U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker on Wednesday voted against impeaching President Donald Trump for the second time in 13 months, rejecting Democrats’ argument that the president’s role in inciting the angry mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol last week demanded his removal from office.
Smucker and Pennsylvania’s eight other Republican House members voted against the single article of impeachment. Just 10 Republicans broke from their party and voted with Democrats for impeachment, making Trump the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
The House charged Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors for his role in encouraging “lawless action at the Capitol,” endangering the nation’s security, interfering with the peaceful transfer of power, among other breaches of his duties, according to the article of impeachment.
Smucker, who embraced Trump’s efforts to disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvania voters to overturn the election, called the impeachment effort “a rush to judgment” with no immediate effect given the few days left in Trump’s presidency.
“We must unite and move forward together as a nation and today’s vote does not help us do either,” Smucker said.
Two of Smucker’s predecessors, former U.S. Reps. Bob Walker and Joe Pitts, said in separate phone calls Wednesday that they both were appalled by the riots at the Capitol last week, but they agreed Smucker made the right decision in opposing impeachment for a second time.
“The politicization of the impeachment process that we’ve witnessed take place will have devastating consequences for us as a constitutional republic,” said Walker, who still lives in Manheim Township and has a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. “From now on, in any time people feel that the president has done something that is seriously wrong in their view, people will see impeachment as a potential remedy. Impeachment was never supposed to be used that way.”
Walker, who represented Lancaster County from 1977-1997 and was a key ally of Newt Gingrich, said the attack on the U.S. Capitol made him “physically ill,” though he does not believe Trump committed any criminal acts. He said censuring Trump would have been a better option, one that would have received bipartisan support.
“I disagree markedly in the way he treated his own vice president and the spinning up of rhetoric,” Walker said. “I’m appalled by it all. But at the end of the day there were remedies that didn’t drive the divisiveness that we will now experience into the future.”
Pitts, who lives in Kennett Square and finished his 20-year term in Congress in 2017, said he is unsure whether Trump committed an impeachable offense, and urged further investigation and prosecution of those who looted the Capitol.
“What happened last Wednesday was disgraceful, it was horrible and I think that the president was unfortunately part of whipping up that crowd,” Pitts added. “But I don’t think that he was trying to encourage violence.”
“They sorta rushed this up to make political points,” he said. “I’d have been hesitant to vote to impeach on such a rushed basis.”
If convicted by the Senate, even after President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office, Trump would be disqualified from holding any future federal office. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not return to session until Jan. 19 -- the day before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration -- but has not said whether he’d personally support impeaching Trump. Democrats will take control of the chamber later this month and will likely make the final decision on when to schedule the impeachment trial.
The only reference to the impeachment proceedings on Wednesday from the Republican Committee of Lancaster County was an attack on the progressive group Lancaster Stands Up, which had called on Smucker to resign for voting to overturn Pennsylvania’s election results.
Committee Chairman Kirk Radanovic, without a trace of irony, blasted the group on Facebook for refusing to accept that the majority of the county voted for Trump. “They feel emboldened by recent events and are quick to dismiss thousands of voters who made a clear choice,” he wrote in a statement that also attacked LNP for reporting, accurately, that Trump never proved that election fraud or last-minute changes to voting rules were responsible for his 80,000-vote loss in Pennsylvania.
In his last days in office, Smucker said Trump needs to continue to condemn violence and verbalize “his full commitment to the peaceful transfer of power” to the incoming Biden administration.
“These steps must be taken to ensure that we avoid any more violence associated with the end of President Trump’s term and the start of President-elect Biden’s Administration,” he added.
Trump released a statement Wednesday during the impeachment debate, urging his supporters not to engage in violence, lawbreaking or vandalism “of any kind.”
Smucker did not speak on the floor Wednesday during the two-hour debate window to explain his vote. Smucker’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment since last week when the Jan. 6 attack prompted calls for Trump’s removal from office.
Throughout Smucker’s first four years in Congress, he’s remained one of Trump’s top supporters. He defended Trump through his first impeachment vote in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress allegations. At the time, Smucker called the three-month inquiry into whether Trump solicited foreign governments to interfere to support his re-election a Democratic “witch hunt.” Trump was impeached by the House, but eventually acquitted by the Senate.
Smucker has not criticized Trump publicly for his role in instigating the crowd, but said it was “wrong for President Trump to give false hope” to his supporters that the election results could have been overturned.
“It was absolutely clear to me last week that the election results would stand, and irresponsible and damaging that many were led to believe otherwise,” Smucker added.