BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he is looking forward to seeing details of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III but considers the summary issued by Attorney General William P. Barr to be “good news” for President Trump that does not make him vulnerable to a primary challenge.
Hogan (R) is being courted by some of Trump’s GOP critics to run against the president in 2020. He has said he considers a primary challenge unfeasible — barring a major change in the political landscape — because of Trump’s popularity among Republican voters.
Barr’s summary, which said Mueller did not establish that there was collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, did not appear to provide ammunition for such a change. Barr and other Justice Department officials say there is insufficient evidence to accuse the president of obstruction of justice.
“We’re all, I think, anxiously waiting to see more of the details,” Hogan said at a news conference where he detailed crime-fighting efforts in Baltimore.
The governor has made a point of raising his national profile since being reelected in November, making plans to visit New Hampshire in April and repeatedly drawing a contrast with Trump by calling for civility and bipartisanship in national politics.
On Wednesday, however, his focus was on Baltimore, Maryland’s largest and most struggling city, and his tone was decidedly partisan.
Hogan described the city — where homicides have topped 300 for four straight years, even as homicide arrest rates have plummeted — as being in the midst of a “violent crime crisis.” While some Democrats have criticized the governor for not doing more to help, Hogan said his administration is trying its best, increasing state funding for crime-fighting initiatives, sending federal and state law enforcement to help Baltimore police and opening a violent-crime joint-operations task force.
He doubled down on his past criticism of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, saying its leaders should have supported a bill he introduced to increase the mandatory minimum sentence to 10 years for repeat offenders who use a gun to commit a violent crime. That legislation has not moved out of committee and is opposed by some who say mandatory minimum sentences worsen disparities in the criminal justice system.
“Inexplicably, shockingly and disgracefully, the legislature has failed to support this,” Hogan said. “How can anyone be against tough penalties for convicted felons who have been convicted multiple times who keep repeatedly shooting people?”
The governor said he supports criminal justice reforms in general, noting that he backed legislation in his first term that reduced mandatory minimums for most crimes.
“This is a tiny subset of the most violent repeat felons that we’re talking about that just have to go to jail,” Hogan said. “That’s the only way we’re going to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Jake Weissmann, chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), said the legislative session is still in progress “and our committees are hard at work on many issues, including continuing our work to address crime in Baltimore City.”
Hogan and Miller both support legislation to create an armed police force at Johns Hopkins University — which more than 60 faculty members have said they oppose. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) spoke in support of the legislation earlier this month, telling the Baltimore delegation in the Maryland House that he came to them “to beg you to do something” to curb the violence.
Hogan said again Wednesday that he was “shocked and appalled” by the revelation that board members of the University of Maryland Medical system, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D), made business deals with the system that were in some cases worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He said he looks forward to hearing what Pugh has to say about the deals, which were first reported by the Baltimore Sun. Pugh was in the hospital with pneumonia Wednesday. Spokesman James Bentley II said she plans to hold a news conference “as soon as possible” after her release.
Hogan, who referenced a request by retired public corruption investigator James Cabezas that the state prosecutor’s office look into Pugh’s contracts, said he supports “getting to the facts and making sure we get all the information as quickly as possible.”