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Impeachment looms large in House Democrats’ town halls over recess

Vulnerable freshmen face protests as safe-district incumbents explain process, Trump's offenses

Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., talks with the media after votes on Capitol Hill in September. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., talks with the media after votes on Capitol Hill in September. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has been a central concern at town halls for House Democrats across the country, with both safe and vulnerable members of the caucus fielding questions from Trump’s defenders and voters who want him removed from office.

While recent polls suggest that support for impeaching the president has grown over the last three months — 58 percent of respondents to a Washington Post/Schar School poll this week approved of the House’s decision to launch an inquiry — Democrats have used feedback at town halls over the two-week October recess to assess how their constituents feel about the matter.

In safely Democratic districts, members walked audiences through the mechanics of the impeachment process and why it was an impeachable offense for Trump to ask China and the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponents.

In Republican-leaning districts represented by vulnerable freshman Democrats, opposition was more vocal. Constituents fundamentally opposed to Trump’s impeachment protested outside town hall venues and interrupted lawmakers inside them.

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Colorado’s 2nd District

Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse‘s 2nd District seat is safely blue: The freshman Democrat won the district by nearly 27 percentage points in the 2018 midterms, and Hillary Clinton carried it by 21 points in 2016.

Still, questions about impeachment absorbed 45 minutes of his hour-long town hall on Monday in Boulder, CPR News reported.

Neguse, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, explained to constituents the process Democrats have undertaken to impeach Trump: The panel will gather information and referrals from five other committees — Oversight and Reform, Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and Intelligence — and hold a vote on whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the House floor. A vote by the whole chamber would come next, and if it is approved, the Senate would hold a trial.

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Most people who attended the town hall Monday favored impeachment, CPR News reported, though some worried Democrats might be getting ahead of themselves and moving too quickly.

“[The allegations] look pretty incriminating but there needs to be a real process and it shouldn’t matter what side you’re on,” said one constituent, Harry Ross, according to CPR News.

“I’m worried the Republicans are doing everything they can to stop it and there are elements of the Democratic Party that are doing everything they can to make it happen … I don’t like either side being so radical,” Ross said.

Others in the district just want Trump gone.

“I’m really hoping they’re going to move on this quickly and efficiently … and get him out of there,” Sylvia Bernstein, another constituent, told CPR News.

Michigan’s 8th District

At a town hall in Michigan over the weekend, freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin was interrupted by shouts of “Not true!” and “Fake news!” as she tried to answer a question about her decision to endorse the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump.

“The issue that got to me was this idea that the president, the most powerful man in the world, reached out to a foreigner, a foreign leader, and asked him to dig up dirt on an American,” Slotkin said amid the interruptions, multiple outlets reported.

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Slotkin is defending one of the most vulnerable seats held by a Democrat in 2020. Trump beat Clinton in Michigan’s 8th District by 7 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2020 House race Tilts Democratic.

Slotkin co-authored a Washington Post op-ed last month with six other vulnerable freshman Democrats endorsing impeachment hearings.

She told reporters after the town hall that she knew her decision to support the impeachment inquiry would “bring a lot of energy in the district.”

Slotkin is not jumping to conclusions about Trump’s guilt, she said, but wants to learn more.

“I was trained as intelligence analyst, so we read the facts and make an assessment, and that’s what I plan to do when the facts are presented,” she said.

Minnesota’s 4th District

At a town hall last week in Minnesota’s 4th District, 10-term Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum did not need to convince many of her constituents that Trump must be impeached.

But she used a PowerPoint presentation to walk nearly 200 attendees through the allegations and evidence points that Trump has repeatedly asked foreign countries to meddle in U.S. elections, including Russia in 2016, Ukraine, and, most recently, China.

“I take no joy in this,” McCollum said, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported. “It’s not what I came to Congress to do.”

Clinton carried McCollum’s district by more than 30 points in 2016, and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2020 House race Solid Democratic.

Still, some constituents at the town hall balked at Democrats’ redoubled impeachment effort, with one saying they’d been at it “ever since the first day Trump was in office,” the Star Tribune reported.

“You spent two years on Russian collusion and it was a total bust,” said Tom Stephanie, 73, a retired state employee.

McCollum thanked Stephanie for showing up to voice his concerns and said he had every right to air them.

“I wholeheartedly disagree with them,” she added.

New York’s 11th District

At a town hall on Staten Island last week, New York Rep. Max Rose, one of the last Democratic impeachment holdouts, came out in support of the House’s inquiry into Trump.

The vulnerable freshman Democrat promised constituents at the town hall that he will not let his support for the inquiry “detract” from his attention to local issues, including the opioid epidemic, regulating prescription drug prices, and supporting police, firefighters, and other first responders.

Rose’s 11th District, where Trump defeated Clinton by nearly 10 points in 2016, is expected to host one of the most competitive House races in the country in 2020.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Tossup.

Pro-Trump protesters gathered outside Rose’s district office on Monday accusing him of falling in line with “the most radical elements of the Democratic Party” to support an impeachment inquiry, 1010 WINS radio reported.

“Max traded the voters of Staten Island for support from the D.C. establishment who are obsessed with taking down President Trump. The voters of Staten Island deserve better,” Staten Island GOP Chairman Brendan Lantry said at the protest.

As of last week, 225 House Democrats and one independent, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, have said they support the impeachment inquiry into Trump, while just 10 Democrats oppose it.

“We have got to follow these facts where they lead us — and where we find ourselves today the President has no one to blame but himself,” Rose said at the town hall last week.

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