Toomey at Chamber

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey speaks to local leaders at the Lancaster Chamber in Lancaster city on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

THE ISSUE

The York County Republican Committee voted Saturday to censure Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey because he voted to convict former President Donald Trump. That committee called Toomey, a staunch fiscal conservative, “out of touch with the core beliefs of the people of Pennsylvania.” State Rep. Dawn Keefer, who drafted the censure resolution, said in a statement: “For the past four years Senator Toomey sat silently as a hyper-partisan Democrat Congress relentlessly attacked President Trump, impeaching him twice on fabricated charges. Given his recent support of the second unconstitutional impeachment effort against a president who is no longer in office the York County Republican Committee has reached the limits of its frustration.” Saturday’s U.S. Senate vote to convict Trump was 57-43. Seven Republicans, including Toomey, voted in favor of conviction, but it fell short of the necessary two-thirds threshold.

If Toomey really is “out of touch with the core beliefs of the people of Pennsylvania,” we fear for our beloved commonwealth.

Because in voting to convict former President Trump on Saturday for the high crime and misdemeanor of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, Toomey voted for democracy. He voted for truth. He voted for Congress’ constitutional right and responsibility to decide what presidential conduct is acceptable and what is not.

In the statement Toomey released Saturday, he expressed a few common Republican grievances: that Democrats and the media were biased against Trump, for instance.

But he went on to state that “these facts do not make President Trump’s conduct in response to losing the 2020 election acceptable.”

Toomey noted Trump’s “dishonest, systematic attempts to convince supporters that he had won,” his unsuccessful legal challenges, and the “intense pressure” Trump applied “on state and local officials to reverse the election outcomes in their states.”

“When these efforts failed,” Toomey noted, “President Trump summoned thousands to Washington, D.C. and inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud. He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the Vice President from formally certifying the results of the presidential election. All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost.”

Toomey pointed out correctly that because of Trump’s actions, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful for the first time in U.S. history. He added: “A lawless attempt to retain power by a president was one of the founders’ greatest fears motivating the inclusion of the impeachment authorities in the U.S. Constitution.”

And he concluded that Trump’s “betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction.”

We could not agree more.

We were genuinely horrified that Trump encouraged an angry mob to march on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

That Trump sat at the White House watching TV as his supporters viciously battered police officers with flag poles, metal pipes, and bear and pepper spray, injuring 140 officers and killing one.

That even after the domestic terrorists began chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and calling Pence a “traitor,” Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

He essentially sicced an increasingly violent and enraged mob on his own vice president. He didn’t call Pence to check on his well-being. He didn’t care.

Unconscionable conduct

In explaining why she pushed for censuring Toomey, Rep. Keefer of York County was wrong on two counts.

The charge against Trump wasn’t “fabricated” — we all watched the horrific outcome of the former president’s incitement Jan. 6.

And, according to the Congressional Research Service, constitutional scholars “have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.”

That nonpartisan research agency noted: “While the Framers were aware of the British and state practices of impeaching former officials, scholars have noted that they chose not to explicitly rule out impeachment after an official leaves office.”

It is alarming that so many Republicans still defend Trump after Jan. 6. His conduct was unconscionable — as even U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wrongly voted to acquit Trump on the constitutionality issue, believes.

McConnell said Saturday there’s “no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6 and for allowing the violence to continue for hours.

McConnell also suggested that Trump could be held liable in civil and criminal courts for his conduct.

For voting to hold Trump accountable for the harm he caused, Toomey now faces the possibility of being censured by the Pennsylvania GOP, The Associated Press reported Monday.

And the Republican Committee of Lancaster County may consider a censure resolution at its endorsement convention this evening.

Defending democracy

As LNP | LancasterOnline reported, Terry Christopher, chairman of the Lancaster Township Republicans, began working on the resolution last week after Toomey voted in favor of proceeding with Trump’s impeachment trial.

Christopher, you may recall, is the same person who posted this on the county GOP’s Facebook page after the Jan. 6 insurrection: “There are absolutely times when violence is appropriate, and it’s not a coincidence that it lines up with a corrupt government ignoring the masses who first called for peaceful solutions.”

Christopher’s disgraceful Facebook comment was not dissimilar from Trump’s tweet, sent at 6:01 p.m. Jan. 6 to the extremists who had desecrated the Capitol and grievously harmed police officers: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

We will remember that day — its horrors, its trauma — forever. So, clearly, will Toomey, which is why he voted to convict Trump.

Christopher and his resolution co-authors maintain that the Senate trial was unconstitutional because Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, presided over the proceedings instead of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But the Constitution only requires that the chief justice preside when a sitting president is tried.

We await objections on the merits of the case against Trump, rather than on technicalities that don’t hold water.

Christopher said Toomey’s explanation of why he voted to convict Trump shows he “doesn’t actually care what his constituents think.” He believes Toomey was derelict in his duty.

We’d make an educated guess, based on letters to the editor, that some Trump voters here were as appalled as we were by the role the former president played in the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Moreover, Toomey and his fellow senators, sitting as jurors, swore to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” So each senator was supposed to honor his or her vow — not vote as he or she believed certain constituents desired. Toomey honored that vow. He did his duty.

We’re guessing that Toomey, who is not seeking reelection in 2022, isn’t going to lose any sleep over these censure resolutions.

To the contrary, he can rest easy knowing that he took the more difficult path of defending democracy. And he should wear these censures as confirmation that he did the right thing — as badges of honor bestowed by a political party that has lost its way.

If the Republican Committee of Lancaster County votes to censure Toomey, it will forfeit its claim to be the party of the rule of law, or the party of patriotism, two core beliefs of Pennsylvanians. And it will have abandoned its scruples for the worship of one deceitful, dangerous and reckless man.

Toomey took a principled stand, putting the country and Constitution ahead of party. Local Republicans should, too.

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