GOP Congresswoman on voting to impeach Trump: "I felt like I had to"
The atmosphere on the House floor was tense, as members argued over whether President Trump should be impeached for his role in the assault on the United States Capitol:
"If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?" asked Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.
"The president didn't even mention violence last Wednesday, much less provoke or incite it," said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla. "You have created a mockery out of the impeachment process."
Only four times in American history has Congress impeached a president.
1868: Andrew Johnson, for breaking a law that barred him from firing his Secretary of War.
1998: Bill Clinton, for lying under oath about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.
2019: Donald Trump (the first time), for abuse of power – withholding military aid in an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.
2021: Mr. Trump, once again.
Correspondent Rita Braver asked, "Where do you think this impeachment will go down in history, in terms of the seriousness of the offense?"
"This impeachment levels the most egregious charge ever made against a U.S. president – summoning a mob to the capital, and then inciting that mob to commit insurrection," said history professor Allan Lichtman of American University. He said the vote in favor of impeachment was stunning because ten members of the president's own party – the most of any impeachment in history – voted "yes."
One of them was Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. She said on the House floor, "My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side; I'm choosing truth."
Braver asked her, "Was this a matter of conscience for you?"
"To me it was an issue of, when I'm a grandma, can I look at this dispassionately and say to myself, 'I believe in the stance I took'? And I can tell you right now, I know that I will."
"Do you think you're gonna lose your seat over this?"
"I don't know," Herrera Beutler replied. "I knew that by taking the vote, it would put it all into question."
Watch: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler describe her experience as the Capitol was under attack:
Now, it is up to the United States Senate to decide whether to convict President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not start a trial before the Inauguration, when Democrats take control of the Senate. Some experts argue its unconstitutional to try a president after he has left office. But others, like Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley, say it is allowed.
Braver asked, "So, if Trump were to be convicted, would he automatically be barred from holding public office again?"
"No, the first Article of Impeachment for inciting riots would need to have two-thirds of the U.S. Senate to agree, and if they did that, there would be a second vote to bar him forever from entering American government in any way, shape or form – and that only needs 50%."
But many Republicans argue that it is divisive and a waste of time to go after someone who is out the door anyway.
"It is now time for all of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, to turn down the temperature," said Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wisc.
Braver asked Lichtman, "Doesn't it make sense, on some levels, to just say, 'Okay, it's done, it's over'?"
He replied, "It's very important to take a moral stance against this."
But whatever happens to President Trump, there is still the question of healing the rift in a deeply-divided country. When asked how this period will stack up in history, Brinkley replied, "I think it's second only to the Civil War in the sense of watching our country so disunited."
Still, Herrera Beutler believes that the impeachment process proves our democracy is still strong: "I can vote my conscience on the House floor and impeach the most powerful man in the world, not because I want to, but because I felt like I had to. And the government doesn't just throw me in jail. It's working before our eyes."
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Story produced by Jon Carras and Michelle Kessel. Editor: Carol Ross.
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