On July 23, 1974, as an impeachment vote against President Richard M. Nixon loomed over Washington and the country, Maryland Rep. Lawrence J. Hogan — a Republican — purchased airtime on television networks across his state.
Staring into the cameras that evening, Hogan knew he was gambling with his political future.
He didn’t care.
“I want with all my heart,” Hogan said, “to be able to say to you now that the president of the United States is innocent of wrongdoing, that he has not committed an impeachable offense, but I cannot say that.”
So he said this: “Richard M. Nixon has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed impeachable offenses.”
Hogan was voting for impeachment.
With the announcement, Hogan became the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to side with the Democrats. He’d ultimately become the only GOP member to vote for all three articles of impeachment leveled at Nixon.
On Friday, another Republican congressman, Mark Amodei, the chairman of President Trump’s reelection campaign in Nevada, suggested he supported a House impeachment inquiry, though he told local reporters that he didn’t know whether he’d actually vote for impeachment.
“I’m a big fan of oversight, so let’s let the committees get to work and see where it goes,” he said. But by Saturday, Amodei was denying he is the first Republican lawmaker to back an inquiry.
In 1974, there were many beginnings-of-the-end for Nixon, but Hogan’s decision was an important one. He had frequently sided with Nixon on issues before the committee. And Nixon was counting on him as a “no” vote.
It was yet another disaster for Nixon, one he recounted decades later in his memoirs.
“The fact was that he had dealt us a very bad blow,” he wrote.
Hogan, whose district was primarily Prince George’s County, was immediately accused of playing politics. Nixon’s staff and their Republican allies said Hogan was just trying to raise his profile across Maryland in the governor’s race.
And at first, his vote did just that.
Touring parts of Western Maryland, Hogan’s face was instantly recognizable as he visited neighborhoods shaking hands.
“Most of those who said they recognized Hogan from his television appearances during the Judiciary Committee proceedings and afterwards said they have never heard of the Prince George’s County congressman before impeachment,” The Washington Post reported.
But the governor’s race was still in the primaries. Hogan’s opponent, Louise Gore, used his impeachment support as a dagger, saying that the lawmaker had turned the proceedings into a “television circus.”
Nixon had resigned. But Hogan lost.
“Ironically,” The Post reported, “his campaign workers say that moment in the national spotlight may have hurt Hogan.” On election night, a Hogan campaign worker told The Post that turning on Nixon was “heresy” to the “dedicated party workers” across the state.
“I lost a lot of friends, supporters and contributions,” Hogan said in a 2015 WYPR radio interview. “Many Republicans were very unforgiving at that time.”
Though he later won election as Prince George’s County executive, Hogan lost a tough fight to Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes for the U.S. Senate in 1982.
The Republican’s impeachment vote derailed his political career, but not his hopes of one day seeing a Hogan in the State House. His son, Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., became governor of Maryland in 2015. Two years later, the elder Hogan died at age 88.
Gov. Hogan — an occasional critic of President Trump — has spoken passionately about his father’s legacy in taking a stand against a president from the same party.
At his second inauguration earlier this year, Hogan said his father’s decision had “cost him dearly.”
“But it earned him something more valuable,” the governor added. “A quiet conscience and an honored place in history.”
The younger Hogan hasn’t said whether he supports impeaching Trump. But he didn’t vote for him in 2016. He opted to write in a different Republican: his father.
Read more Retropolis: