WASHINGTON – Four Arizona Democrats had previously called for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, but an impeachment inquiry vote this week took a surprising turn when just two of those four voted for it.
Phoenix Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Greg Stanton, who had both called for impeachment, joined 330 other lawmakers who voted to table an impeachment resolution Wednesday.
Stanton was not available for comment Thursday. But Gallego said while he still supports impeachment, he did not think the resolution presented this week was the right vehicle for it.
“I believe that the House should open an impeachment inquiry to fully examine the broad range of Trump’s conduct and wrongdoing,” Gallego said in a statement released Thursday by his office. “That should be our next step.”
Gallego has previously said an impeachment inquiry would be “a necessary step to ensure that we get to the bottom of Trump’s wrongdoing” documented in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election meddling and possible obstruction of justice that followed.
It was also the findings of the Mueller report that led Stanton in May to call for impeachment, a decision he said did not reach lightly.
“I accept that this conclusion will be unpopular with some, but it is the right thing to do. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies – foreign and domestic – and Congress must now use all means necessary to protect it and the rule of law,” Stanton said in a statement then.
But the resolution presented this week by Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, made no mention of the Mueller report. Instead it focused on the “racist comments” that earned the president a condemnation from the House just one day before. For that reason, Green’s resolution said, Trump is “unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial, and removal from office.”
The vote Wednesday to table – or effectively kill – that resolution passed 332-95, with 137 Democrats joining every House Republican and one independent against impeachment.
Republicans blasted the impeachment attempt, which came the same day the House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas over the administration’s attempts to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
“Today, Democrats wasted another day in the People’s House on their incessant attempts to undermine President Trump and his administration,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, in a statement that characterized Democratic efforts as a “witch hunt.”
Trump welcomed the vote as well.
“We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment,” he said before a rally in North Carolina Wednesday. “And that’s the end of it. Let the Democrats get back to work.”
But it is not likely to be the end of impeachment discussions.
There have been at least five impeachment resolutions in this Congress, and five in the previous one. At least three of those have been filed by Green, and while they have all been tabled, the vote to do so has gotten increasingly smaller.
Green’s latest resolution refers entirely to the tweets that earned this week’s rebuke from the House, tweets that Green said have “sown seeds of discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be president and had betrayed his trust as president,” meriting impeachment.
In addition to Stanton, Gallego and the state’s four Republican House members, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, voted Wednesday to table Green’s resolution.
Tucson Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick were the only Arizona lawmakers who supported the latest resolution. Both had called for impeachment previously, with Kirkpatrick adding her voice just this week.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have made this decision, but we simply cannot allow President Donald Trump and his administration to further debase the office of the Presidency and continue down their lawless path by defying our Constitution,” Kirkpatrick said Tuesday.
Grijalva has been a steadfast voice for impeachment, voting in favor of each of Green’s previous resolutions. He repeated his support Thursday, saying the racial divide that he said Trump fosters is building hate in the country and that history will judge Congress for how it acts during what he called a very dangerous time for our democracy.
“It’s not about how we calculated the politics, it’s when challenged as an equal branch of government … what did the House of Representatives do?” Grijalva said. He said he wants to be “on the side of history that said, ‘We did every legal means to enforce and exert our co-equal status in this government.’”