GRAND RAPIDS, MI — When U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer was sworn into office Jan. 3, he was eager to get to work on the policy priorities he championed on the campaign trail: Promoting economic freedom, individual liberty, and combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, just three days later, the first-term Republican congressman from Grand Rapids found himself in an almost unimaginable situation: Fleeing the House Chamber, gas mask in hand, after a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters charged into the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“It’s been the worst week of my life,” said Meijer, who on Wednesday, Jan. 13 cast what could be the hardest vote of his career when he supported an effort to impeach Trump for a second time.
“I didn’t want to be in a position where I’m having to decide whether to impeach a president of my own party. But I think the assault on the Capitol was very much a watershed moment for me.”
Meijer, an army veteran whose family founded the Meijer supercenter chain, was one of 10 Republicans in the House to vote in favor of impeaching Trump. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, was the other Republican member of Michigan’s congressional delegation to support impeachment.
The vote placed Meijer in the spotlight in a big way.
He’s appeared on CNN, where he rebuked President Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He spoke on MSNBC about the threats he’s received in the wake of the impeachment vote, and said he is altering his routine and “working to get body armor.”
And, in a lengthy interview for a New York Times podcast, he spoke in-depth about the reasons behind his impeachment vote and the chaos that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Meijer, in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press/MLive, said the impeachment vote was “probably an act of political suicide,” and could more than likely lead to a primary challenge during the next election for his congressional seat.
“It was agonizing,” said Meijer, 33, who represents Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.
“This was not a decision that was arrived at lightly in any way, shape or form. It was only after basically nonstop agonizing and deliberation. I couldn’t help but come back to the fact that in order for us to heal, in order for us to move past this point, in order to get to a point where we can talk about unity — we have to have accountability for what happened.”
Reaction among constituents has been a “mixed bag,” Meijer said.
“I’ve had a number of supporters reaching out and saying thank you, this is exactly why I voted for you, this is exactly why I supported you,” he said. “I’ve had a number of people who reached out and they were livid.”
Meijer added, “I don’t expect somebody to agree with how I approached this and the decision I made to impeach. But what I’ve been trying to communicate is to help folks understand why we got to this point, and why I made the decision that I did.”
While he’s received threats, Meijer said he does not fear for his life. However, he said he has “exposed myself to something that I have to take seriously,” and that he’s now altering his routine and keeping a “low profile.”
I am “taking a number of security precautions, including purchasing body armor for any eventuality,” he said. “As we saw after January 6, anything can happen. So, I’m prepared for anything to happen.”
Meijer said Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, particularly a video the president posted on Twitter amid the Capitol siege that did not condemn the mob, “wiped out” the accomplishments Trump made during his time in office.
That includes Trump’s efforts to end foreign wars and create the coronavirus vaccine through Operation Warp Speed, Meijer said.
The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 happened the same day as lawmakers were certifying the results of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Meijer said he knew it was going to be a long day, possibly requiring an overnight stay at the Capitol, so he brought a pillow, blanket, and two bottles of whiskey — one from Eastern Kille Distillery and another from Long Road Distiller.
He said he knew emotions were high surrounding the certification vote, but he never imagined that the day would culminate with a violent mob storming the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the death of five people.
“When I say it was the worst week of my life, it wasn’t because I was afraid,” he said, referring to his mindset following the violent attack and the days leading up to the impeachment vote.
“Part of it was the absolute gut punch that I felt after seeing the Capitol getting overrun and seeing lawmakers fleeing for their lives and seeing a Capitol police officer dying.”