The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Gov. Larry Hogan beats impeachment attempt by Trump-aligned Republican

The governor’s spokesman said the lawmaker who launched the effort must now go ‘back to the QAnon Ouija board.’

Gov. Larry Hogan gives a Maryland covid-19 update in February. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

In less than five minutes, Maryland lawmakers on Thursday unanimously rejected impeaching Gov. Larry Hogan.

A fellow Republican and political opponent of Hogan had accused the governor of wide-ranging misdeeds including: overstepping his authority with pandemic restrictions, inappropriately welcoming refugees, denying access to controversial covid-19 treatments and flouting state law by using disappearing-message apps.

Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick), a Donald Trump-aligned candidate for governor, had four minutes to make his case. Without debate, the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee summarily dismissed it.

“It is a political issue, not a legal issue worthy of impeachment and that extraordinary remedy under our system,” House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) said as he moved to vote down the charges.

“I do not feel that it meets the standards of impeachment that would exist under Maryland law, and it would be unprecedented under the circumstances to proceed at this time,” he said. The committee, which is dominated by leading Democrats who do not pull punches when criticizing the governor, rejected the charges without further discussion.

Trump-endorsed Republican wants to impeach Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Cox said in an interview that he did not expect his colleagues to remove Hogan from office, although people told him privately, he said, that they supported the measure.

He said he pushed it anyway to stand up for residents who felt profoundly harmed by Hogan’s public health actions during the pandemic — unable to say goodbye to dying loved ones, “the forced masking of their children for nearly two years,” missed weddings, businesses that shriveled or died under shutdown regulations and, broadly, “the loss of their freedoms.”

It’s not political. It is a constitutional and legal issue,” said Cox, a lawyer. “It’s important to have a historical record that the citizens of Maryland do not agree with the actions of the governor during the covid lockdowns, that his methods of approaching the pandemic were abusive and overreaching. And so that record is now there.”

The novel coronavirus caused more than 1 million Maryland cases and had killed 14,160 as of Thursday. The lifting of mask mandates in Maryland schools began this week.

Cox and Hogan, a prominent critic of Trump within the GOP, have sharply clashed over policy and politics. Cox filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in federal court challenging the governor’s pandemic policies; Hogan called Cox a “QAnon conspiracy theorist who says crazy things every day.”

After the vote, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said, referring to Cox, “I guess this means it’s back to the QAnon Ouija board.”

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Hogan has endorsed the delegate’s opponent, former Maryland commerce secretary Kelly Schulz, in the governor’s race. Schulz represents a more traditional, establishment wing; Cox has earned the endorsement of former president Trump. Cox called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” on Twitter during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Days later, he issued an apologetic explanation to the legislature’s ethics committee.

On Thursday, Cox began his impeachment case by quoting famous remarks by Hogan’s father, Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., a congressman who was the first Republican to call for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974.

“I’m a Republican. Party loyalty and personal affection of the past must fall before the arbiter of men’s action, the law itself,” Cox said, quoting the governor’s father. “We must pledge our highest allegiance to the law, and not the common frailties of men.”

He went on to read aloud some of the six articles of impeachment he drafted.

It contained 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 accused 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.”

Some other allegations were 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 additional cost. Another accusation centered 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.

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The Maryland 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 state historians.