Georgians expected to follow parties in House impeachment inquiry vote

U.S. House members are set to vote Thursday on whether to formalize a Democratic impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The members of Georgia’s delegation are expected to stick to their parties’ positions.
U.S. House members are set to vote Thursday on whether to formalize a Democratic impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The members of Georgia’s delegation are expected to stick to their parties’ positions.

Georgia’s 14 U.S. House lawmakers have signaled they’re likely to stand with their parties Thursday when the chamber votes on whether to formalize Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The vote is one of the weightiest political decisions facing local officials ahead of the 2020 elections, and it’s likely to become a defining moment for freshman U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who’s running for re-election in a competitive suburban Atlanta district she flipped last year.

Lawmakers’ comments in interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution throughout the week suggest their opinions have only hardened since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in late September that the chamber would probe Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats want to determine whether he withheld U.S. foreign aid in exchange for an investigation into the family of Joe Biden, one of his top political rivals.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, is the only Georgian serving on the House Rules Committee, which discussed the proposal Wednesday. He said the Democratic Party is pushing forward with impeachment proceedings without having clear evidence of any crimes by the president.

“Historically, when we begin to talk about impeachment inquiries, the investigations have happened and the Judiciary Committee begins that process,” Woodall said. “The one who’s putting the cart before the horse is the one that thinks eight committees need to be investigating this because they haven’t dug up whatever the smoking gun is they were looking for.”

The resolution the full House of Representatives will consider Thursday morning will allow six committees to continue an investigation into Trump to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward with charges. Their findings will be shared with the Judiciary Committee, which can draft articles of impeachment or offer other recommendations for the full House to consider.

Thursday’s vote represents a shift for House Democrats, who until recently insisted they were not required to formally authorize the inquiry that has resulted in hearings, interviews and depositions.

During Tuesday's closed-doors hearing, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman provided testimony about the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Vindman, who listened in on the conversation, said that he was so troubled by the conversation he reported concerns to the National Security Council's lead attorney, according to an advance copy of his testimony.

Republicans have for weeks slammed Democrats for breaking from precedent set by impeachment proceedings against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. They framed this week’s vote as a messaging victory, but not one Georgia GOP official suggested he would vote to advance the measure.

“Too little, too late,” said. U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville. “Right now the process has been so tainted the American people don’t trust anything that’s coming out at this point.”

Georgia Democrats touted a recent federal ruling that said the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view grand jury materials from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, effectively ruling that the impeachment inquiry was legal.

The ruling, said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, “affirms the fact that there’s no requirement that we take a vote, but (Pelosi’s move to schedule a vote) is just a ratcheting up of what we’re doing in the eyes of the public.”

“If we can create more acceptance of this process by going this route, then that’s fine with me,” he said earlier this week.

On the campaign trail

Thursday’s vote will be a monumental one for McBath, the state’s most politically vulnerable U.S. House member. She narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Karen Handel last fall in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, a traditional GOP stronghold that’s become more politically competitive because of Trump.

McBath has taken a cautious approach to the debate.

As a junior member of the House Judiciary Committee, she voted earlier in September to formalize the parameters of the panel’s impeachment inquiry. But that vote was based on evidence presented in Mueller’s Russia report and came weeks before the public was aware of a whistleblower complaint flagging Trump’s conversation with Zelensky.

McBath initially declined to publicly join her freshman Democratic colleagues who forcefully called for an impeachment inquiry in response to the Ukrainian revelations, but her office later clarified that McBath supported the probe “to find the facts for the American people.”

She “continues to support the responsibility of this Congress to uncover the truth and defend the Constitution,” her office said last month in a statement that stopped well short of endorsing outright impeachment.

McBath has compared the impeachment inquiry process to her own quest for justice following her son’s murder.

"This is a process. And having gone through a process of 2 1/2 years trying to get justice for my son, processes are slow. Processes are tedious. And it takes a lot of time trying to get to the truth," she said at a September town hall. Her office declined to speak on the record about Thursday's vote.

McBath’s Republican opponents have slammed her for trying to ride the fence on the issue and repeated that she will pay for supporting impeachment in a district Trump narrowly carried three years ago.

One, political newcomer Marjorie Taylor Greene, attended a recent anti-impeachment protest outside McBath's Sandy Springs office and has circulated her own petition to impeach Pelosi as speaker. It's received more than 268,000 signatures.

Handel, who’s running for her former seat, circulated a fundraising notice Wednesday warning that “socialists” such as Pelosi and McBath “are continuing to put all of their time and energy into taking down President Trump,” and the House GOP’s campaign arm took its own pre-emptive strike at McBath, circulating recent polling suggesting impeachment is unpopular in swing states across the country.

McBath could have an even larger role in the impeachment process as a member of the Judiciary Committee tasked with drafting articles of impeachment, if necessary.

The politicking has also begun to shape Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races.

Incumbent Republican David Perdue staked out one of the Senate GOP’s most forceful positions on impeachment this week when he told Fox News’ Bret Baier that there’s “not a chance in hell” the Senate will vote to remove Trump from office and confirmed he’ll vote against any impeachment articles.

“I’ve seen the evidence. There’s nothing that rises to the level of impeachment,” Perdue said Monday. “This is a clear example of the continued obstructionism to try to undo a duly elected president from 2016.”

That drew a rebuke from some of his Democratic challengers. Media company owner Jon Ossoff proclaimed that Perdue “has no mind of his own.”

“Perdue’s obligation is to withhold judgment until evidence is presented in full,” Ossoff said. “But he’s one of Trump’s most servile underlings, so he’s already proclaimed the president innocent.”

Perdue’s forceful defense of Trump breaks from many of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, who have used their status as potential jurors in an impeachment hearing to avoid questions about the substance of the Ukraine allegations.

Both Isakson and Perdue, however, signed on to a resolution last week condemning House Democrats for refusing to tee up a full floor vote formally authorizing the investigation.

BALANCED COVERAGE

The debate over impeachment is divisive, and these types of controversial stories receive special treatment.

We always try to present as much information as possible so that readers can reach their own conclusions. To do that, we present multiple points of view.

Today’s story, for example, contains comments from Republicans and Democrats serving in Congress.

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