Speed Reads

Impeachment is Futile

Pennsylvania House Republicans impeach Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner, setting up lame-duck mess

The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 107 to 85 to impeach reformist Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, setting up a longshot bid to remove the city's top elected law enforcement official in a lame-duck session. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with one Republican joining all Democrats in voting against impeachment. 

House Republicans accuse Krasner, a Democrat, of contributing to Philadelphia's uptick in violent crime through his criminal justice reforms. Krasner strongly denies that his approach to prosecution, including declining to go after many low-level prostitution and simple drug possession cases, is behind the rise in violence in Philadelphia, noting that gun crime has been on the rise nationally since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, including in some Pennsylvania with purportedly tough-on-crime Republican prosecutors.

"History will harshly judge this anti-democratic, authoritarian effort to erase Philly's votes," Krasner said. He was elected to a second term last year by an overwhelming margin.

The impeachment motion now moves to the state Senate, where Republicans hold 28 of the 50 seats — short of the two-thirds needed to convict — and lost one of those seats in the midterms elections. The Senate wrapped up its legislative session on Wednesday, and Senate GOP leaders haven't decided how or when to hold a trial for Krasner. Republicans hold a 23-vote majority in the House, but Democrats appear to have narrowly flipped control of the chamber in the midterms. 

The last person impeached and removed from office in Pennsylvania was state Supreme Court justice Rolf Larsen in 1994, and "the only other examples of impeachments that led to removals occurred more than 200 years ago," The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. At the same time, The New York Times notes, "Republican lawmakers raised the prospect of trying to remove Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and threatened to impeach Philadelphia election officials for their management of ballot counting during the 2020 presidential election."

The seven House impeachment articles don't accuse Krasner of committing any crimes, only of "misbehavior in office." Some legal experts say that doesn't meet the legal threshold for impeachment, much less removal from office, the Inquirer reports.