The Lead

Toomey: Trump wrong to talk about Biden on Ukraine call. But it’s ‘not unreasonable’ for DOJ to seek foreign help on investigations

By: - October 9, 2019 4:01 pm

Calling impeachment the “most serious thing that Congress can do” apart from declaring war, Pennsylvania’s Republican United States senator accused U.S House Democrats steering an expanding inquiry of President Donald Trump of an “unprecedented” lack of transparency.

During an appearance in Harrisburg on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of conducting a “secret” investigation and said the House should hold a formal vote on an inquiry.

“There’s no due process, there’s no opportunity for the administration to make their own defense to present witnesses,” Toomey said, complaining that House Republicans have not been given subpoena power. He accused Pelosi of “intentionally pursuing a completely politicized and very badly flawed process.”

Toomey, who has been publicly critical of the controversial July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the current inquiry, continued to maintain Wednesday that it was “poor judgment” for Trump to ask the foreign leader for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden. But he still doesn’t “think it rises to the level of an impeachable offense.”

Trump has been widely criticized for offering the assistance of U.S. Attorney William Barr for that investigation.

But Toomey appeared to leave the door open to its legitimacy, saying that while it was “mistake” for Trump to mention Biden, a domestic political rival, “by name” on the call, it’s still “not unreasonable for the [U.S.] Justice Department to conduct an investigation of people who they have reason to be suspicious about — and sometimes that will involve the cooperation of other governments.”

Toomey’s line of attack on Pelosi mirrors one employed by the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill, as the Trump administration ramps up its opposition to the expanding House probe. In a lengthy letter sent Tuesday, the White House “all but dared” Democrats to hold a floor vote on the inquiry, CNN reported.

According to CNN, the Democratic speaker has declined to hold such a vote, saying Democrats don’t need a formal authorization from the full House. As CNN also notes, that vote would give Republicans the ability to argue that they have subpoena power, as has been the case with past impeachment proceedings.

As a consequence of what Republicans see as Democratic intransigence, Toomey said he’s not surprised that Trump has stonewalled the probe. On Tuesday, for instance, the State Department blocked the testimony of a potentially key player, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

If Pelosi is convinced the inquiry is a good idea, “she ought to put everybody on record in the House. They ought to have an open and transparent process,” Toomey said. “And in that case, the administration should comply with request for documents. But that’s not where we are today. And that’s very unfortunate.”

Asked whether he believed the White House’s resistance constituted an obstruction of justice, Toomey deferred, saying “that’s a technical legal question,” adding that “I don’t see it that way.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.