You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
top story

SC Republicans tell Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham pick a side, denounce Trump impeachment

  • Updated
Drew McKissick.jpg

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick talks as South Carolina Republicans gather outside the offices of U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Mount Pleasant. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Protesters wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats and waving blue flags emblazoned with "Trump" rallied outside Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham's Mount Pleasant office Tuesday with a list of demands.

Top on their minds was calling on the freshman lawmaker to denounce the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over his dealings with Ukraine's president.

"He thinks he can play it safe and be on the fence or in the middle of the road, if you will," S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said.

"But usually when you're riding down the road in South Carolina, the only thing you see in the middle of the road is road kill," he added.

Cunningham is one of eight House Democrats who does not support Trump's impeachment or the impeachment inquiry yet. He's also a vulnerable Democrat facing reelection in a congressional district that voted for Trump in 2016.

Cunningham was in Beaufort on Tuesday meeting with young business leaders and touring an assisted living facility.

In a statement provided to The Post and Courier, Cunningham sought to further clarify his stance on the impeachment inquiry, including to say his reluctance has nothing to do with the political makeup of his congressional district.

"Right now, Congress is investigating the President — not impeaching the President," he said. "I want to be clear that I am withholding judgment on whether our President should be impeached until hearing all the evidence and ideally, hearing directly from the whistleblowers."

Anti Joe signs.jpg

Laurie Zapp traveled from Beaufort to have her voice heard outside U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham's office on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Cunningham went on to say the investigation should not be "decided on Twitter, by the news media or by partisans in either party. It’s why I've tried to act responsibly and deliberately, without letting politics or tribalism influence my thinking."

He called on the White House to comply with all document requests from Congress and not obstruct the investigatory path.

McKissick doesn't see it that way.

During his remarks to the 55 protesters, McKissick characterized the impeachment efforts as a "witch hunt" and the continuation of a politically motivated push by Democrats to oust Trump from the White House.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.

"Ever since 2016, Democrats have been working to steal that election," he said, adding, "It's not going to work."

The anti-impeachment protest held outside Cunningham's office was part of a nationwide messaging blitz by Republicans and the Trump Victory Committee to simultaneously call for Democrats to drop the impeachment inquiry.

Part of that effort is to put pressure on vulnerable House Democrats like Cunningham to "stop the madness."

Joe Supporters.jpg

Supporters of U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham gathered outside his offices to show support as South Carolina Republicans also gathered to protest on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Mount Pleasant. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

In a press call Monday, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign confirmed their "Stop the Madness" campaign will include a combined $10 million national ad buy. RNC spokesman Rick Gorka confirmed South Carolina will be getting a "double dose" of ads from both the Trump campaign and the RNC.

The ads, he confirmed, will be running in targeted congressional districts, which includes South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.

Two of Cunningham's Republican congressional challengers — Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing and former Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox  — attended the protest. They, too, sought to put pressure on the congressmen they are hoping to unseat

"No matter what happens we have to stay together," Landing said. "We're all united with Donald Trump."

Cox called Cunningham "weak," "timid" and "visionless."

"He's weak because he hasn't kept his promises to put the Lowcountry over party. He's timid because, obviously, he doesn't show up to things like this. He's a lapdog for Nancy Pelosi and he's visionless because he's following the herd in Washington," he said.

About 50 yards away, a small counterprotest of six people stood on another corner of the sidewalk. 

Leslie Bracken, 50, was holding a sign with the words "Impeach Trump Re-elect Joe" written in large letters.

The Summerville resident said she voted for Cunningham in 2018, but she doesn't mind that he hasn't said where he stands on impeachment.

"This is a hard district and I get that. So I don't have a problem with that," she said. "What I want him to do is when the facts are in, I want him to vote with the facts, not with re-election chance," she said.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Columbia Breaking News

Greenville Breaking News

Myrtle Beach Breaking News

Aiken Breaking News