For just the fourth time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives has initiated a formal process to remove a president from office, and Coloradans remain as they have been throughout most of President Donald Trump’s administration: sharply divided along party lines.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold the first public hearings on Trump’s possible impeachment beginning today, November 13, marking a critical new phase in proceedings after a month-long whirlwind of investigation and closed-door testimony sparked by the launch of congressional Democrats’ formal impeachment inquiry in late September.
In a shift from prior investigations conducted by House Democrats, the impeachment inquiry has focused narrowly on the issue of Trump’s efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine to announce a corruption probe into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, a former boardmember at a Ukrainian natural gas company. Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, will be the first witness to testify today.
“We all have to work together to uphold the Constitution,” Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, told reporters last week. “None of us got elected to Congress to do this, but we see our jobs as defenders of the Constitution. The president doesn’t have the [power] to go out and negotiate with foreign governments to his own private benefit on something that might impact the United States’ security.”
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DeGette joined her three fellow Democrats in Colorado’s House delegation in voting to authorize formal impeachment proceedings on the House floor on October 31, with the state’s three GOP House members opposing the measure. Representative Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, continued to attack the inquiry in a series of tweets on Tuesday, labeling House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff a “partisan hack” and alleging that the “process has been corrupt from the start.”
The partisan split reflects a stark divide among each party’s base on Trump’s conduct and the impeachment investigation. Polling released last month by Keating Research showed that nine out of ten Colorado Democrats said they supported the impeachment inquiry, and nine out of ten Republicans were opposed.
Overall, Trump remains deeply unpopular in Colorado, with 60 percent of voters holding an unfavorable view of the president, compared to just 38 percent who view him favorably, according to the Keating poll. In addition to majority support for the impeachment inquiry, 48 percent of Coloradans believe that Trump should be removed from office, compared to 44 percent opposed.
Those numbers, however, haven’t deterred Republicans, who insist that the president, who lost Colorado by a five-point margin in 2016, could pull off an upset victory in the Centennial State next year. Representatives of Trump’s re-election campaign visited the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday to file paperwork that will put him on the 2020 ballot, and John Tiegen, a Marine veteran and Trump supporter who spoke to reporters after submitting the ballot documents, echoed congressional Republicans' claims about a flawed impeachment process.
“They’re doing the exact same thing to [Trump] that they were doing about Benghazi,” said Tiegen, a Colorado Springs native who survived the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya. “They’re nitpicking and selecting certain information to be let out instead of the whole entire story. The media is just getting fed what they’re being told to say.”
It remains unclear what additional information Tiegen and other Republicans — including Senator Cory Gardner, who has refused to comment on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine until he gets “all the facts” — expect to be revealed. Trump has admitted that he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens in a July phone call, days after withholding nearly $400 million in military aid from the country, and a partial record of the call released by the White House shows Trump asking Zelensky to “do us a favor” shortly after the issue of the aid is raised. These facts have been consistently corroborated by witness testimony and official records over the course of House Democrats' inquiry.
Tiegen, however, told reporters Tuesday that what he had “heard from the backdoors” regarding impeachment was “totally different from what you see coming out from the media.” Gardner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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DeGette signaled her support for Trump's impeachment as far back as July, when she was one of 95 Democrats to vote for a long-shot resolution alleging that Trump's history of racist statements warranted his removal from office. She and other congressional Democrats believe the facts speak for themselves.
“When the transcript first came out, and when the president admitted publicly that he had asked Ukraine to interfere in our election — for me, as a former lawyer, I see that as a prima facie case for impeachment,” DeGette said last week. “But you have to get the evidence. That’s what this procedure has been. And then the next phase we’re moving into is having the public hearings, so the public can really see what has happened.”
The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from eleven witnesses this week and next, with Democratic leadership reportedly aiming to conclude the inquiry by the end of the year. A vote by the House to approve articles of impeachment would initiate a trial in the Senate, where a Republican majority would make Trump's conviction and removal from office unlikely. But Democrats say that won't affect how they approach things in the House.
"By necessity, this cannot be a political process," DeGette said. "This is a very serious undertaking involving the Constitution of the United States."