Minn., ND, SD congressional leaders largely toe party lines on impeachment
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives' Democratic-led Judiciary Committee released Tuesday, Dec. 10, two proposed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. If the committee and the House approve the articles, Trump would be the third president in American history to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors through the formal impeachment process.
The members of the North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota congressional delegations reacted to the major development in ways that close observers would describe as predictable. Most of the U.S. representatives and senators from the three states promoted the viewpoints of their respective parties, while one moderate declined to pick a side.
The first article of impeachment charges Trump with abusing his power by soliciting Ukraine to investigate a political rival for personal gain. It also says Trump purposely withheld military aid from Ukraine to compel the eastern European country to abide by his request. The second article charges him with obstructing Congress by blocking members of his administration from testifying and defying subpoenas for documents during the impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said House Democrats are impeaching Trump "on charges they can't prove." The first-term congressman and member of the committee called the obstruction charge "baseless," saying the president had a right to object to subpoenas and the Democrats should wait for the courts to rule on the subject.
"In an effort to satisfy their base, House Democrats are dividing the country," Armstrong said. "Today is a sad day for our nation."
Several of Minnesota's Democratic representatives spoke in similarly somber tones to say the president should be impeached for the alleged constitutional violations. Rep. Dean Phillips, who defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018, said the evidence suggests Trump should be impeached and go on to a Senate trial.
"None of us came to Congress to impeach the President … but I do believe, based on our oath to the Constitution, we have no choice," Phillips told CNN. "I do believe the two articles are appropriate."
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said Trump should be impeached for his "flagrant and corrupt misconduct" that betrayed public trust.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has long been a harsh critic of Trump and a proponent of impeachment. She called Trump "one of the most corrupt presidents ever" in a tweet Tuesday and said the House would use impeachment as a tool to hold him accountable.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the congressman had no comment on the news. Peterson was one of two Democratic representatives to vote against the initial impeachment inquiry in October and said last month he was undecided on the issue. Trump won the conservative Democrat's mostly rural Seventh District with nearly 62% of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said he would vote down impeachment because it would not be in the country's best interest.
North Dakota's Republican Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer chimed in to say that House Democrats have been determined to impeach Trump since he was elected in 2016. Both senators have maintained throughout the impeachment inquiry that there's more important work the House should be doing instead.
"The evidence in their articles is underwhelming at best," Cramer said. "House Democrats ought to scrap this fantasy and get back to working for the American people."
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said the public wasn't interested in Congress' political theatrics and just wanted the House Democrats to face real challenges.
The committee will debate the articles later this week, and if they are approved, a House vote could come as early as next week, according to the New York Times. If the articles clear the Democratic-held House, Trump's trial would begin shortly thereafter in the Republican-held Senate.