Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) condemned comments from a “conspiracy theorist” in the House of Delegates and said comments from U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md.) contesting the 2020 election results, even after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, were “in really bad taste,” but said he doesn’t want to leave the Republican party.
“I don’t want to leave the party and let these people who did a hostile takeover four years ago take over. I want to stay involved,” Hogan said Tuesday.
Hogan has been talking about the issue with like-minded Republicans and plans to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden (D) next week.
Asked about tweets by Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick County), including one in which he called Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” while the U.S. Capitol remained under siege, Hogan pulled no punches.
“I don’t even know who Dan Cox is. I know he’s filed suit against us multiple times,” Hogan said. “He’s a QAnon conspiracy theorist who says crazy things every day. He called me a Communist Chinese spy for China. He called the vice president a traitor. He was down there gathering people at the capitol. I don’t even know what makes him think this way. But he’s certainly not the kind of person I would vote to put in the legislature or support in any way for anything.”
Later on Tuesday evening, people began sharing screenshots of photos of Hogan and Cox together, which Cox shared on social media in 2016 and 2018. On one of the posts, Cox wrote: “Very honored to be endorsed by America’s most popular Governor!”
Cox organized a caravan of three buses for his constituents to attend the Million MAGA March protest held in downtown Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. A lawyer, he spearheaded lawsuits challenging Hogan’s executive orders curtailing business operations because of the COVID-19 virus.
A day after reporting about his involvement in the D.C. rally, Cox issued a statement denouncing “all mob violence including those who broke into the U.S. Capitol.”
In his statement, Cox also said he was at the event where President Donald Trump addressed rally attendees but that the group did not approach the U.S. Capitol or participate in any violence and left early from D.C.
However, that was disputed Tuesday by a first-person account of the trip by Fred Propheter, a co-organizer of the excursion from the Frederick County Conservative Club. Writing for a conservative online publication in Frederick called The Tentacle, Propheter detailed the group’s “15+ block walk to the Capitol” and said some members of the group from Frederick were close enough to the frontlines of the encounter to be hit by tear gas and stray rubber bullets; he also wrote that the group “carried no terrorists or miscreants to the rally of over 1.5 Million Patriots and all 150+ made it home.”
Cox could not be immediately reached on Tuesday; a voicemail box associated with his law firm was full and not accepting new messages.
Hogan said there may be a move in the Legislature to censure Cox or take some sort of action, but the governor said he was not involved in those efforts.
Top House officials did not comment Tuesday. Complaints about lawmakers’ behavior are investigated by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.
Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery), who is the House co-chair of the committee, said the committee has received inquiries about Cox’s tweets.
“I’ve certainly gotten some inquiries,” Dumais said. “If it’s brought to the committee we’ll have to talk about how to best handle it. But no decision has been made.”
Dumais said she found some of the language “personally reprehensible,” but it was unclear yet whether there was any violation of the legislature’s ethics rules. The committee would be limited to examining whether any of Cox’s actions rose to a level beyond protected free speech, she said.
Hogan was also asked Tuesday whether he agreed with calls for Harris to resign. Harris was among a group of Republicans who continued to contest Pennsylvania’s election results, even after the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“It’s not up to me to tell Andy Harris what he should do. I obviously don’t agree with the comments he made, particularly after the insurrection, the attack on the Capitol, the threats to assassinate and murder the vice president, and after law enforcement officers and others died … the first time since 1812 that the Capitol’s been ransacked,” Hogan said. “I think it was in really bad taste. I don’t know what prompted him to say and do the things he did. But it’s not up to me to decide what he does with his political future.”
Harris issued a statement last week rejecting violence, defending his colleagues’ right to debate and denying that he would resign from office.
Despite the sharp words for some fellow party members, Hogan said he’s not likely to leave the Republican party as other high-profile figures like former Secretary of State Colin Powell have.
“There’s other leaders I’m talking with a lot in Washington and other state capitals who also agree. And I think it’s important for us to try to fix the party and make sure we go in a direction where we can actually have a healthy and competitive two-party system in America and that we can actually have a more positive hopeful message that’s going to attract more people,” Hogan said. “And that we can actually win an elections again. Rather than just giving up and walking out.”
By Danielle E. Gaines