When US President Donald Trump's longtime fixer Michael Cohen testified last week that his former boss was a "racist" and "con man" who routinely skirts the law, Republicans showed little interest in following up on his claims.
They shrugged when Trump called murderous dictator Kim Jong Un a "real leader" and once again elevated the North Korean leader on the world stage.
And faced with a vote on Trump's legally contested declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border, just 13 of 197 House Republicans opposed him.
Acquiescence to Trump is now the defining trait of the Republican Party more than two years into his presidency — overwhelming and at times erasing principles that conservatives viewed as the foundation of the party for more than a half century.
Trump's ownership of the GOP was on vivid display again yesterday, when the President appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, an annual gathering that has transformed into a raucous celebration of Trump, featuring propaganda-style art and a speaker who declared that the President was "chosen by God".
Standing before an exuberant crowd chanting "Trump!" and "U-S-A," Trump spent two hours railing against the "failed ruling class," calling the Russia investigation "b*******" and portraying his 2016 election as a historic moment in global history.
"We are reversing decades of blunders and betrayals," Trump declared, before asserting that he was only joking in 2016 when he asked Russia to release Hillary Clinton's private emails. "Lock her up! Lock her up!" CPAC attendees roared.
He railed against the policies of "socialism" in a continued attempt to portray Democrats as out of touch with ordinary Americans. More than 320km away in Brooklyn, New York, Senator Bernie Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist — held a launch rally.
"Socialism is not about the environment, it is not about justice, it is not about virtue. It is only about one thing — it is called power for the ruling class," Trump said. "We know the future does not belong to those who believe in socialism"
For his part, Sanders drew a stark contrast between himself and the billionaire in the White House. "I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos and country clubs."
Republicans on Capitol Hill offered an array of reasons for their unflinching loyalty to Trump: a deep-seated fear of his pull with their supporters in primary races; fraying consensus about conservatism as nationalism takes hold of the party; and shared partisan disdain for Trump's perceived enemies in the news media and the Democratic Party.
"We're not going to turn on our own and make the Democrats happy," said Senator John Cornyn, R, who is up for re-election in 2020. "We don't see any benefit in fracturing, but we do see a lot to lose."
Republicans say Trump's overhaul of the federal judiciary and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, along with the passage of the GOP's sweeping tax law, have helped bind the party together through bouts of political turbulence — from the loss of their House majority to the longest government shutdown in history to the torrent of developments related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
All of it has left Trump firmly in control. Most potential 2020 primary challengers sit on the sidelines as the GOP establishment rallies around Trump's re-election.
"They fetishise this non-conservative in the Oval because it's tribal," said Mike Murphy, a veteran GOP strategist and Trump critic.
"It's us versus them, we're right and they're evil, and it's created this Trump cult that dominates the party."
Congressman Mike Simpson, R, publicly acknowledged what many Republicans say privately: The GOP is wholeheartedly accepting behaviour and policies from Trump that would spark outrage from a Democratic president, particularly Trump's attempt to use executive power in defiance of Congress to secure funding for a wall along the Mexican border. "It'd be a little different," Simpson said with a chuckle. "If President Obama had done the national emergency, Republicans would have gone crazy."
On foreign policy — long the bastion of Republican hawks who have been hostile to dictators and supportive of global institutions — Trump has been cast as a GOP hero, despite his feuds with allies, protectionist trade policies and chummy engagement with autocrats such as Kim, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Partisan loyalty to an embattled president has plenty of historical precedents. Many Republicans stood by Richard Nixon during Watergate and by Ronald Reagan during the Iran-contra scandal. Bill Clinton was supported by most Democrats even as he was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Any high-profile voices in the party objecting to Trump are increasingly scattered or silent.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in January, 75 per cent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents approve of Trump's performance in office.
Cohen offered words of caution for the President's defenders during his House testimony. "I did the same thing that you're doing now," he told Republicans. "And I can only warn people, the more people who follow Mr Trump as I did, blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering."
Cohen was given a three-year sentence in December for lying to Congress, tax evasion and breaking campaign finance laws. He will report to jail in May.
- Washington Post, AP