2 more county GOP groups censure Meijer, Upton over impeachment votes

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Two more county Republican organizations in west Michigan have censured GOP U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer and Fred Upton over their votes last month to impeach former President Donald Trump. 

The executive committee of the Barry County GOP adopted the one-sentence censure Monday night against Meijer, spokesman and Deputy Chairman Phillip Joseph said. 

"Barry County Republicans were very disappointed by Congressman Meijer’s vote to impeach then-President Trump," Joseph said. "Our party’s action is a reflection of the sentiment felt by conservatives across Barry County."

Rep. Peter Meijer

Joseph declined to release a breakdown of the vote.  

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In Upton's southwest Michigan district, the Berrien County Republican Party censured the longtime congressman over the weekend, citing a "hasty" impeachment by the House and due process concerns. The party said the proceeding would further divide the country. 

Upton "is a friend to all of us," the Berrien GOP resolution reads. "However ... (a) Republic that throws away due process, a full examination of evidence and facts and fairness is a Republic that places itself in danger of losing freedom and liberty."

While censure is a symbolic gesture of disapproval, the county party measures are the latest salvo in an intraparty fight between Trump loyalists and those repudiating his unproven claims that the presidential election was stolen.

Meijer and Upton joined Democrats and eight other Republicans last month to impeach Trump for his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, where five people died including a Capitol police officer. 

The Calhoun County Republican Party censured Meijer, a freshman lawmaker, for the same reason last week. Days earlier, Meijer narrowly avoided censure by Republican leaders in his Grand Rapids-area district after the 3rd Congressional District Committee deadlocked 11-11, causing their censure resolution to fail.

Two other county parties in southwest Michigan, Cass and Allegan, previously censured Upton of St. Joseph, who has served in Congress since 1987. 

Other House Republicans who voted in favor of Trump's impeachment have also been censured by local or state party entities.

The U.S. Senate last week held Trump's impeachment trial, voting 57-43 Saturday to acquit him, with seven Republicans voting with Democrats to say the former president is guilty. The Louisiana GOP swiftly censured one of those Republicans, Sen. Bill Cassidy.

Upton issued a statement in response to the earlier censures, 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.”

Meijer of Grand Rapids Township has defended his vote and said he does not regret it. 

He was in the House gallery on Jan. 6 when a crush of Trump supporters 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. 

Before the rioters broke into the building, Trump gave a speech near the White House urging his followers to “fight like hell” to reverse his defeat. 

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 said Tuesday that the days before the impeachment vote were the worst of his life. Not just because of what occurred at the Capitol but "knowing that this was a decision that would deeply disappoint so many folks in my district," Meijer said during a virtual town hall hosted by the University of Michigan.

"I obviously voted my conscience. It was it was difficult vote," Meijer said. "I've gotten my second county GOP censure and continue to talk to constituents and hope that there's that those relationships can be mended and that we can respect differences of opinion."

But Meijer also said he was alarmed in the days after the attack when, in conversations with folks in his district, they denied that it was Trump supporters who had stormed the Capitol and denied that the former president bore any responsibility for the riot.

"At the end of the day, the folks who were arrested at the Capitol, they were doing what they felt Donald Trump wanted them to do," Meijer said. "And if he was disappointed or horrified at what had occurred at the Capitol in those immediate moments, he would have been reacting immediately to shut that down to tell people to go away. It took him hours."

Meijer said political violence is a line that "cannot be tolerated, that cannot be excused, that cannot be treated with kid gloves." For him, it was a question of whether the GOP is a party of rule of law and of holding leaders to a high standard, he said. 

"I don't want us to wind up in the same spot in another two years, four years, six years. I don't want us to wind up in a scenario where political violence is not fully held to account," Meijer said.

"That's why I thought that this district, and where I hope that west Michigan and Michigan as a whole, can be a place where tough decisions are made, where we don't just take the easier or the popular way out, but do what's right and necessary for the long term and the good of the country."