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Cass County GOP censures Upton over impeachment vote

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The Cass County Republican Party has censured GOP U.S. Rep. Fred Upton in the latest fallout from his vote last month to impeach President Donald Trump.

The Cass County GOP joins the Allegan County Republican Party, which censured the longtime congressman in a symbolic gesture of disapproval.

"We believe Congressman Upton's vote is a betrayal of his oath of office and core values of the Cass County Republican Party," according to the resolution approved Jan. 28 by the Cass GOP's Executive Committee. 

"We believe this vote ignored the voice of the voters of Cass County and was against our interest." 

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph

Like the Allegan GOP, the Cass GOP's Executive Committee referred its resolution to another party panel to "investigate any further action that may be available."

The censure illustrates the civil war within the party between Trump loyalists and those denouncing his unproven claims that the presidential election was stolen.

Other House Republicans who voted for impeachment are also facing or have already been censured by local party entities, including U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who ranks No. 3 in House GOP leadership. 

Upton of St. Joseph issued a statement noting that he always said he would support Trump when he agreed with him and disagree when he thought Trump was wrong.

"Congress should not tolerate any effort to impede the peaceful transfer of power. I’ve gone to bat for southwest Michigan everyday I’ve been in Congress, bringing jobs, economic growth and opportunities to our region of the state," Upton said. "And that is exactly what I’m going to keep doing.”

Ten House Republicans voted with Democrats last month for the article of impeachment charging the former president with “incitement of insurrection” for his part in instigating the mob who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

The insurrection occurred as Congress was counting electoral votes to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election. Before the rioters breached the building, Trump gave a fiery speech near the White House urging his supporters to “fight like hell” to reverse his defeat.

Five people including a Capitol Police officer, died in the chaos on Jan. 6, when rioters beat police officers, ransacked the building and forced lawmakers into hiding for hours. 

"I’m going to do the right thing," Upton told The Detroit News shortly before the impeachment vote the following week. "The Constitution has to come first, I’m sorry. The president’s failure to take any blame for what happened last week is inexcusable." 

The congressman, who has represented southwest Michigan in Congress since 1987, has been reaching out to local party officials in recent weeks to hear their response to his vote, knowing they might disagree with his stance, spokesman Josh Paciorek said.

"But to move forward, this should be a party that can include a lot of different opinions, ideas and viewpoints," Paciorek said. 

The Cass GOP's resolution said many county Republican precinct delegates and residents were at Trump's rally on Jan. 6, and that the crowd was peacefully protesting. 

The resolution uses the same language as Allegan's GOP to blame the "liberal" media, Democrats and "self-serving 'Republicans''" for "misleading" the American public by saying Trump had incited violence at the Capitol. 

The top Republicans in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, have said Trump "bears responsibility" for the riot.

Lawyers for Trump on Tuesday filed a brief denying that he is responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection and arguing that his remarks at the rally are protected by his First Amendment right to free speech.

Arguments in Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate are set to begin next week.

mburke@detroitnews.com