Fox News host confronts Republican senator over Trump’s ‘brainwashing’ of the party

Fox host Shannon Bream sparred with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on Sunday over whether the GOP had handed Joe Biden and Democrats a messaging victory by bowing to Donald Trump’s wishes and killing a bipartisan piece of immigration legislation negotiated in the Senate.

Mr Cotton defended Republicans including himself who had voted against the legislation, which died in the Senate this past week after just a few Republicans (including the lead Republican negotiator for the compromise, James Lankford) crossed party lines to vote in favour of it. The move served to hang Mr Lankford out to dry while capitulating to Mr Trump and his loyalists who did not want to see Republicans hand Mr Biden an election-year messaging victory.

But it also served to throw into question whether Republican elected officials are serious about addressing border security, or merely wish to use the immigration system in America as a political cudgel. By killing Mr Lankford’s compromise with Democrats, Republicans effectively lost their shot at passing what could have been the first real piece of legislation addressing illegal border crossings in a decade while also giving up the opportunity to achieve a number of their own supposed priorities — including the construction of fencing along the US-Mexico border. The likelihood of such legislation passing under a Trump presidency is far slimmer.

Democrats, meanwhile, have turned on the offence and attacked their Republican colleagues for negotiating in bad faith and being unserious when they claim to want to address illegal border crossings.

“So President Biden not only gets to blame you guys about the border, but he gets to blame President Trump, who he says tanked this whole deal, saying he wants to keep it alive as a campaign issue and that basically, he’s running the GOP at this point,” said Bream.

Senator Tom Cotton (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Senator Tom Cotton (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Then, she quoted a GOP strategist and former chair of the Nevada Republican Party interviewed by Politico: “I don’t know how to explain it... It’s completely mind-boggling to me, the type of brainwashing that has been done.”

Mr Cotton’s defence on Sunday revolved around a typical Republican refrain: that the border compromise did not go far enough.

“Not all, Shannon. What President Trump saw about this bill is what most Arkansans saw about it, what all but four Republican senators saw, which is that it does not solve the problem,” said Mr Cotton.

“What I want to do, what most Republican senators want to do, what President Trump wants to do is stop the border crisis.”

But Mr Cotton’s rebuttal ignores one clear fact: the likelihood of the Senate passing meaningful legislation addressing immigration in any way is now even less likely than before, thanks to Republican antics that have thrown into question their ability to stick to promises made to their political opponents. Most legislation requires 60 votes to pass the upper chamber; Republicans are currently in the minority, and are almost certain to not pick up the number of seats required for a fillibuster-proof majority; obtaining a majority of any kind will be a difficult fight this fall.

And Democrats are far less likely to be willing to dole out political concessions to Republicans under a Trump presidency. The only reason they were willing to this time around stemmed from the party’s desire to pass a foreign aid supplemental boosting support for Israel (amid its brutal siege of the Gaza Strip) and Ukraine, which is fighting an increasingly desperate battle against Russian invasion forces.

Those motivating factors are not likely to still exist under a hypothetical second Trump administration, especially given the possibility that Mr Trump would cut off aid to Ukraine entirely were he to be elected president.

Over the weekend, many of those same Republicans found themselves answering new, uncomfortable questions about the 2024 GOP frontrunner after Mr Trump threatened to violate Article 5 of the Nato charter.