The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Gov. Larry Hogan faces impeachment call from Trump-aligned Republican

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) arrives at the Governors Reception room for a news conference to provide Marylanders with a covid-19 update in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 8, 2022. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post) (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

A fellow Republican has called for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to be impeached, accusing the governor of betraying his oath of office and thrusting attention on the party’s internal rift.

The formal impeachment resolution, introduced Thursday by a Trump-aligned political adversary of Hogan’s, faults the governor’s pandemic restrictions, purchase of defective coronavirus tests from South Korea and use of apps that send self-destructing messages. The wide-ranging resolution says those actions, and others, defy the governor’s constitutional oath to act in the best interests of Maryland residents.

The attack from within his own party also highlights Hogan’s complicated political calculus as he weighs a 2024 bid for the White House. The governor’s anti-Trump comments and popularity among Maryland Democratic voters have not insulated him from sharp Republican criticism, including former president Donald Trump’s characterization of Hogan as a RINO — Republican In Name Only.

The rare impeachment effort is pushed by Del. Daniel L. Cox (Frederick), a Republican candidate for governor who has been endorsed by Trump and who previously filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in federal court challenging the governor’s pandemic policies.

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Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci shrugged at Cox’s actions.

“This guy is known to be a QAnon conspiracy theorist. He’s got this weird obsession with the governor. Surprised it took this long, frankly,” Ricci said.

Cox and Hogan have publicly sparred, with Hogan dismissing Cox as a “QAnon conspiracy theorist who says crazy things every day.” The delegate called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” on Twitter during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and days later issued an apologetic explanation to the legislature’s ethics committee.

The resolution details six proposed articles of impeachment, with more than a dozen accusations, including violating religious freedom through pandemic restrictions on churches, and “acts of tyranny” in restricting access to the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the parasite drug ivermectin for covid-19 patients. Those controversial treatments have been promoted by Trump and bolstered by right-wing conspiracy theorists but roundly rejected by federal health officials.

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In broad strokes, the impeachment resolution accuses Hogan of “malfeasance in office, misuse of the police power, violations of the separation of powers, theft of the people’s liberty and property, deprivation of the religious liberties of the people, and abuse of power under false pretenses.”

The impeachment attempt underscores a broader rift in the Republican Party. Hogan has endorsed Cox’s opponent in the primary, former Commerce secretary Kelly Schulz, whose campaign pounced on the impeachment as an opportunity to deride Cox, calling him “not a rational actor.”

“Dan Cox is what happens when crazy meets stupid,” senior campaign adviser Doug Mayer said in a statement. “Unfortunately for his constituents, he’s also an extremely ineffective legislator who consistently fails to do anything remotely productive in service to them. Add today’s nonsense to his long list of failures.”

Cox takes issue with Hogan’s vaccine mandate for health-care workers, use of a “snitch line” to report private Thanksgiving gatherings that violate pandemic restrictions, designation of businesses as “nonessential” and therefore to be closed under pandemic rules, and the use of police to monitor crowds outside of Easter services — all of which Cox argues violates rights to liberty or property. The “snitch line” seems to refer to Hogan’s November 2020 covid-prevention hotline for residents to report violations of his public health order banning large indoor groups.

Some allegations are less clear, such as the assertion that Hogan may have erased records related to “his unlawful decision to fly and bus into the State, in the cover of night, thousands of unvetted unlawful-entry foreign nationals, and then release them onto our streets, endangering the public safety and health.”

The governor’s most recent embrace of foreign nationals came in August after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Then, Hogan said the state was “ready and willing” to accept more Afghan refugees and special immigrant visa recipients, saying “it is the least we can do.”

Some other allegations are based on Washington Post reporting, noting that Hogan spent $9.46 million on coronavirus tests from South Korea that ultimately were unusable and had to be replaced at an additional cost. Another accusation centers on Post findings that Hogan and his inner circle communicate using Wickr, an app that automatically deletes messages; transparency advocates say the practice violates the spirit of open-records laws.

Hogan’s first coronavirus tests from South Korea were flawed, never used

“In all of this, Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as Governor and subversive of the State’s constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of Maryland. Wherefore, Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the resolution says.

Maryland’s constitution provides for the impeachment of governors and lieutenant governors but is silent on what offenses merit removal. A public official convicted of a felony or a certain misdemeanor related to public duties is automatically suspended from office and then removed once appeals have been exhausted.

No Maryland governor has been impeached, according to Owen Lourie, a historian with the Maryland State Archives. Lourie said impeaching a governor has been seriously considered only once, in January 1858, but the term of Thomas Watkins Ligon expired before lawmakers took up impeachment over Ligon’s actions related to the previous fall’s elections. Impeachment efforts are so rare, the House of Delegates has no established impeachment procedures.

A simple majority of the House of Delegates can move for an impeachment trial, which is conducted by the Maryland Senate. Removal from office requires a two-thirds majority vote by the Senate.

Both chambers are dominated by Democratic supermajorities, whose leaders did not endorse the effort.

“It’s ludicrous and I think it’s the worst form of theatrical politics,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said. “We’ve got real problems to solve and Marylanders need us focused on solving those problems, not political distractions.”

The impeachment resolution will head to the House Rules Committee, which is not obligated to vote or hold a hearing on the measure.

Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

This story has been updated to identify the area Cox represents.