News & Politics

Three Dem Defectors and Amash in a Lonely Party

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at his Black Voices for Trump rally Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On the first day of impeachment, Pelosi gave to Trump three Dem defectors and Amash in a lonely party…

In an early Christmas gift for the president, the votes on impeachment alienated three Democrats from their party and sent Trump critic Justin Amash out of the GOP caucus, allowing the president to say that not a single Republican voted against him.

“We didn’t lose one Republican vote and — and three Democrats voted for us!” the president declared. He noted that “almost 200” representatives voted against impeachment.

The House of Representatives voted on two separate articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On both articles, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) voted “present.” Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a former Republican, voted for impeachment. Two Democrats voted “no” on abuse of power, while three voted “no” on obstruction of Congress.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) drew headlines for announcing his switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. He voted against impeachment.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) represents a deep-red district. Trump won in Peterson’s district by more than 30 points in 2016. Peterson said he does not condone Trump’s actions in Ukraine, but he bemoaned the lack of bipartisan support for the impeachment. He is one of the 37 vulnerable House Democrats targeted in an $8.5 million ad campaign funded by pro-Trump groups, and he voted against both articles of impeachment.

Both Van Drew and Peterson voted against the impeachment inquiry, as well.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) announced on Tuesday that he would split his votes, supporting impeachment for abuse of power but opposing the obstruction of Congress charge. Trump won Golden’s district by ten points in 2016, and Golden voted for the impeachment inquiry. He insisted that the House investigation had “clearly” unearthed evidence that Trump and his officials abused the power of the presidency to damage former Vice President Joe Biden.

“This action crossed a clear red line, and in my view, there is no doubt this is an impeachable act,” Golden wrote. As for obstruction of Congress, the representative explained that Democrats had refused to wait for court decisions on whether the White House must comply with congressional subpoenas.

“This tension is precisely why our system of government provides for a forum in which disputes between the executive and the legislature over the scope of their respective privileges and powers can be resolved. That forum is the judicial branch. The House can — and in other contexts has — gone to the courts to enforce committee subpoenas. Before wielding our awesome power to impeach a sitting president, we first ought to exhaust available judicial remedies, or — at the very least — give the courts a chance,” he explained.

In this, Golden echoed the complaint of law professor Jonathan Turley. “If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power,” Turley had warned Democrats. “You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the President for doing.”

In her decision to vote “present,” Gabbard also lent credibility to an argument against impeachment.

“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she said in a statement. “I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”

Many conservatives have argued that even if Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine were improper, they did not rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Gabbard echoed that argument.

The impeachment vote gave Trump three separate gifts: the ability to claim that three Democrats defected; the arguments to undercut the obstruction of Congress claim; and the argument that any misconduct was not impeachable.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.