Retiring Sen. Toomey: Trump ‘disqualified himself’ and GOP will have ‘stronger candidate’ in 2024

Why is it that, with a few notable exceptions, prominent Republicans almost always wait until they’re on their way out the door to slag off Donald Trump? They’re like B-movie ninjas who attack an enemy one at a time. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re like doctors who watch the mole on your back gradually morph into a Rorschach blot over the course of six years before telling you, on the eve of their retirement, that you should probably think about getting that looked at.

Sen. Pat Toomey is one of these folks. While he voted to convict Donald Trump following his second impeachment (though not after the first)—and never really warmed up to the ocher arschloch during his reign of whatever-that-was—Toomey had already announced his retirement when he voted to dump Trump into the dustbin of history. So while his impeachment vote was more courageous than his compatriots’ votes to acquit, it wasn’t like he was risking his political future or anything.

That said, he's making his position perfectly clear before he rides off into the sunset to work at some noxious conservative think tank that will craft an elegant intellectual rationalization—based on time-honored Jeffersonian principles—for pushing Medicare recipients out to sea on ice floes.

But to his credit, he thinks Trump is garbage. Just listen to his very measured and dispassionate case, which he relayed toward the end of a recent Bloomberg TV interview:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R) Pennsylvania: “He disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior.” He also thinks the Republican Party will have a stronger candidate than Donald Trump in the next presidential election

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) June 30, 2022

TOOMEY: “I think he disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior, especially leading right up to Jan. 6. I think the revelations from this committee make his path to even the Republican nomination much more tenuous. Never say never, and he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring, but I think we’ll have a stronger candidate.”

Okay, it’s nice of him to state the obvious and everything, but how about showing some urgency? How about dropping napalm like GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are doing? Maybe he could out his fellow Republican senators who agree with him but are too craven to admit it lest Trump’s preternaturally wee Chucky Doll hands “Truth” out some scarcely comprehensible, ungrammatical, ALL-CAPS DIATRIBES to his flying monkeys in the heartland. It’s not like the future of our democracy is at stake or anything! Hello! McFly! 

Donald Trump is not more powerful than every single member of the GOP combined. They didn’t need the revelations from the House Jan. 6 committee to sink him. They could have done that literally dozens of times over the past year and a half by closing ranks with whatever pro-democracy forces managed to crawl out of the smoldering wreckage of Jan. 6.

But, well, a mealy closing statement about the GOP having “better candidates” than Trump is something, isn’t it? It’s not much, but it’s something

Of course the party has better candidates. No one on the face of God’s green globule could be a worse candidate. But what exactly are you going to do about it once you’re out of Congress, Toomey? Fire off a handful of press releases and call it a day?

We are at a crossroads. One fork of the road leads to Putin-style fascism, the other to a healthier and happier democracy that can continue to thrive on a planet that will at most be half Mad Max hellscape if we manage to reverse course in time.

The Republicans who know better—and I’d like to think there are a lot more than just Cheney, Toomey, and Kinzinger who do—need to do their sworn duty to our Constitution, or it will eventually be worth less than Donald Trump thinks it is.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

McConnell’s vote against allowing impeachment trial shows once again how he’s manipulating the media

Senate Republicans once again showed the limits of their willingness to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions. Those limits include the occasional disapproving statement, but emphatically do not include following through when he’s impeached. Just five Republicans voted to even allow the impeachment trial to go forward when Sen. Rand Paul tried to block it on the grounds that Trump is already out of office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had used leaks that he might vote for conviction to con the traditional media into portraying him as a fair broker, was not one of those five Republican votes. Sen. Rob Portman, who likes to be seen as a reasonable guy who’d consider bipartisan action and who doesn’t have to worry about a primary because he’s retiring, was not one of those five Republican votes.

Nope, the only Republicans who were even open to hearing the evidence on Donald Trump inciting an insurrection that physically threatened all of them were Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey. Murkowski and Romney probably meant it, Collins and Sasse knew that the time had come when they had to do something do justify continuing coverage of their supposed distaste for Trumpism, and Toomey is retiring.

Here’s the really perfect, chef’s kiss part of McConnell voting against a retroactive impeachment trial: Two weeks ago, when he was still majority leader and Trump was still in office, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate for a trial. But at the same time, he leaked that he might maybe vote to convict, getting the Very Serious Reasonable Person headlines he was seeking. Now McConnell turns around and votes against holding a retroactive trial that is only retroactive because of him.

I’d say, “Do they not think we’re going to notice what they’re doing?” Except that McConnell has the measure of the traditional media, most of which will absolutely allow itself to get played in this way. To really oomph up the level of “Are you kidding me?” involved here, Republicans decided to hear from their go-to constitutional law scholar, Jonathan Turley, about how retroactive trials are no good … even though in 1999 he strongly endorsed retroactive trials

The next level of Republican procedural objection will be because Chief Justice John Roberts isn't presiding over the trial, which was 100% his decision and apparently didn’t come with any indication that he is opting out because he considers the trial illegitimate. But Sen. Patrick Leahy, the most senior Democrat in the chamber, will be presiding, which Republicans will use to suggest it’s a partisan event even though Leahy is scrupulously fair, frequently to a self-owning extent.

It remains possible that evidence of Trump’s incitement of insurrection will emerge that’s so strong that not even most Republicans can ignore it. But in the absence of that, consider the wagons fully circled around Trump, and don’t be surprised by it.

Republicans can’t quit Trump and it’s tearing their party apart

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell's Faustian bargain with Donald Trump is backfiring in spectacular fashion as his Senate caucus descends into bitter internecine warfare over whether to back Trump's seditious effort to overturn the presidential election results.

That intra-party battle spilling into public view is how Republicans kicked off the 117th Congress. As House Democrats narrowly reelected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker Sunday, McConnell lost grip on the caucus he had marshaled nearly a year earlier to clear Trump of impeachment charges against the backdrop of a mountain of evidence Senate Republicans ultimately dismissed without hearing from a single witness. That blind fealty helped assure Trump that no matter what action he took—however reckless, illegal, or traitorous—he would never pay a price for it. And so when Trump lost the presidential election, he decided yet again that making a bid to steal it would be both perfectly in order and without consequence.

So McConnell and congressional Republicans once again stood by Trump for over a month, declaring repeatedly that he had every right to try to overturn the results of an election that was secure, fair, and devoid of fraud. The longer Trump's baseless effort continued, the more bogus it was shown to be through a series of endless losses in both state and federal courtrooms. But when states across the nation finally certified their results rendering Trump the loser, McConnell figured he could just flip the switch, reluctantly embrace the results, and leave Trump in the rearview mirror. 

Not so fast. The monster McConnell nurtured over the last four years with the help of his fellow Republicans has turned on him. Despite his repeated pleas for Senate Republicans to leave Trump for dead when Congress certifies the election results in a joint session Wednesday, the lure of personal ambition proved too powerful for the greater good of the GOP caucus. After Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced with the gleam of 2024 in his eyes that he would challenge the results during certification, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas suddenly wanted a piece of the action too. Now about a dozen Senate Republicans—all hoping to ingratiate themselves with Trump's cultists to boost their own political star—have jumped on board the Trump's sedition train. As Joan McCarter notes, that pro-fascist coup faction represents a quarter of the Senate Republican caucus. 

At the other end of the spectrum, several of their GOP colleagues have spoken out forcefully against the largely symbolic, politically expedient, and certainly futile effort—which will ultimately be shot down in the Democrat-controlled House. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who notably isn't running for reelection in 2022, blasted Hawley and Cruz by name in a statement for trying to undermine "the right of the people to elect their own leaders."

On Wednesday, Toomey said, "I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has regularly marched to the beat of his own drummer in the caucus, also skewered the effort as an "egregious ploy." And Sen. Ben Sasse, who is no doubt working to burnish his own brand of Republicanism, called the challenge “a very, very, bad idea,” saying he was both "concerned about the division in America" and the health of the Republican Party. "This is bad for the country and bad for the party,” said Sasse, who just secured another six-year Senate term.

Sen. Tom of Cotton of Arkansas, a GOP firebrand also eyeing 2024, turned in a somewhat unusual condemnation of the pro-Trump challenge on constitutional grounds, saying it would "only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.” 

Even some Republicans in the House have objected to the Trumpian coup. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, also a GOP firebrand and one-time aide to Sen. Cruz, forced his GOP colleagues Sunday to vote on whether the House delegations from the states Trump is challenging should be seated since Republicans are claiming widespread systemic fraud took place in those states.

"After all, those representatives were elected through the very same systems—with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials—as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states," Roy said of the House delegations from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada. Naturally, nearly every one of his GOP voted in favor of seating the delegations, with a vote of 371-2 permitting Pelosi to swear in all the House members from the states Trump is challenging. The two GOP members who voted against it said they simply wanted to debate the matter. 

While the whole episode on Wednesday will serve as yet another stain on the entire Republican party, it will at least have the benefit of forcing Senate Republicans to go on the record either backing a bald-faced betrayal of American democracy or risking the wrath of Trump. Neither one of those positions is particularly enviable for the cohort of vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2022. It forces those Senate Republicans to place very early bets on risking the alienation of more moderate suburban voters in order to woo Trump voters who may or may not actually continue to turn out for the Republican party once Trump isn't on the ticket. Sitting GOP senators such as John Thune of South Dakota are already facing the prospect of attracting primaries from Trump acolytes, which in turn could imperil the GOP’s path to prevailing in subsequent general election contests. 

If Senate Republicans had hung together and refused to challenge the election results during this week’s joint session, they all could have started to build a certain amount of insulation from Trumpian politics moving forward. But as it turns out, a craven party that eagerly betrayed the country to achieve its own political ends has only served to embolden its own cohort of craven politicians who are eagerly throwing their colleagues under the bus to serve their own political ends. What comes around, goes around. 

Impeachment witnesses are ‘increasingly likely,’ but top Republicans are still pushing cover-up

Republican sources are telling reporters that the news about former national security adviser John Bolton’s book makes it more likely that witnesses will be called at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial—but the dam hasn’t exactly broken wide open, and top Senate Republicans are still fighting to keep the cover-up intact.

“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Sen. Mitt Romney said Monday. Sen. Susan Collins said the revelations that Bolton’s book manuscript recounts Trump saying that yes, he was holding up military aid to Ukraine until the country dug for dirt on his political opponents, “strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.” But no Republican senators previously opposed to calling witnesses has come forward to say they’ve changed their minds.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who reportedly feels blindsided by the Bolton news getting out at this juncture and released a statement saying he “did not have any advance notice” that this was coming—is not any more open to witnesses. Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters that “I don’t think that anything that he’s going to say changes the fact...I think people kind of know what the fact pattern is.” Despite all those times Republicans complained that there were no firsthand witnesses who heard directly from Trump that he was holding up the Ukraine aid to get an investigation of a political opponent, the emergence of a witness who could provide exactly that testimony changes nothing.

And in Thune’s telling, calling Bolton would just kind of be a big hassle. “If you start calling him, then the Democrats are going to want to call Mulvaney and want to call Pompeo ... and our guys are going to want to start calling witnesses on the other side to illuminate their case,” he said, continuing “And I think that gets us into this endless cycle and this drags on for weeks and months in the middle of a presidential election where people are already voting. My view is the fact pattern is what it is. I don’t think it’s going to change.” 

Oh. The fact pattern is what it is? So basically, all that talk of how Democrats hadn’t adequately made the case that Donald Trump withheld congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine because he wanted the country to interfere in the 2020 elections was just more Republican lies. It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the fact that the number two Republican in the Senate says hearing from a firsthand witness who’s a longtime Republican official wouldn’t add any facts.

Some Republicans are operating with a little less bluster and bravado, though they’re still looking to cut a favorable deal. Sen. Pat Toomey wants a trade: one relevant witness to what Trump did for one irrelevant Republican witness with which to attack the very Democrats Trump was trying to attack all along. Sen. Lindsey Graham has a proposal to make it look like Republicans took Bolton seriously without actually allowing the public to hear what he has to say. And so on. 

There may be some cracks in the unified Republican determination for a cover-up, but there are just as many Senate Republicans frantically slapping spackle onto those cracks.