WASHINGTON — A Colorado Democrat on Wednesday night delivered a forceful plea for the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump, while his Republican colleague helped lead the president’s defense.
Rep. Joe Neguse, a freshman Democrat, spoke of his immigrant parents, refugees from Eritrea. “They wanted their children to grow up in a place that is free, a country where leaders respect the rule of law and where they don’t use the power of government to target political opponents — a country with fair elections where everyone has the right to vote,” he said.
Neguse, the lone Colorado Democrat on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, spoke Wednesday as the committee heard lawmakers’ opening statements ahead of a likely vote Thursday on two articles charging Trump with abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
Neguse accused Trump of soliciting the interference of a foreign government in the 2020 U.S. presidential election for his own political advantage. “Every American deserves to know that their president will not endanger our national security, that he or she won’t seek to use their power to undermine our free and fair elections and that they won’t tap a foreign government to help tip the scales in their favor,” he said.
He intends to vote for both articles, Neguse said. “It is what the Constitution requires of us and it is what my conscience demands and I hope and I pray that my colleagues will do the same.”
In the debate that went late into Wednesday night, lawmakers on both sides assailed their Judiciary colleagues across the aisle, accusing them of overt partisanship.
Democrats implored Republicans to put politics aside and break ranks with the GOP to rebuke Trump; Republicans uniformly defended the president and accused the majority of fabricating a case in an attempt to oust an executive whose policies they have loathed since he assumed the White House.
GOP: impeachment helps Trump in 2020
Republicans warned Democrats that the impeachment proceedings would help Trump keep the White House in the 2020 election and could help the GOP reclaim the House majority.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told his colleagues to “go ahead” and vote for impeachment. “Say goodbye to your majority status and please join us in January 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again.”
“This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest, most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). “We’ll see you on the field in 2020.”
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, accused Democrats of pursuing a three-year vendetta against Trump.
“This is not new. We’ve been trying this for almost three years,” Collins said of the efforts to impeach Trump. “The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from last November when you became the majority,” he told Democrats.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) prodded Democrats to change course, calling the impeachment proceedings “scary stuff.”
Democrats, he said, “have never accepted the will of the American people,” Jordan said. “I hope you guys will reconsider and stop it while you can.”
‘One heck of an emergency’
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who was a staffer to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon in 1974, pointed to Republican lawmakers who supported impeachment following the Watergate scandal.
One of them was Rep. Lawrence J. Hogan Sr. — a Maryland Republican and the current governor’s father. “Unless Richard Nixon is removed from office and the disease of Watergate, which has sapped the vitality of our government, is purged from the body politic, government and politics will continue to be clouded by mistrust and suspicion,” Hogan said at the time, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Virginia Rep. Manley Caldwell Butler was another Republican who turned against the majority of his party to support Nixon’s impeachment, even though his own mother had warned him that a vote against the Republican president would spell political doom.
“Dear Mother, you are probably right. However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me of the obligation which I have,” the congressman told her, according to The New York Times. He believed Nixon had lied and obstructed justice.
As the committee and the full House move toward what’s almost certain to be a highly partisan vote, Lofgren asked Wednesday, “Where are the Caldwell Butlers and Larry Hogans of today in the Republican Party?”