CAPITAL REGION — Even as the House of Representatives debate on impeachment of President Donald Trump moved forward on Wednesday with some Republican support, Capital Region GOP leaders criticized the move, and some remain defiantly supportive of the president.
Fulton County Republican Chairman Sue McNeil identifies as a “Trump Republican,” saying she’s supported him since he explored a run for governor in 2014. She supported him for president in 2016, and again last year.
McNeil accused the far-left of having demonized the president, whom she does not hold responsible for last Wednesday’s riotous attack on the U.S. Capitol. She said she “firmly believes” the election was stolen from Trump, although dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign were dismissed by judges — many appointed by Trump — with no evidence of significant fraud found.
“I love everything he did and so does half of the country who believes in him. The other half of the country doesn’t believe in what he did and they have demonized him,” McNeil said.
In last year’s presidential election, Trump carried Fulton County and most of the highly generally politically conservative North Country. North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, has been one of the president’s most vocal defenders, even after she received backlash for repeating Trump’s debunked election criticisms on the House floor last week, just hours after the Capitol attack.
Stefanik voted against impeachment on Wednesday, though 10 congressional Republicans, including Rep. John Katko of Syracuse, joined all 222 Democrats who voted in favor of Trump’s removal.
“What they’re doing to Trump and impeachment disgusts me,” McNeil said. She said believe that what Trump said at last Wednesday’s rally of his supporters didn’t incite the insurrection, but that some participants planned it ahead of time.
McNeil noted that of the many thousands of people at the rally, a relatively small number broke into the Capitol and became violent. “Most people who were there just returned to their buses,” she said.
Schenectady County Republican Chairman Chris Koetzle, who was a Trump proxy delegate to last August’s Republican convention but has generally sought to project a moderate image, was more measured while criticizing the impeachment.
Koetzle avoided criticism of the president, but said he doesn’t think impeaching a president with just days left in office makes sense — and he thinks it won’t help the country move forward.
“I don’t understand the value of it at this particular junction, when he has just has one week in office,” Koetzle said. “I know they say they don’t want him (to serve) in office again, but given his age I don’t think that’s likely, and second of all, isn’t that the people’s decision? Our leaders need to begin to heal the nation.”
Koetzle, who is also Glenville town supervisor, said the work to find solutions must begin at the local level.
“I think we all have to, Democrats and Republicans, look at the last year and reflect, all of us,” he said. “Don’t think it’s about who said what. We had a bad year, and I think people are looking for leaders who are looking forward and bringing solutions.”
“It’s time to stop the blame game and pointing out flaws in each other and see how we can build a community together,” Koetzle said.
He noted that 75 million people voted for Trump, and many voters across the country believe in Republican values of smaller government and individual responsibility, regardless of their feelings about Trump. “One person is not the party,” he said.
Of his past support for Trump, Koetzle said: “I’m not backing down. I’m just trying to defuse. We need to move forward together.”
Saratoga County Republican Chairman Carl Zeilman said the impeachment is divisive, and accused large social media companies of suppressing conservative points of view — a grievance of the president’s, whose Twitter and Facebook accounts were shut down after the rally that led to the assault on the Capitol.
“At a time when our country needs unity the most, a second impeachment and the censorship of Republican and Conservative voices by Democrats and big tech will only continue to drive a wedge between us as people,” Zeilman said in an email. “In less than a week, a peaceful transition will take place and hopefully our nation will begin to heal.”
Zeilman, who has been an active Trump supporter, did not respond to a follow-up question about his current thoughts on Trump.
Many local Democrats supported impeachment, including state Assembly members Phil Steck of Colonie and Patricia Fahy of Albany, who signed a letter from the Assembly Democratic majority to congressional leadership.
“Simply put, words have consequences — and the President’s repeated efforts to undermine the truth and rally supporters to his personal and authoritarian cause culminated in Wednesday’s direct attack on our Republic,” according to the letter, signed by 75 Assembly Democrats. “To secure the future of democracy in the United States action must be taken to prevent a sitting President from subverting democracy.”
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