty plea by Mr. Cohen or the near simultaneous conviction on Tuesday of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, on financial fraud charges.)

“I’m sure there will be some drumbeat for impeachment, but I, perhaps having been a lawyer and a judge, I just think we ought to see how this thing plays itself out,” Mr. Cornyn said. “It is hard to make a rush to judgment based on just what we saw yesterday.”

For those eagerly awaiting a rupture between Mr. Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill, the current straw should always be the last one.

The attacks on Senator John McCain’s stint as a prisoner of war in Vietnam were going to end any chance that they could support him. Then the “Access Hollywood” tape. Once in office, he suffered few defections even as he equivocated over white nationalists in Charlottesville and made disparaging remarks about undocumented immigrants and just-as-disparaging remarks about some of their home nations. So far it seems that his determined push for tariffs against party orthodoxy has been the biggest friction point.

Publicly and privately, Republicans conceded that the guilty pleas did not look good and were not optimal heading into a difficult midterm election. But there was no obvious movement to do anything about them, and lawmakers said they were focused on the business at hand, which did not include castigating the president.

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“I think most people in this country realize that Donald Trump comes from a different world,” Senator Orrin G. Hatch said.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

“It is bad news for the country, bad news for these people involved who either pled or were found guilty,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. But for Mr. Shelby, appropriations bills are what are occupying him these days.

“I don’t know other than what I read and see,” Mr. Shelby said. “I’m going to focus on what we’re doing here, try to, and move on.”

Republicans also pointed to the continuing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election and the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as reasons to hold back judgment on Mr. Trump’s actions.

“What am I waiting for?” asked Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who, as a House member, helped lead the impeachment of Mr. Clinton. “My No. 1 goal right now is to keep doing my day job, help the president where I can, but let Mueller do his job.”

Mr. Graham said his own experience with Mr. Clinton, who was acquitted by the Senate, showed him that it would be fruitless to move against a president without a solid foundation of public opinion.

“Removing a president from office, I’ve learned once before, you can feel passionate about your case, but if you can’t convince the people, then you are not going to be successful,” he said.

With the Russia investigation in mind, Mr. Cornyn called on Mr. Mueller to bring his investigation to a speedy conclusion to clear the air before the election.

“It would be nice for him to wrap this up, the Russian investigation, because otherwise the Department of Justice is going to become one of the main actors in the upcoming election as well, just as they were in the 2016 election, which is traditionally something the Department of Justice has tried to avoid like the plague,” he said.

House Republicans, no doubt grateful to be out of town on their August recess, were generally spared having to face reporters’ questions about their reaction to the convictions. Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office said he was awaiting more information before rendering his verdict.

Democrats were not about to allow Republicans to dismiss the growing number of Trump intimates about to become prison inmates, and called for Republicans to delay the coming Supreme Court confirmation hearings given mounting legal questions around the president. That request was denied.

“History will judge us harshly if we collectively shrug our shoulders and disregard our constitutional responsibility to oversee the executive branch in this moment,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the longest-serving member of his party in the Senate. “We represent a coequal branch of government. It is time we act like it.”

Republicans saw such appeals as purely partisan and braced for more as Democrats sought to capitalize not only on Mr. Trump’s problems, but also on the indictment of two House Republicans — both early Trump supporters — on insider trading and campaign finance violations. But they weren’t budging on Mr. Trump, and showed little sign that they ever will.

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