A member of the press works in a corner of the Rayburn Reception Room in the Capitol in Washington as the House of Representatives takes up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.
Photo: Jason Andrew/The New York Times
Photo: Jason Andrew/The New York Times

Trump’s impeachment jolts Georgia 2020 politics

The swift political reaction to President Donald Trump’s impeachment reflected the deep partisan divide dominating politics in Georgia and offered a hint at how the issue will play out in the 2020 election. 

State Republicans brushed aside the impeachment charges as a “sham” and a “hoax” orchestrated by Democrats bent on ousting a president they couldn’t defeat at the ballot box. And Democrats framed their votes as a solemn stand for the U.S. Constitution, even if doing so could cause them political harm. 

The Georgia congressional delegation voted along party lines to make Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. All five Democrats voted for the two charges, including U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents one of the state’s most competitive districts. And all nine Republicans voted “no.” 

Meanwhile, a Georgia Senate resolution offered a reminder that impeachment politics will resonate down the ticket to state legislative races. A trio of Republican state senators pre-filed a resolution condemning the U.S. House for pursuing impeachment charges.

“The American people expect and deserve an efficient and hard-working federal government that is free of distracting bias and politically driven theatrics,” the resolution reads. 

The fight over impeachment roughly mirrors the partisan divide in Georgia. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in November found a majority of voters approve of the impeachment investigation but are more torn over whether he should be ousted from office. 

‘What did you do?’

As the tense debate over impeachment stretched late into the evening, Democrats spoke gravely about an outcome that seemed all but inevitable, mindful that the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict and remove him from office after a trial that could start in January. 

“Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta. “For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”

Echoing Trump, Republicans decried their counterparts as power-hungry politicians eager to distract from the president’s accomplishments. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, mocked the “mob rule” rush to impeach that he said could come back to haunt Democrats. 

“He is innocent, and these come nowhere close to proving it,” he said, later turning to Democrats in the chamber with a question: “What did you gain at the end by trashing the institution you claimed to love?”

McBath didn’t speak during the debate, but struck a mournful tone in an interview after the vote. She told the AJC that “God must truly be grieved by what is happening here” and prayed that the nation’s divides could be healed.

Her Republican opponent, former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, made clear that she’ll put McBath’s vote for impeachment at the center of her comeback bid. Her campaign sent out a late-night fundraising appeal with a succinct subject line: “It happened.” 

“Lucy McBath and her corrupt Democrat pals will stop at nothing to steal the 2020 election,” read Handel’s note. “Georgia supports President Trump and we will not let that happen.”

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