EDITORIAL: Toomey, GOP aid and abet Trump

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., takes an escalator down in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

It is unsurprising, though nonetheless disappointing, that Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey so eagerly fell in line with his Republican cohorts in the Senate in a vote to forego the inconvenience of witness testimony at the impeachment “trial” of President Donald Trump.

Given the final vote of 51-49 against calling witnesses, it is not an exaggeration to say that Toomey himself, or any of the other 50 compliant yes-men and -women, could have changed the trajectory of the trial and, perhaps, the course of history, by changing their vote.

With Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine joining the Senate’s Democrats and Independents in coming up one vote short, this travesty of a trial is now on track for the all-but-preordained acquittal of Trump on charges even some GOP senators admit have been proven.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for example, argued confoundingly that it is exactly because House managers have proven the president acted in his own interests in demanding the announcement of an investigation of his political opponents by Ukraine that no further testimony was needed.

“Guilty but not impeachable” was, frankly, a shaky defense when Democrats employed it 20 years ago to demure from removing President Bill Clinton from office for lying under oath about a sexual affair. It is downright howl-inducing when the charge is soliciting assistance from a foreign government to slime a political opponent.

But Toe-the-Line Toomey enthusiastically embraced this meager defense, dismissing not only clear and compelling evidence gathered during the House investigation but newly disclosed allegations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton that Trump stated directly that he was personally withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved foreign aid to Ukraine until it did his bidding.

“Even if someone believes that everything John Bolton says is going to confirm what’s charged in these articles,” Toomey told Fox News, “it’s still not impeachable.”

The president, wrong about so many things, was certainly on the money when he boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single supporter. Unfortunately, what the president has shot holes in is the Constitution, and Toomey, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their dependable majority have aided and abetted his actions.

Future presidents — to say nothing of the current office holder for the next 11 to 59 months — have been given a clear signal: government oversight is a thing of the past; the co-equal branches of government are no longer co-equal.

Democrats are not blameless in this dilution of democracy. Their lax attitude about a White House that has dismissed their constitutional oversight authority in the past undermined their argument for challenging White House stonewalling during the impeachment hearing.

Democrats’ refusal to seek support from the courts to uphold congressional subpoenas for witnesses gave Republicans legitimate room to argue that the articles were rushed through and the process was incomplete. Toomey was among the senators using this excuse for cover.

“This idea of obstruction of Congress because the president invoked the constitutional rights that every president has and almost all of them have invoked, that’s ridiculous,” Toomey said. “And it’s dangerous.”

He left out “unprecedented.” No president has ever refused categorically to acknowledge the validity of, let alone comply with, requests for documents and witnesses. But, again, by allowing administration officials like White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who has been found in repeated violation of the Hatch Act, to blow off past subpoenas, Democrats have helped to normalize White House intransigence.

Still, it is Trump’s Republican enablers, Toomey among them, who have led us to the brink of the imperial presidency. Barring any explosive new disclosures — and they would need to be of a nuclear level to move the GOP needle — President Trump will be acquitted this week. He and his successors will be given the green light to abuse the office for their personal benefit; beholden no longer to the Constitution or the best interests of the American people. Answerable to no one — so long as they enjoy a majority of their own party in the Senate.