Already comfortable as an outlier in her party, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard did not support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, voting “present” Wednesday on two articles that cleared the House.
Gabbard has repeatedly criticized her party for seeking to impeach and remove the Republican president. The Hawaii congresswoman instead has called for censuring Trump after disclosures that he asked Ukraine’s president to help investigate already debunked allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden, who is also seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Gabbard was one of just a handful of Democrats who did not back impeachment.
Two Democrats voted against the first article: Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is considering switching parties to become a Republican, and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, whose district went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.
Van Drew has been the Democrats’ most vocal critic against impeaching Trump, and after meeting with the president Friday, is expected to leave his party to join the Republicans.
Peterson, perceived as one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, has previously stated that he too was approached to leave his party, ultimately deciding against it.
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Unlike most Democrats, Peterson supports Trump’s plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and is anti-abortion.
Those two and freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine also voted against the second article.
Golden previously said in a statement Tuesday that he would split his vote on the articles of impeachment, voting in favour of impeaching Trump over abuse of power, but against the article on obstruction of Congress.
In his statement that was posted to Facebook, Maine said that “while the president’s resistance toward our investigative efforts has been frustrating, it has not yet, in my view, reached the threshold of ‘high crime or misdemeanour’ that the Constitution demands. For that reason, I will vote against Article II of the House resolution regarding obstruction of Congress.”
Democratic Rep. Joe Serrano, as well as Republican Representatives John Shimkus and Duncan Hunter missed the votes.
Trump, at a rally Wednesday night in Michigan, celebrated that “three Democrats went over to our side.”
Gabbard has defined her quixotic presidential bid with outlier positions. A military veteran still serving as an Army National Guard officer, she has long blasted U.S. foreign policy and its bent to military intervention while also defending Trump and his cozy relationship with Russia. She used the Democratic presidential debate stage to aggressively attack California Sen. Kamala Harris. And she got into a public back-and-forth with Hillary Clinton, the 2016 nominee.
Clinton seemingly started those volleys with an indirect rebuke, suggesting that Russia is using Gabbard in the 2020 campaign. Clinton produced no evidence that Moscow is directly backing Gabbard, but Russian state-owned media and a number of alt-right websites have promoted the congresswoman’s Democratic campaign, and the Russian Embassy has defended her on Twitter.
Gabbard retorted by calling Clinton “the queen of warmongers … and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
— With files from Global News