Larry Ceisler on Politics: The Impeachment Trial and Some PA Predictions

White House at night

Q: Around the country, Republican state committees are censuring their senators who voted for conviction. The Pennsylvania GOP seems likely to do the same with Pat Toomey. What do you make of this?


Larry Ceisler: I don’t think it matters to Toomey, because he’s not running for re-election or any other office. He was very strong in explaining why he voted the way he did.


But it tells you where the grassroots activist Republicans are. It tells me any candidates running for office in Pennsylvania in the short term are going to be asked how they would have voted on these issues: Discarding Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, stripping Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, and, finally, impeachment and conviction. It doesn’t matter how conservative they are; this is the new litmus test.


Q: So it’s total loyalty to Trump?


Larry Ceisler: For the time being, and I think it’s electoral suicide to veer too far. But these are the basic questions right now. What happens is, it handcuffs Republicans because this is the way they win a primary, but it becomes problematic in a general election against a sensible Democratic candidate.


Q: No one was surprised by the results of the Senate impeachment vote, but there was good theater along the way. As it becomes part of history, what struck you most about the week?


Larry Ceisler: What a compelling case the House managers made. At the same time, I think the impeachment process, as we’ve come to know it is going to be relegated to the junk heap because it becomes, unfortunately, totally political. It’s not about the facts, not about the issues, it’s about the politics. So getting two-thirds became impossible. What we don’t know is whether if Trump was still sitting as president would the vote have been different. If the Republicans didn’t have the constitutional issue to hide behind, might it have changed? But I don’t think we’ll have another impeachment trial in our lifetime.


Q: The flipside of Pat Toomey is Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, who ran as a moderate Republican able to work with Democrats. He voted against impeachment in the House. Could that impact his election in 2022?


Larry Ceisler: It will be an issue. He was not consistent in his votes. He voted to accept Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. And he voted to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene. But he voted against impeachment. One could argue that not being consistent is a sign of independence, but it will be used against him. For now, I don’t think that will change any votes in his district—nobody will vote against him next time who didn’t in the last election. The problem for him will be if more damning evidence comes out about Jan. 6 and so his vote in retrospect looks bad, especially for a guy like him who was a former FBI agent.


Q: One of the key players during the Senate trial was Bruce Castor of Montgomery County, who represented former President Trump. What did you think of his work?


Larry Ceisler: I think if you’re in any profession, and you’re given the opportunity to get on one of the biggest stages in the world and get your name written in the history books, you do it. Trump’s lawyers were all put in a tough situation, going in there in the eleventh hour and not being constitutional lawyers. But if you have a healthy ego, that’s a hard thing to pass by.


One of the basic tenets of being a lawyer is keeping your client happy—and there is every reason to believe that Trump was pleased with Bruce Castor and his firm.


Q: On the other side, among the House managers getting strong reviews was Madeleine Dean, the second-term Congresswoman from Montgomery County. Could this have political implications for her?


Larry Ceisler: Madeleine was excellent—very poised, to the point, with a wonderful presence about her. She did herself very well. Something like this certainly helps her—everyone likes being mentioned favorably. So it puts her name in the mix if she decides to run for statewide office. But that doesn’t necessarily get you there.


Q: Another story occurring now is about Republican legislators moving to change the way judges are selected in Pennsylvania. The proposal would replace the current system of statewide elections for judges with judicial districts drawn by the legislature. What do you see as impactions of that?


Larry Ceisler: It’s horrible. It’s wrong-headed. It’s blatantly political and being done on a false premise—the argument that only judicial candidates from Philadelphia or Allegheny County can win seats. That’s absolutely incorrect, and comes back to 2015 when there were three Supreme Court seats to be elected. The Republicans always did well in off-year elections, but didn’t put resources into that one and lost control of the Supreme Court. That’s what this is all about.


If you have electoral districts for Supreme Court judges, you essentially disenfranchise residents of the commonwealth because they will be facing judges who they had no part in electing. Judges don’t have constituents. They’re not legislators. And the courts already have geographical diversity. This is a ridiculous and dangerous notion.


Read more: Larry Ceisler talks about the trial in this Politico piece

Larry Ceisler in a suit and button-down shirt smiling at the camera.

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