In the five days since President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol to overturn the election, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker has not publicly criticized the president.
The closest he’s come is to encourage Trump to condemn the Jan. 6 attack.
“The president should be unequivocal in his condemnation,” Smucker said hours after the Capitol building was cleared of rioters. He said the president’s initial comments, decried by critics as too soft on the rioters, were “a good start” and that Trump should do more to make clear his opposition to using violence in pursuit of a false claim to the White House.
Smucker’s carefully worded comments follow years of enthusiastic support for the president. Lancaster County’s congressman, elected to his seat the same year Trump won the presidency, was an outspoken defender of the president through the impeachment process last year, and in the 2020 campaign he celebrated Trump’s record of tax cuts and the administration’s handling of the Operation Warp Speed project to produce a coronavirus vaccine.
While Smucker called Wednesday’s attack on Congress a “terrible day in American history,” he has not publicly blamed Trump. The president delivered an angry speech ahead of the attack, urging his followers to show courage and strength and to march on Congress to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Many House Republicans have been slow to criticize Trump in the days following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling his caucus privately that Trump shares some responsibility for the riot but should not be impeached, Bloomberg reported. McCarthy did float other options, including censuring the president.
Smucker’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment since Friday about whether he believes Trump should resign, be censured or impeached. House Democrats unveiled an impeachment article on Monday that could be voted on within days.
In his first two terms in office, Smucker at times conceded in tele-town halls with constituents or interviews with the media that Trump’s rhetoric is not something he would imitate. But he defended Trump’s insults and bullying as a necessary way to handle attacks from Democrats. And Smucker has said he remained by Trump’s side because he supports the policies Trump pursued.
“It’s been great to have a president who I think really has not only had an impact legislatively on tax reform but really has tried in every department to become more responsive to people in the district,” Smucker said in a November 2020 interview with LNP | LancasterOnline. “It’ll be different to have a president with different priorities.”
Last week, Smucker hosted a call with members of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County to discuss his decision to join seven other Pennsylvania Republicans in objecting to the state’s electoral votes. Early Thursday morning, in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, Smucker voted with 137 other Republicans to block his state’s vote for president, an effort that failed by a wide margin.
Chris Buck, the Elanco area chair of the county GOP, participated in the Thursday call and said members of the committee were looking to Smucker and other elected leaders to guide them through a troubling time for the party.
Many on the call were “disgusted by the violence,” Buck said Monday. But he said he could not recall whether Smucker directly blamed the president for Wednesday’s violence.
“We’re just trying to regroup and looking for our leaders to guide us in the right way,” he said. “That’s something I think Congressman Smucker is well-equipped to do. He’s been a very principled person.”
Buck said the conversation during the call was forward-looking as well.
“It was a renewed commitment that we are sticking to and fully espousing our conservative views of limited government, of transparency in the government, fiscal responsibility and sticking to the traditional values that have made Lancaster County one of the most desirable places in the country to live,” Buck said.
Others in the county, like progressive advocacy group Lancaster Stands Up, have called on Smucker to resign or be removed, saying the congressman is “culpable” for the attack on the Capitol for echoing false claims that election malfeasance is the only explanation for Biden’s win in Pennsylvania.
Several of Smucker’s Republican colleagues from Pennsylvania are on record saying they will oppose the new effort to impeach the president. Rep. Dan Meuser, whose district includes Lebanon, Schuylkill and parts of Berks counties, told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday he believes impeachment would divide the country and distract from President-elect Biden’s transition into office.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, said over the weekend that he believes Trump should resign and that the president committed “impeachable offenses,” though Toomey did not say how he would vote on impeachment, saying he first needs to see the case to be brought by the House.