Ariz. lawmakers show their cards on impeachment vote

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup hearing on the Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 12, 2019. The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. House Democrats claim that Trump posed a 'clear and present danger' to national security and the 2020 election in his dealings with Ukraine over the past year. Photo by Andrew Harrer | Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — An Arizona Democrat on Wednesday night delivered a forceful plea for the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump as his Republican colleagues helped lead the president’s defense. 

“President Trump grossly abused his power,” said Rep. Greg Stanton, the lone Arizona Democrat on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

“Impeachment is necessary,” Stanton argued, because Trump “does not believe the law applies to him, because he poses a clear and present danger to our democracy.” 

Stanton is one of three Arizonans on the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to pass two articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday. In the debate that went late into Wednesday night, lawmakers on both sides assailed their colleagues across the aisle, accusing them of overt partisanship. 

Democrats implored Republicans to put politics aside and break ranks with their party to rebuke Trump; Republicans uniformly defended the president and accused the majority of fabricating a case in an attempt to oust an executive whose policies they have loathed since he assumed the White House. 

Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko joined their Republican colleagues in criticizing the proceedings. 

Biggs accused Democrats of “mass hysteria,” saying they created facts to satisfy their “obsession” with impeaching Trump. 

“The abuse of power is not by President Trump, it is by this body who is trying to produce this preconceived, preordained result,” he said. 

Lesko said Democrats have wanted to do this since the day Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

“Well folks, the Democrats have done what they set out to do. They’re going to impeach the president, come heck or high water,” Lesko said. 

She later called the impeachment effort “the most corrupt, rigged railroad job I’ve seen in my entire life.” 

Republicans on the committee also warned Democrats that the impeachment proceedings would help Trump keep the White House in the 2020 election and could help the GOP reclaim the House majority. 

“This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest, most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). He referred to the process as a “scorched earth strategy” by the Democrats and “hot garbage impeachment.” 

Gaetz added, “We’ll see you on the field in 2020.” 

Where are the courageous Republicans? 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who was a staffer to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon in 1974, pointed to Republican lawmakers who supported impeachment following the Watergate scandal. 

One of them was Rep. Lawrence J. Hogan Sr. – a Maryland Republican and the current governor’s father. “Unless Richard Nixon is removed from office and the disease of Watergate, which has sapped the vitality of our government, is purged from the body politic, government and politics will continue to be clouded by mistrust and suspicion,” Hogan said at the time, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Virginia Rep. Manley Caldwell Butler was another Republican who turned against the majority of his party to support Nixon’s impeachment, even though his own mother had warned him that a vote against the Republican president would spell political doom. 

“Dear Mother, you are probably right. However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me of the obligation which I have,” the congressman told her, according to The New York Times. He believed Nixon had lied and obstructed justice.

As the committee and the full House move toward what’s almost certain to be a highly partisan vote, Lofgren asked Wednesday, “Where are the Caldwell Butlers and Larry Hogans of today in the Republican Party?”