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An unusual public warning from 44 former senators falls a little flat in Congress

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The U.S. Capitol in Washington.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

If the sitting senators in Washington read the letter from 44 former colleagues this week urging them to put national interest above political ideology during this “dangerous period,” most are showing no indication.

“I just saw there was a letter, I didn’t read it,” said Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). A handful of other senators also said they hadn’t seen it or were not aware of it.

The statement — which was signed by 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two independents — warned that the country is “entering a dangerous period” of challenges to “the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.”

“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote in an opinion piece published Monday in the Washington Post.

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It’s rare for so many recently departed senators to feel the need to publicly issue such a warning. They said it was necessary as House Democrats begin investigating President Trump and the administration, and the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election continues.

Senators who took the time to read the letter offered praise.

“I agree with it. Who wouldn’t be for putting your country first and being bipartisan?” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said.

Some Democrats viewed it as an attack on Trump, even though he is not mentioned.

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“I think it was amazing that Republican senators would sign a letter that is so critical of the president of the United States because they are worried to death about this country,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said.

Others said the warning was aimed at Congress, not the White House.

“It speaks volumes to the abrogation of senatorial responsibility that we’ve seen in the last three years,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who recently lost her reelection bid, said.

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sarah.wire@latimes.com

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