GOP Senate hopefuls do the Trump squirm

It’s become a well-worn storyline: Republicans in conservative states or congressional districts pull their punches when it comes to criticizing their party’s leader in the White House, regardless of the incoherence of his statements or policies, for fear of falling victim to a primary challenger who can rally Trump supporters.

Donald Trump has essentially taken over a Republican Party whose principles he often dismisses, and the hostage-taking now appears in force even in Massachusetts, once a redoubt of moderate Yankee Republicanism.

The latest evidence that Trumpism has fully infected the Bay State GOP body politic came this week with the president’s performance at the Helsinki press conference where he seemed to wave a white flag alongside his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. A moment Sen. John McCain called “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory” was regarded by the three Republicans hoping to join the chamber in which the Arizonan has served in for more than three decades as little more than an unfortunate hiccup.

The prize for Trumpian obsequiousness, writes Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, goes to state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who declared “The summit was fine.” That’s hardly a surprise coming from a co-chair of Trump’s Massachusetts campaign. But businessman John Kingston — once a vocal part of the never-Trump effort — and veteran Republican operative Beth LIndstrom did not exactly jump on McCain’s straight-talk express. Each offered mild criticism of Trump siding with Putin over US intelligence agencies on the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but followed that with praise (read: relief) for his follow-up comments, which few took seriously, “clarifying” that actually he meant the opposite of what he said.

Kingston and Lindstrom may well want to position themselves as more moderate (and, they hope, palatable in a general election) challengers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but they first have to win a Republican primary in a state where Trump drew more votes than Charlie Baker and where Diehl is seen by many as the frontrunner.

Baker finds himself in a different position. It’s a measure of how strong the Trump base of the state Republican Party is that fringe right-wing pastor Scott Lively was able to secure more than a quarter of the delegate votes at the state GOP convention and win a spot on the September primary ballot. That said, no one expects him to pose a serious threat to Baker’s renomination.

That left Baker free to address bluntly Trump’s stunning comments, which the governor pronounced “disgraceful.” Though Baker often seems unenthused by questions asking him to react to the latest White House antics, moments like this week’s comments on what New York Times columnist Charles Blow dubbed the “Surrender Summit” helpfully let the governor put more distance between his reelection campaign and Trump.

In the three-way scrum for the GOP Senate nomination, on the other hand, the Catch-22 calculation that one must surrender to the Trump hostage-taking to get through the primary only seems to strengthen the already considerable odds that the eventual nominee gets steamrolled in November.



Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Sen. Karen Spilka, both supporters of a controversial immigration enforcement provision, dropped the issue from the state budget as House Speaker Robert DeLeo said there was no consensus on the matter in the House. The budget, thanks to better-than-expected revenues, increased spending to $41.833 billion. (State House News) A Herald editorial applauds the Legislature for leaving the “sanctuary state” provision out.

Lawmakers are going off-the-books to fund police training with a new $2 fee on rental car contracts. The approach is patterned after an insurance company assessment to fund firefighter training, which appears to be spiraling higher and higher. (CommonWealth)

Public records obtained through a request by the New Bedford Standard-Times show letters to Attorney General Maura Healey signed by eight organizations and 36 individuals called for an investigation into the Bristol County Sheriff’ Department. Healey’s subsequent push for the probe has been condemned by Sheriff Thomas Hodgson as politically motivated.

Legislators approved a bill that would do away with outdated and unenforced laws dealing with abortion and contraception just in case the Supreme Court does away with abortion rights. (MassLive)

Globe columnist Dante Ramos tries to push zoning reform with honey rather than vinegar, saying DeLeo — whose chamber has been the obstacle to passing legislation that would make it easier to allow in-law apartments that can help ease a housing shortage — has the chance “to be a hero if he wants” by moving on the issue.


Brockton city councilors said they were surprised to learn that the city’s water supplier Aquaria reached a deal with Mayor Bill Carpenter to delay upgrades to the desalination plant. Carpenter said it was all in the purchase agreement signed last year that councilors never held a hearing for. (The Enterprise)


President Trump now says he told Russia President Vladimir Putin in their private meeting in no uncertain terms to quit interfering in American elections, adding yet another conflicting statement to his ever-changing remarks. (New York Times)

Prosecutors say a woman indicted as a covert agent for Russia offered sex in exchange for access to political operatives. (Washington Post)


Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling praises the slew of young challengers taking on veteran incumbents in Democratic primaries for the Legislature and Congress. (Boston Herald)


Federal regulators finally lifted an eight-month groundfishing ban that had put scores of commercial fishermen from New Bedford out of work. The ban had been put in place following the conviction of Carlos Rafael, the so-called “Codfather,” on money smuggling charges and violations of the catch quota. (Standard-Times)

Boston hotel workers and their union say hotel efforts to “go green” by encouraging guests to waive housekeeping services are costing workers hours and wreaking havoc with their schedules. (Boston Globe)

Comcast said it will drop out of its bidding war with Disney to buy 21st Century Fox and will now focus its efforts on buying the Murdoch-owned Sky pay television network. (Wall Street Journal)


A former principal in Spencer was awarded $400,000 in a court judgment for wrongful termination. (Telegram & Gazette)

Momentum is building for support for a bill in Congress that would make it easier for students to discharge their student loan debts in bankruptcy proceedings. (U.S. News & World Report)


Bloomberg Philanthropies named a Holyoke project as a finalist in the competition for three Public Art Challenge Grants that could be worth up to $1 million. (MassLive)

The Brockton City Council is considering a proposal to create the position of poet laureate. (The Enterprise)


What now? The Health Policy Commission staff say their analysis indicates the merger of the Lahey and Beth Israel hospital systems would drive up costs, but board members of the agency wonder if some of the underlying assumptions can be changed with conditions on the combination. (CommonWealth)


T notes: Lawmakers hike funding for regional transit authorities, approve a pilot program to test toll discounts as a way to reduce congestion, and allow the MBTA to pay about 200 workers with capital funds. (CommonWealth) Despite the budget hike for regional transit authorities, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority still considering service cuts. (MassLive)


A 6,000 panel solar array in North Adams is producing all the electricity the town needs and then some. (Berkshire Eagle)

Residents in Yarmouth are fighting a plan by Vineyard Wind to run a power line from their planned turbine farm near Martha’s Vineyard through Lewis Bay and then through the town to a substation in Barnstable. (Cape Cod Times)


Worcester signed its first community host agreements with two vendors seeking to sell retail marijuana along with medical marijuana. (Telegram & Gazette) A second recreational marijuana store is being pursued in Dorchester, this one in Uphams Corner. The other is in Fields Corner. (Dorchester Reporter)


Former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole will serve as a consultant to try to reform the scandal-plagued State Police. (Boston Herald)

The Augustinian Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova in the Philadelphia area agreed to pay $1 million to eight people who say they were sexually abused by Revs. John Gallagher and Robert Turnbull in the 1970s and 1980s at Catholic schools in Lawrence and Reading. (Eagle-Tribune)

In what has become a sad ceremony and statement, State Police handcuffed Emanuel Lopes for his arraignment on murder charges using the handcuffs that belonged to Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna, whom Lopes is accused of killing. (Patriot Ledger)

A man who allegedly was fleeing from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when he left the Fall River courthouse to put coins in a parking meter was arrested after he jumped on the roof of the Herald News building. (Herald News)


WBUR and the Boston Globe announce a new podcast on the Gardner Museum heist.

WBUR follows-up with BU professor of journalism John Carroll on the Boston Globe’s conclusion that editor Brian McGrory did not harass former colleague and girlfriend Hilary Sargent.