As predicted earlier this week, Republican foot soldiers are fast falling in line to protect their flawed president.
Less expected — and more disappointing — was that the ranks would include Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey.
Does repeatedly asking a foreign power for help investigating a political foe amount to a potentially impeachable abuse of power?
Not to Toomey.
“Inappropriate” was as far as the second-term Republican would go in characterizing the White House-provided summary of a phone call in which President Donald Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for “a favor.”
That favor, working with Attorney General William Barr and the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuilani, to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, is a chilling example of the lawlessness with which the current occupant of the Oval Office operates.
But it doesn’t trouble Toomey.
“The memorandum released by the White House … reveals no quid pro quo,” the senator said in a brief statement, in which he managed to mention Biden by name but not the president. “While the conversation reported in the memorandum relating to alleged Ukrainian corruption and Vice President Biden’s son was inappropriate, it does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
Where to begin?
There need be no “quid pro quo” for a request of foreign assistance to be considered a potentially impeachable offense. And just because the president stopped short of implicitly tying U.S. military aid to Ukraine — some $400 million of which he was then inexplicably holding up — in this particular phone conversation does not mean such a connection was not suggested. There is much yet to uncover.
Toomey’s reference to “alleged Ukrainian corruption and Vice President Biden’s son” is equally troubling. No such corruption has been uncovered.
Then-Vice President Biden joined a global chorus demanding that Ukraine remove a corrupt prosecutor in an effort to support fledgling democratic reforms. This took place while Hunter Biden, a private citizen, served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company the prosecutor in question was investigating. A coincidence but nothing more, several investigations have determined.
Even had there been substance to this particular GOP fiction, it would have no bearing on Trump’s actions.
Toomey knows this, or, as a sitting U.S. senator, he should.
It’s certainly apparent to his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bob Casey.
“It is as clear as day that this is an abuse of power,” Casey told reporters after releasing a statement calling for the president’s impeachment. “No one looking at these facts could say otherwise.”
But facts are not what Republicans look at.
Not Toomey, for whom the absence of an explicit promise of a returned favor is enough of a fig leaf to hide behind.
Not York County’s Republican representatives in Congress, Lloyd Smucker and Scott Perry, who paint the opening of an impeachment inquiry not as an urgent and compulsory response to what may amount to high crimes by the president but as mere partisan posturing.
Not dependable Trump apologists like Rep. Devin Nunes or Sen. Lindsay Graham, who reliably parrot White House talking points.
But facts are desperately needed, given the gravity of whistleblower allegations made public on Thursday: That Trump used his office in an attempt to “solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” endangering national security, and that White House officials sought to cover up the actions.
Democrats have not impeached the president. They have opened a desperately necessary impeachment inquiry in light of profoundly serious charges. Every congressional representative ought to be outraged and concerned at the allegations and eager to ascertain the facts.
By attempting to shrug off the president’s unethical, dangerous and very possibly law-breaking activities before even considering the evidence, Toomey and his GOP compatriots are once again failing their constituents, their nation and the Constitution they swore to uphold.