The Pa. House on Tuesday morning moved forward with the effort to impeach Philly DA Larry Krasner, with the House Judiciary Committee approving the articles and sending them to the House floor.
The vote’s timing and upcoming House floor vote is of the utmost importance, as the Legislature’s session is nearly over and Democrats are on the verge of retaking the state House.
Legislation must be rewritten and submitted at the beginning of a new session, so it’s quite possible that Krasner’s impeachment would not move forward in a House under Democratic control.
The resolution will be considered by the House on Wednesday, per The Inquirer. A simple majority would send the articles over to the Pa. Senate, where the trial would take place. However, the Senate’s last scheduled session day is today, Nov. 15.
“Unless the Senate intends to convene next week the articles will have to be reintroduced next session,” political consultant Mustafa Rashed of Bellevue Strategies told Billy Penn.
Rep. Martina White put forward two articles of impeachment: The first was based on Krasner’s policies and practice as Philly DA, and the second was based on Krasner’s refusal to answer a subpoena during the impeachment process.
Throughout the Judiciary Committee session, representatives discussed the constitutional standards of impeachment and consequences of the vote.
The final tally was 14-8 a split on partisan lines, with all Republicans supporting the resolution and all Democrats opposing.
“What I believe is going on, sadly, is the worst form of political brinkmanship,” Rep. Jared Solomon said of the vote and the process that led up to it. Solomon himself is not a fan of the DA, he made clear just moments earlier, calling Krasner “woefully inadequate” while disagreeing with the current impeachment process.
Krasner’s office was quick to issue a response following the committee vote, rebuking the findings White’s resolution draws from and calling the House investigation nakedly political.
“Fact-free fearmongering about crime is no substitute for real solutions to reduce the supply of guns into our communities and prevent violence,” said DAO spokesperson Jane Roh.
What pro-impeachment Republicans argued
Rep. White, who is Philadelphia’s sole Republican House member, gave testimony on Tuesday, hammering home the points laid out in the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order — the separate panel that had previously taken up the task of investigating Krasner.
The investigatory panel’s findings did not include evidence of criminal misconduct from Krasner, nor recommend his impeachment.
White still argued that their findings were enough to justify the measure based on the DA’s “misbehavior in office,” a term included in state impeachment provisions. The legal definition of the phrase would likely come into question during an impeachment trial.
“Mr. Krasner has proven himself derelict in his duties as the district attorney of Philadelphia, inappropriately using prosecutorial discretion to act against the public’s interest,” White said.
She cited information gathered by the select committee pertaining to Krasner’s charging policies, bail policies, firearms violation enforcement, and censure from state judges on prosecutorial conduct.
Drawing from the city’s 100 Shooting Review, she mentioned the “marked increase in the number of people arrested for illegal possession of a firearm without a license to carry since 2018,” and contrasted that with conviction rates “in fatal and non-fatal shooting cases,” which she said declined between 2016 and 2020 by 21%.
The same report White quoted includes a line contradicting her presumption that these stats were contradictory, explaining that more arrests for illegal firearm possession shouldn’t necessarily lead to higher conviction rates for shootings.
“Although it may be appealing to consider building a predictive model to forecast future shooters and using it to incapacitate people who fit that model,” the report reads, “the evidence does not support the idea that prior arrest patterns of people arrested for shootings in Philadelphia can be used to accurately forecast future shooters.”
Other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee spoke after White, noting why they thought the impeachment was merited, and why representatives of other parts of the commonwealth had standing to move it forward.
“The reason that I think it’s my business is because people are traveling from various parts of the commonwealth to Philadelphia,” said Rep. Jerry Knowles, who serves parts of Schuylkill, Berks, and Carbon counties.
“If you’re going to keep everyone out of Philadelphia except for the people who live in Philadelphia, and they voted this guy back in by 70%, shame on them,” he added. “This is not about Philadelphia, this is about the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the people we all represent.”
Rep. Joshua Kail, the Beaver County legislator who spread a memo urging an impeachment investigation in June, also weighed in. By not prosecuting certain crimes, Philly has a “district attorney who wants to be the executive, the legislator, and the judge all in one person,” Kail argued.
What anti-impeachment Democrats warned of
Rep. Jason Dawkins, who represents parts of North and Northeast Philly, noted Harrisburg’s repeated actions in blocking Philadelphia from passing stronger gun control laws.
“When I look at this particular resolution and I see, ‘any misbehavior in office,’ and we talk about the breach of positive statutory duty, if … we’re going to hold District Attorney Larry Krasner accountable, we should probably add some more names to this [sic] articles of impeachment, because there’s a dereliction of duty amongst all of us,” Dawkins said.
“We are also a part of a legislature that could have provided more resources to the city,” he continued. He also put forward a motion for the Judiciary Committee to have at least one more hearing on the matter, since the select committee did not recommend impeachment.
Given the possibility of House control moving to the Democratic side after just two more days in session, the suggestion would have likely postponed the vote until political conditions had demonstrably changed.
Co-Chair Tim Briggs seconded the motion, saying, “impeachment is probably the most important thing our committee could ever handle and to do it without even a committee hearing … is really a dereliction of our duties as members of this committee.”
Rep. Joe Hohenstein from Northeast Philly agreed and supported Dawkins’ request, pointing to the rarity of impeachment and protocols that have been established in the past.
“This article of impeachment has asked us to stretch the definition of ‘misbehavior in office’ outside of criminal conduct,” Hohenstein said. “But when we look at how impeachment has been handled over hundreds of years, we’ve never done that.”
“The real record has to be done through a process that allows for questioning, give and take, for digging into a witness’s experiences, their memories, and also their opinions,” he continued. “None of that was done by a special committee,” he said, referencing how the select committee refused Krasner’s request to testify at a public hearing.
Dawkins’ motion was voted down on partisan lines.
In her statement responding to the committee vote, DAO spokesperson Roh pointed to “a reduction in homicides of 5% from one year ago today.”
Saying that “big cities and progressive DAs” come under increased attention even as gun violence rises at faster rates in conservative areas, she said several counties saw larger jumps in the rate of murder from 2019-21 than Philly. They included areas like:
- Chester (267%)
- Allegheny (72%)
- Berks (69%)
- Lehigh (60%)
- Luzerne (60%)
The DAO’s response also recommended bringing the performance of the police back into the picture, saying that “politicized” targeting of DAs like Krasner “obscures or even erases the critical public safety role of police.”
“People who seek to scapegoat progressive prosecutors,” Roh said, “are really doing a disservice to police by ignoring their role and impact.”