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Calhoun County GOP censures Rep. Meijer over impeachment vote

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The Calhoun County Republican Party's executive committee in west Michigan has censured GOP Rep. Peter Meijer over his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. 

The censure, which is a symbolic gesture of disapproval, is the first censure that Meijer has received since the freshman lawmaker joined Democrats and nine other Republicans last month to impeach Trump for his role in instigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Grand Rapids Township

The Calhoun vote on Thursday came days after Meijer avoided censure by Republican leaders in his Grand Rapids-area district after the 3rd Congressional District Committee deadlocked 11-11 Monday night, causing their censure resolution to fail.

The Calhoun committee told Meijer in a formal letter of censure that the case required "our harsh condemnation of your action which betrayed the trust of so many who supported you and violates our faith in our most basic constitutional values and protections."

"It's not a surprise," Meijer told the ABC affiliate WZZM of the Calhoun GOP's decision.

"This was not a decision that we expected would be politically popular. We made the decision based on what we thought was right and necessary and where we think accountability should lie for the events of January 6th."

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The action stems from the ongoing civil war within the Republican Party pitting Trump loyalists against those denouncing his unproven claims that the presidential election was stolen.

It follows two county parties in southwest Michigan, Cass and Allegan, censuring longtime U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a St. Joseph Republican who also voted for impeachment.

Several other House Republicans who voted in favor of Trump's impeachment have also been censured by local or state party entities, including U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who ranks No. 3 in House GOP leadership and was censured by the Wyoming GOP last weekend.

The Calhoun GOP executive committee in its letter to Meijer objected to the impeachment as an "inexplicable rush to judgment," citing a lack of due process grounds over the absence of an investigation or hearings.  

The committee cited "many unanswered questions" about the Nov. 3 presidential election that has caused "millions" to second guess the integrity of the election.

"While we understand that we will not always agree on every issue, to willingly vote for an Article of Impeachment that contains falsehoods while also knowing that it could potentially strip tens of millions of Americans of their right to support the candidate of their choice is an egregious breach of trust and simply unacceptable," the letter reads. 

"In short, we expect better." 

Meijer this week noted that one of his campaign slogans was to strive to return the "strong, stable and effective representation" that former GOP Reps. Gerald Ford, Vern Ehlers and Paul Henry brought to the district, which includes the Grand Rapids area. 

"Paul Henry was actually censured back in the '80s because he objected and didn't support the MX Missile Program of the Reagan Administration," Meijer told WZZM. 

"So, it's something that happens when there are disputes and disagreements. And I think what we all should hope for and strive for is, when we have points where we disagree, to do it without being disagreeable."

Meijer, who has been in office one month, has drawn a primary challenge from Tom Norton, after his impeachment vote. Meijer handily defeated Norton in a five-way primary last year and went on to beat Democrat Hillary Scholten by 6 percentage points on Nov. 3.

He took over the seat vacated by retired U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Libertarian who quit the GOP after clashes with Trump and voted to impeach him in 2019. 

Meijer was in the House gallery on Jan. 6 when a crush of Trump loyalists broke into the building in an effort to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's victory. They beat police officers, ransacked offices and forced lawmakers into hiding for hours. 

Before the rioters broke into the building, Trump gave a speech near the White House urging his supporters to “fight like hell” to reverse his defeat. Five people died in the chaos at the Capitol that day, including a Capitol Police officer. 

Meijer has said his impeachment vote might have been "political suicide," but it was what he felt was needed for accountability and the good of the nation, especially after Trump took no responsibility for instigating the riot. Meijer has said he does not regret his vote.

"If he hadn't held that rally, if he hadn't lied to those who trusted him about a massive 'stolen' election, and hadn't lied and said that this was the time that they could change the results of that election, then five people wouldn't be dead today," Meijer told The News after his vote.

At a recent town hall, Meijer acknowledged to constituents that many Republicans in the district — "maybe a strong majority" — disagreed with his decision to support impeachment. He said that weighed on him and he "felt ultimately sickened by having to take this vote."

“How do I balance that immediate feeling with what we need to do as a country? What I feel my party needs to do and where I hope we can go?” he said. "I don't know that there's an answer to that."

mburke@detroitnews.com