When state House Democrats Mary Isaacson and Jared Solomon of Philadelphia told the Inquirer that District Attorney Larry Krasner is in contempt of the House essentially because they don’t like his response to a subpoena from the committee trying to impeach him, they exposed their own ignorance of the law.
Fifty-one House Democrats joined 111 Republicans in voting for the contempt resolution, giving bipartisan shine to an investigation that deserves no such credibility. To be sure, the Krasner impeachment effort is a Republican-driven project. But now some Democrats are riding shotgun.
The truth is this: Krasner did respond to the subpoena, by challenging its legality in court. He had every right to do so. This is now a question that the courts will decide. Until then, the House members who voted “Yes” on the contempt resolution are either ignorant of the law or engaged in political cynicism. Either way, that’s no way to govern.
(Since the House vote last week, Krasner has released some but not all of the documents sought by the select committee, while the legal challenge continues.)
Consider another politically charged project happening right now in the General Assembly - the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee’s sham review of the 2020 general election and the 2021 primary. Whatever one thinks of that effort – and the ACLU of Pennsylvania has had plenty to say about it – Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Chairman Cris Dush have not taken the drastic step of pushing a resolution to hold the secretary of state in contempt after issuing a subpoena to the department. Why? Because the issue is being litigated. The courts will decide its legality.
We’ve seen no such leadership from House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) or select committee chairman John Lawrence (R-Chester and Lancaster counties), who instead rushed through their contempt resolution before the courts could even consider the question.
The effort by Harrisburg politicians to impeach Krasner is an absurd political stunt at a time when there are legitimate issues confronting Pennsylvanians. And it’s a brazen attack on our democracy.
When Philadelphia voters went to the polls last year, they reelected DA Krasner in a landslide.
If successful, impeachment of Krasner will undo the outcome of a free and fair election and usurp Philadelphians’ right to self-determination and to choose what is best for their city.
That is not how democracy works.
Let’s be clear: the gun violence crisis in Philadelphia, the purported reason for targeting Krasner, is very real, and it must be addressed. But the fact of the matter is that gun violence is a serious and rising threat across our nation. This crisis persists in cities that have elected progressive prosecutors and in cities that have elected conservative prosecutors.
And it’s not just in cities. In 2020, the murder rate rose 25 percent in rural counties nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We cannot allow cynical politicians to undermine the real progress that DA Krasner has made in Philadelphia - progress towards reducing mass incarceration through meaningful reforms in how the DA’s office charges minor offenses, holding police accountable for misconduct and violence, and engaging the community in harm reduction and diversion programs.
This is real progress. Some of the voters who turned out to vote in the highest numbers to reelect Krasner last year are from the same communities that are suffering the most from the gun violence crisis. They understand that the status quo in crime policy isn’t working. It is infuriating that Harrisburg politicians use victims of violent crime in their political games.
These are dangerous times for democracy. Election deniers refuse to accept vote outcomes if their preferred candidate doesn’t win. Now, power-hungry politicians – from Florida to California to Pennsylvania – are trying to strong-arm duly elected prosecutors out of office over policy disagreements. It’s a dangerous precedent.
Democracy needs defenders. If the state House’s recent vote is any indication, such defenders are sorely lacking in Harrisburg.