On the same day he planned to testify behind closed doors to a panel investigating how his office has handled crime in the state’s largest city, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner defended his tenure as Philadelphia’s top law enforcement official and ripped into state lawmakers by calling the investigation a “political stunt.”
In recent months, the Republican-led panel known formally as the House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order has launched investigations into Krasner and rising crime rates in Philadelphia. The formation of the committee in June came after several Republican lawmakers announced their intent to introduce articles of impeachment to remove Krasner from office.
Krasner, who said he had communicated with the committee about testifying during a private executive session on Friday, said the plans fell apart after he requested that he have access to a full recording of the testimony that he could share with the public. He said the committee refused to grant that request.
“This is an effort to impeach someone for political purposes who has done nothing corrupt and nothing illegal because they want to erase Philadelphia’s votes,” Krasner said. “They want to impeach our ideas. They want to erase Philadelphia’s votes.”
Krasner chastised the committee for failing to focus on other regions of the state, and argued that other counties in the state, such as those represented by Republicans leading the impeachment push, have seen higher increases in their murder rates than has Philadelphia.
From 2019 to 2021, Philadelphia saw a 58% increase in murders; during the same period, Washington County saw an 800% increase in murders, Beaver County saw a 250% increase in murders and Adams County saw a 300% increase in murders, Krasner noted.
All those figures are backed up by data from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, though the sheer number of murders in Philadelphia over that same stretch vastly outweighs the number of murders in all three of those counties combined. Washington County had one murder in 2019, three murders in 2020 and nine murders in 2021. Beaver County saw four murders in 2019, six murders in 2020 and 14 murders in 2021. And in Adams County, there was one murder in 2019, two murders in 2020 and four murders in 2021.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, reported 357 murders in 2019, 495 murders in 2020 and 564 murders in 2021, per the Uniform Crime Reporting System.
Krasner argued that his progressive approach to prosecution, which focuses on reducing mass incarceration, is popular among Philadelphia voters, pointing to his landslide victory just last year. He also blamed state lawmakers for local governments not being able to implement their own gun regulations and restrictions, which is prohibited under the state’s preemption law. “What is happening here is a straight-up effort to gut democracy by having people who do not even live in Philadelphia, are not allowed to even vote in Philadelphia, remove someone who was duly elected because they in Beaver County, or Adams County, or Washington County, or Bucks County or some other county, disagree,” Krasner said.
“We disagree in this country. It’s part of the beauty of democracy. We disagree. We hold hearings to try to make things better. We study the whole state. We allow people to be heard. None of that is what's happening here,” he said.
Krasner suggested that an impeachment vote could come as soon as next week, when lawmakers in the state House of Representatives are scheduled to return for session. Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for House Republicans, did not confirm or deny whether such a vote will take place.
“Next week will take care of itself next week,” Gottesman said. The GOP spokesman blamed Krasner for violent crime in Philadelphia and suggested that he resign.
“The only reason it would be acceptable for Larry Krasner to be here today would be to submit his resignation,” Gottesman told reporters. “Instead of there being a war on crime in Philadelphia, there’s now a war on people. People are dying in the streets. This is a serious, serious matter.”
“It’s a slap in the face to the people that Larry Krasner’s office should be protecting – that he used time and resources from his office to come here today for a media stunt after he refused the goodwill invitation from the select committee to offer his testimony,” Gottesman added.
Republican state Rep. Tim O’Neal, who is backing an effort to draft articles of impeachment against Krasner, also labeled Krasner’s press conference a stunt. “Interesting that he comes to the steps of the (Capitol) to call what we’re doing a “stunt”. What do we call (what) he’s doing right now? Is it irony? Or is it hypocrisy? Maybe both?” O’Neal tweeted.
In recent weeks, the select committee investigating Krasner has held public hearings in Philadelphia, where lawmakers have heard from the families of crime victims, though the hearings did not include any testimony from the district attorney.
House lawmakers also voted last month to hold Krasner in contempt of the state House for not complying with a subpoena issued by the committee. The state constitution gives the state House of Representatives the “sole power” of impeachment. The state Senate is charged with overseeing impeachment trials. Convictions cannot occur without a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Krasner thinks an impeachment vote could come sooner rather than later, especially with the state’s midterm elections quickly approaching. “I will not be surprised, even a little bit, if they go out of their way to vote for impeachment before the election, because this is politics,” he said.