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President Donald Trump walks back into the White House in Washington after seeing off Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Erdogan's visit, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump walks back into the White House in Washington after seeing off Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Erdogan's visit, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

For Republicans, the question raised by Donald Trump's latest act of brazen incompetence is this: How badly does he have to screw up before they bail on him?

If handing secrets to the Russians won't do it, what will?

How about the news that Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to call off the investigation into Russia ties?

The answer, I fear, is that they will stick with him until his approval rating drops by another 10 points or so. When that moment comes, they will slip off their uniforms and try to meld into the crowd.

Let's not allow that. Let's remember what they are doing today. And let's hold them to account.

You can put Republican office-holders in a few different boxes, all of them craven in their own way.

Gov. Chris Christie's latest act is to pretend he has no idea what's going on in Washington.

He wants a cease-fire in the drug war, he tells us. But when Trump's crew moved to stiffen sentences even for non-violent offenders, he fell into line. "I have no thoughts on it," he said.

Asked about the firing of Comey, Gov. Straight Talk became a mute. "It's not my place to say I agree or disagree," he said.

It was the same with Medicaid cuts, and the news that Trump gave secrets to the Russians. Christie's love is blind, and can see no blemishes.

Another refuge: Trump is fine; it's the people around him who are at fault. "They need a tighter management structure at the White House," says Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Warren), Trump's first supporter in the state.

Right. And Vladimir Putin's not a bad guy; it's those oligarchs. Pay no attention to the blood on his hands.

Another tactic, the most popular one of all: Run and hide.

I hate to pick on Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), because he's no worse than the rest, really. But he is the GOP leader in the Senate, and that name of his comes with high expectations.

"I just find it amazing that people I know and respect are heading for the hills," says Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat. "People like Tom Kean Jr., who comes from a family with an independent streak. It's like they are all afraid Trump will wake up in the morning and tweet something bad about them."

I called Kean, and left a message on his cell saying I wanted to talk Trump. No word back yet.

Some have gone all in, and signed up as Stormtroopers for Trump.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.), saved Trumpcare by negotiating changes to satisfying the hard right. He used to be considered a moderate, and Republicans had hopes he could be governor or U.S. Senator someday.

It's not going to happen. Imagine trying to win a statewide race in New Jersey as a foot soldier for Trump, who is as popular as a skin rash. MacArthur will be lucky to hold his seat.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) has jumped in bed with Trump, too. He backed that health bill, and has stiff-armed thousands of his voters who have signed petitions say they want only a chance to tell him what they think at a town hall meeting.

Now he's drawn his first official challenger, Mikie Sherrill, a mother of four with a golden resume; a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor.

"Rodney Frelinghuysen is in lockstep with Donald Trump," she said when I called. Expect to hear that line a few more times.

So far, Republican voters are sticking with Trump in depressingly large numbers, with 84 percent approving of his performance. So, in deep red districts and states, Republicans are safe for now.

Not in New Jersey, though. The political odds-makers say three of the five Republicans in Congress will be in competitive races next year: MacArthur, Frelinghuysen, and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.).

Last week, they got some public advice from Mike DuHaime, the state's top GOP strategist, who warned that Republicans will lose "credibility" if they consistently side with Trump. He spoke after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, but before Trump's latest love gesture to the Russians.

Your Congressman's Trump Score

"We don't have to stand with the president on every single thing," DuHaime said on MSNBC Friday. "The continuation of this circus will derail the ability to get things done."

With Democrats reduced to a nub in Washington, they are in no position to demand an independent investigation into Trump's ties to Russia, or his family's profiteering, or this breach of national security. The latest news, reported Tuesday evening by the New York Times, is that Trump explicitly asked Comey to abandon the FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's ties with Russia. 

So, everything now depends on principled Republicans stepping up to this moment in history.

We have seen precious little sign of that. The only hope, it seems, is that Trump's poll numbers will drop low enough to change the political calculus of these craven Republicans. Failing that, we'll have to take names, and wait for 2018.

More: Tom Moran columns 

Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.