Fabiola Santiago

Where were Miami’s GOP leaders as Trump went down in Cohen burn? Missing in action

In this April 16, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump is greeted by, from left, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio on the tarmac upon Trump’s arrival at Miami International Airport.
In this April 16, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump is greeted by, from left, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio on the tarmac upon Trump’s arrival at Miami International Airport. AP

Our disgraceful president is now an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime. His presidency is unraveling, with more potentially criminal behavior yet to come to light from the judiciary branch of the government.

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, said in his guilty plea that his illegal payoffs to Trump’s mistresses were done at Trump’s behest to keep American voters from learning about his porn-star affair before the election. Where were Miami’s Republican congressional leaders as Trump went down with the Cohen burn?

Missing in action from the national conversation.

As the Trump crisis played out, Miami-Dade’s Republican members of Congress — two of them up for reelection this fall — tended to the needs of Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Cuba and local frivolities.

Anything but Trump for party faithful Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

They played it safe in these days of historic GOP scandal by devoting their public statements on social media to condemning Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega’s repression, minding China installing itself in El Salvador, and addressing the cares of Miami’s anti-Castro activists and island dissidents.

It’s as if nothing transcendent were happening in Washington — and there was all that riveting local color to promote on social media.

Pastelitos! West Miami goes back to school! Environmentally friendly uniforms for Cane football players! A super snake in the Everglades!

But no Trump talk — except for Rubio tweeting, Spanish-only, that he had talked to the president Tuesday about withdrawing aid from El Salvador.

If Trump doesn’t resign, the Constitution calls for impeachment proceedings in Congress and removal from office. We’re a nation in a political crisis not seen since Richard Nixon and Watergate — and most likely of larger scope.

Eyes are on Republican congressional leaders — they’re the majority and in charge of Trump’s fate — for answers to the most obvious of all questions: What now?

The country desperately needs their leadership — and a few, like Arizona’s Jeff Flake, are working to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the president, who wants him gone rather than to continue investigating election interference by Russia and obstruction of justice. Others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are scuttling to their offices via the basement to avoid journalists’ questions.

Meanwhile, in true character, the president isn’t going down without a nasty brawl that will further deeply divide and damage the country.

He’s fought back against the finger-pointing and guilty plea of his lawyer, Cohen, and the eight-count financial-fraud conviction of his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, the same way he has run the country: with outrageous tweets, unhinged rants on Fox News, and grasping at the murder of a college student in Iowa, fueling new anti-immigrant sentiment and sending the message to his supporters: “No matter how corrupt I am, without me your hopes of nativist dominance are over!”

Also despicable is this Trump tweet after Manafort’s conviction: “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ - make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Here’s your president calling a convicted criminal “a brave man” and casting doubt on the U.S. justice system. Wasn’t Trump the alleged “law and order” candidate his supporters are always reminding me of when it comes to undocumented immigrants?

Trump’s defense of Manafort was premature. With Manafort facing as much as 80 years in prison, his lawyer said he’s considering “all options.” In other words, dear Mr. Mueller, I’m all yours. Let’s talk.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight financial crime charges. The judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts after the jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

What the justice system is unveiling is only confirmation of Trump’s nature and long rap sheet.

His ruffian ways were on display for all to see from the onset of his campaign in his public personal history and business practices. So was his modus operandi of using anti-immigrant rhetoric to put blinders on the eyes of his xenophobic supporters and hide from them his egregious character flaws.

There’s plenty of fodder and wrongdoing in Trumpgate for representatives in Congress of an immigrant community like Miami-Dade to tackle.

But don’t expect that kind of leadership from them.

When it comes to rogue behavior from Republicans, they look the other way.

Yet these are the same congressional representatives who were publicly at President Barack Obama’s throat at every political twist and turn.

These are the same congressional representatives who pushed Trump to cut off engagement with Cuba, all but severing the only chance Americans had of influencing the island’s future. Now, under Trump’s nose, Cuban leaders are drafting a new constitution that enshrines repression — of everything from artistic expression to political dissidence — as the law of the land.

There’s a high price to pay for electing politicians who only have Miami’s hard-line voters in mind — the ones they don’t want to lose by speaking up.

These voters — part of the “lock her up” crowd — also were doing their best this week to deflect attention from the criminal stain on their man. They were busy marking birthdays on social media, showing photos of vacations abroad, and clamoring for change and justice in Latin America — but not in the United States.

Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Rubio is safely ensconced in his seat for another four years.

But Díaz-Balart, a staunch Trump supporter, and Curbelo are facing re-election in November. Both face serious qualified Democratic candidates — former Miami-Dade circuit judge Mary Barzee Flores and former Florida International University associate dean Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, respectively.

On important issues, both congressmen have voted on healthcare and tax reform to push forward Trump’s all-for-the-rich agenda. Curbelo, who is more moderate and has pressed climate-change issues, has been critical of Trump policies on the environment and immigration, but usually with the feather touch of the passive voice.

All of the Cuban-American lawmakers would have more credibility criticizing Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua if they were more diligent in helping clear the criminal stench wafting from the Oval Office.

Their silence supports a ruffian.

He’s their GOP ruffian, but that doesn’t make it right.

Follow Santiago on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago

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