For the first time, two Republican governors have publicly supported the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, a new development in an intensifying political fracas that has so far been largely partisan.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, both outspoken critics of Trump, said Thursday that they favored the investigation, but Scott added that he would wait for more information before calling for further action against the president.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Scott called the inquiry “appropriate” and said it is a key part of Congress’s duty as a co-equal branch of government.
“I think we have much more to learn and need to understand all the facts as this serious allegation is considered,” he said. “Congress has a solemn responsibility to every American to fulfill its role in our government system of checks and balances.”
But impeachment, he cautioned, “is a very serious issue and should not be taken lightly or abused.”
At a Thursday event, Baker told reporters that, “It’s a deeply disturbing situation and circumstance and I think the proper role and responsibility for Congress at this point is to investigate it and get to the bottom of it.”
As governors, however, Scott and Baker have no role in the formal process, so their break from the Republican ranks is largely symbolic.
So far, two Senate Republicans have publicly expressed serious concern over revelations that Trump repeatedly urged the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, one of his foremost political rivals.
“There’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on Wednesday, adding that Democrats should still be careful when using the word “impeach.”
Sasse opposed Trump’s 2016 candidacy, but he has since won the president’s favor – and a Trump endorsement of his reelection bid.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also said Wednesday that, “It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling.” That day, The Post reported that further cracks were emerging privately among GOP senators.
Other Republican governors, even those who haven’t been afraid to criticize the president in the past, have remained neutral or silent when questioned about the impeachment inquiry.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, refused to comment, saying only that he thinks “it’s important we wait until all the evidence is in.” GOP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
At least a modicum of Republican support is seen by some strategists as crucial if Democrats are to wage a politically successful impeachment battle. That was also the position of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., – before the explosive new allegations against Trump surfaced.
“Unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country,” Pelosi told The Post in March. “And he’s just not worth it.”
Born and raised in Vermont, Scott has spent the past two decades in Republican state politics, serving in the Vermont Senate and as lieutenant governor before he ran for and won the chief executive job in 2016. That year, Hillary Clinton won nearly 56 percent of the vote in the presidential election in the state, while Trump won just under 30 percent.
In June, after Trump told four female Congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries, Scott was one of the few prominent Republicans to label the president’s words racist. (The congresswomen are all American citizens, and three were born in the United States.)
“I find these statements offensive, racist and certainly not what we expect from the leader of the greatest country in the world,” Scott said then. “Words matter and we’ve seen the same rhetoric used throughout history to discriminate, degrade and divide.”
Baker, too, governs a state that backed Clinton over Trump in 2016, 60 percent to 33 percent. After an on-again-off-again career in state politics, Baker ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2014. He won the endorsement of the Boston Globe – the first Republican in two decades to do so – and then won the election.
Since taking office, Baker routinely ranks among the country’s most popular governors. This feat, as a Republican running a state with a generally liberal state, has often been attributed to two skills: his negotiation of a bipartisan government and his ability to distance himself and his own brand of politics from Trump.