Steve Pearce is standing by his man.
Although GOP support for President Donald Trump has begun to falter on the national level after last week’s deadly Capitol invasion, Pearce, the head of the New Mexico Republican Party, said his loyalty to the president remains steadfast.
In a Twitter post Saturday, Pearce said Trump “will be our President FOREVER and no one can take that away from us.”
The message has since been deleted, but in an interview Tuesday, Pearce mounted a defense of the president, contending Trump’s accomplishments far outweigh anything for which he could be criticized. The state GOP chairman was unwilling to acknowledge Trump may have played a crucial role in the stunning attack on the Capitol, where five people died and many of the nation’s elected leaders took cover in fear for their lives.
But these events forced Pearce into an odd form of communications gymnastics — with the onetime congressman from Hobbs condemning inflammatory comments made by Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin during the demonstration-turned-riot, then rejecting the notion Trump riled the mob with his rhetoric.
“You can read his comments both ways,” Pearce said of Trump’s speech to the restive crowd that had poured into Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 in response to the president’s repeated and unfounded claims of a stolen election.
By contrast, Griffin threatened bloodshed, Pearce said, referring to a Facebook video the Otero County commissioner posted that has since been removed.
The state GOP opposes all calls for violence, whether they come from conservatives like Griffin or people on the other end of the political spectrum, Pearce said.
“When people turn their peaceful demonstration into a violent one, it’s wrong on both sides,” said Pearce, who’d communicated mostly through news release in recent days. “And we’ve been pretty consistent on that.”
As House Democrats and some Republicans began pushing to impeach Trump for his words and actions before the mob stormed the Capitol — the third-ranking Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, said Tuesday she’d vote to impeach — Pearce decried what he called a divisive action in a country in turmoil.
“Our nation needs to reunite as a democracy and the healing process must begin,” Pearce said in a news release.
Pearce’s comments drew a strong rebuke from state Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston, who in a statement said the state GOP’s call for unity was “hypocritical and disingenuous, especially given their ongoing support for the president and their willingness to continue to spread the same misinformation and lies that led to rioting and destruction less than a week ago.
“If Republicans truly want to move toward unity,” Elliston added, “they must denounce President Trump and his violent rhetoric.”
When asked about Trump’s divisiveness, Pearce said Democrats engaged in their own political war.
“They did everything they could to destroy him during his four years in office,” Pearce said.
Trump, Pearce maintained, built a “tremendous economy” by forging tough trade deals with Europe and China, cut taxes and melted cumbersome bureaucracies. He claimed Trump “inherited nothing from [former President Barack] Obama,” although there’s little question Obama left office with a strong economy.
Trump’s campaign on Monday withdrew a lawsuit challenging the legality of using drop boxes to collect mail ballots in New Mexico. The state GOP had collaborated with the Trump team on the lawsuit.
Courts at every level have either ruled against Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud or refused to hear them due to lack of evidence.
Pearce said he stands by his allegations there were widespread voting irregularities state election officials refused to address. He insisted Trump’s doubts about a fair election have merit and vowed to continue the fight outside court.
“We in New Mexico still have questions and will pursue them off the radar,” he said.