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Editorial: Toomey walking tightrope on Trump

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:33 p.m
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Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Penn., listens to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on tariffs, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 20, 2018 in Washington.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey visits the Tribune-Review’s Pittsburgh office to speak with the news staff on Monday, June 26, 2017.

On Monday, 44 prior senators delivered a message to their present and incoming counterparts via the op-ed page of the Washington Post, cautioning them about the “dangerous period” on the horizon and “serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.”

A few hours before that letter was released, Pat Toomey did not seem particularly worried about what is going to happen in 2019.

The Republican junior senator from Pennsylvania stopped by the Tribune-Review office for a brief chat after visiting General Carbide in Hempfield.

“I don’t think Donald Trump is going to sign an appropriations bill without something,” Toomey said of the president’s linchpin campaign promise: the wall along the Mexican border.

But that doesn’t mean Toomey thinks the project will be the tall, physical edifice promised repeatedly in the campaign.

“We’re never going to have a 2000-mile wall,” he said, but supported other enhancements including surveillance technology and more personnel.

Trump said after a spat with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the $5 billion wall funding he wants.

But that isn’t the kind of thing the former senators were talking about when they wrote their letter. They were talking about the elephant in every government room — the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of obstruction of justice by the president. The changing leadership in the House adds more oversight investigations into the mix, and then there’s always the impeachment chatter.

Toomey is not among the Republicans who have picked up Trump’s “witch hunt” language regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation, and he has told other outlets, like the Morning Call, the he wished the president would tweet less. But he is walking a very narrow path on the topic.

“Many of my colleagues and I have urged the president to let the investigation run its course,” he said, adding that he looks forward to it coming to the end of that course.

But Toomey is also not bowing to suggestions that the Trump presidency could be coming to an end, either through impeachment, resignation or otherwise not being on the 2020 ticket.

“I think he’s very likely to be the nominee,” Toomey said, noting the president’s popularity with the Republican base.

All in all, the senator seems to be the very soul of the old school GOP in the Trump era, trying to find a way to survive and accomplish the party’s goals while not ticking off the guy in charge or the voters that put him there, especially since many of those voters are in his own backyard.

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