On the morning that Democrats presented articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence hailed Trump's record on military and veterans' issues — while promising the fight would continue.
"No matter what the opposition is doing, he gets up every day and fights for you," Pence told hundreds of supporters during a half-hour speech at Rochester's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 128. "You'll see in the headlines today they're back at it again. It's a partisan impeachment ... but we're still winning."
Still, the prospect of victory in next year's presidential election remains uncertain, and Pence's visit -- his fourth to Pennsylvania this year -- suggests the state's importance to Trump's 2020 re-election prospects. Pence's visit to Beaver preceded a joint appearance with President Trump at a campaign rally in Hershey this evening, and he warned supporters about "radical leftists who want open borders [and] late-term abortions."
"It's going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp," Pence added.
Given the standing-room-only crowd in Beaver -- which was gathered by "Veterans for Trump" and whose members were wearing jackets and other garb that identified their previous military service -- Pence discussed veterans issues at length. "We literally had vets in this country who died waiting for treatment," he said, citing long-standing problems at the Veterans Administration. "[T]hose days are over."
Prior to Pence's arrival, Democrats greeted Pence with a statement faulting the Trump Administration's handling of veterans' issues.
"Under the Trump Administration, our veterans have seen nothing but broken promises," said state party spokesman Andres Anzola. "It's clear that Trump and Pence are more interested in grandstanding than actually doing the work for veterans and their families."
The release cited a number of embarrassments at the VA, including unwelcome interventions by three members of Trump's Mar-A-Lago club in an effort to create a new digital-records platform.
But a Veterans of Foreign Wars survey released this fall showed an increase in satisfaction with VA services, after years of problems and a turnaround that arguably dates back prior to Trump's administration. Attendees at the Beaver event like state VFW Commander Wayne Perry said there have been significant improvements at the VA in recent years, though Perry said more could be done.
"We have a lot of homeless vets on the streets," he said. "We’re bringing illegals in from everywhere else, giving them free this, free that, and our homeless veterans can’t even get a free meal."
Pence's visit came the same morning that Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump. The charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, stem from evidence and testimony that Trump sought to use foreign aid to Ukraine as leverage to have officials there announce an investigation into the family of likely Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Pence's visit also provided a platform for Sean Parnell, a Republican and Afghanistan war veteran who hopes to challenge Democrat Conor Lamb in the 17th Congressional District, which includes Beaver. Parnell said Trump “crushed” the terror group ISIS and is bringing troops home, and he praised the president's military spending. “This president has given our warriors the equipment they need to dominate on the battlefield."
Observers, including Lamb himself, say that ISIS has been all but routed in Afghanistan, but it remains a force in Syria after Trump's precipitous move, later partially reversed, to withdraw from the region this fall.
Chris Potter contributed to this story.