Four Democratic members of Congress from Southeastern Pennsylvania gathered Wednesday in a church on South Broad Street, trying to lead the progressive flock without going too far astray.

The sermon, delivered to about 200 people from Indivisible chapters, centered on political prudence amid talk of impeachment for President Donald Trump. There was talk, too, of concern that Trump could win Pennsylvania again in 2020. Solemn stuff, this gathering on All Biden’s Eve.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, a freshman member of the Judiciary Committee, described the steps ahead — subpoenas for documents and testimony, sifting through the report by special counsel Robert Mueller released last week.

That came two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a caucus-wide conference call, called for the House’s investigations to unfold before anyone pushes for impeachment.

“We will get the facts. We will ask the hard questions,” Dean promised. “We’ll get the truth and impeachment is probably down the road.”

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Delaware County, another freshman on the Judiciary Committee, said Mueller’s report directly challenges Trump’s claims that he and his campaign were “exonerated” of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election and obstructing justice in the resulting investigation.

“We are not looking at this as a political win-loss game," Scanlon said. “We are looking at this as: What does the Constitution require? What do we have to do to protect our government? And we’re going to do it.”

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia said he hoped the investigation would examine “why this administration has been so politically in bed with the Russian regime.” U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan said the “tone and tenor” of the conversation changed, turning more “grave" after the report dropped.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans of Philadelphia, the only Democratic member of Congress from the region who did not attend, supported impeachment for Trump in a 2017 vote and reiterated his support in a string of tweets Monday. Organizers said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican, did not respond to their invitation.

Boyle sees a Democratic candidate for president “as a slight favorite” right now to win Pennsylvania in 2020 but said Trump could win the state. Scanlon called former Vice President Joe Biden, who entered the race Thursday, “a favorite son” of the state.

“I think, like last time, it will depend on who [Trump] is running against,” Scanlon said when asked who could win Pennsylvania. “And how much the Russians participate.”

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio accused former Vice Presdent Joe Biden of turning “a blind eye” to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio accused former Vice Presdent Joe Biden of turning “a blind eye” to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking of Russians and Republicans …

Val DiGiorgio had a curious knock on Biden’s nascent candidacy Thursday morning. The chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party claimed in an email that Biden “turned a blind eye to Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

If that’s not how you remember it, there is a reason for that.

Biden, three weeks before 2016′s general election, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the U.S. government would punish Russia for interfering in the election. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded directly to Biden by suggesting Democrats were “a little bit nervous” about the election.

DiGiorgio’s claim may not be consistent with history, but it fits with his party’s blame-the-other-side messaging. Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee emailed supporters a fundraising “accountability survey” Thursday afternoon that claimed former President Barack Obama “did virtually nothing to stop” Russian election interference.

It’s been less than a year since Trump, in a news conference with Putin in Helsinki, accepted Putin’s claim that his country did not interfere in American’s election, adding, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia to blame.

Irina Goldstein (center), a Republican candidate for Philadelphia City Council at-large, poses for a picture on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in June 2018, holding a sign that said, "What would Jesus do? ABOLISH ICE!"
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Irina Goldstein (center), a Republican candidate for Philadelphia City Council at-large, poses for a picture on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in June 2018, holding a sign that said, "What would Jesus do? ABOLISH ICE!"

The political metamorphosis of Irina Goldstein

Irina Goldstein, a Republican candidate for City Council at large, says her campaign has taught her that “to a lot of people, perceptions are reality.”

Here is a perception: Goldstein has been campaigning as a Trump supporter who opposes Mayor Jim Kenney’s “sanctuary city” policy. She insists that the city should cooperate when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demands information about people in this country illegally.

Here is a reality: Goldstein posed for pictures 10 months ago holding a sign that said “What would Jesus do? ABOLISH ICE!” during a large march protesting Trump’s immigration policies.

“I thought nothing of it. I even posted it myself on social media,” Goldstein said this week of the picture. “I most definitely do not agree with abolishing ICE.”

Screen-grabs of social media postings by Goldstein — one of seven Republican at-large candidates, the youngest (35), and the only woman in the GOP field — have been floating around for months. Her competitors might have been curious, since she’s only been a Republican for eight months after being a registered Democrat for a decade.

On Facebook in 2017, Goldstein said “the biggest and greatest scam Trump ever created” was putting money into his 2016 campaign “to later create tax cuts that will save him and his buddies billions.” She also suggested on Twitter the day after the 2016 election that she was “moving to Canada.” And there’s a 2017 Twitter claim about Republicans having "a history of erectile dysfunction” that doesn’t seem to be supported by any medical evidence.

By way of explanation, Goldstein first said she had been “brainwashed by the media." Then she claimed to have been a secret Trump supporter all along, despite her GOP gibes. Finally she declared that her social media posts were “satire” and declined to comment further.