On the eve of a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, first-term Democratic lawmaker Jared Golden said he will support the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, giving a speech in Augusta this year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The 2nd District Lewiston lawmaker told reporters Tuesday he weighed what to do carefully before opting to back the president’s impeachment.

The House will consider two articles of impeachment Wednesday, one charging Trump abused his power trying to get Ukraine to help him smear a political rival and another for obstruction of justice for refusing to provide Congress with information it sought about the case. Golden said he will only vote for the first one.

“The House investigation clearly unearthed a pattern of evidence that demonstrates the corrupt intent on the part of the president, his personal lawyer, and members of his administration to leverage the powers of the presidency to damage a political opponent and strengthen the president’s reelection prospects,” Golden said in a statement prepared for the Congressional Record.

“Given that the sought-after investigation was solicited from a foreign government, the president’s actions are a realization of the Framers’ greatest fears: foreign corruption of our electoral process, and a president willing to leverage the powers of his office to benefit his own reelection. This action crossed a clear red line, and in my view, there is no doubt that this is an impeachable act,” the congressman said.

Golden’s decision to oppose the obstruction of justice charge makes him only the second Democrat to say he will not vote for both. The other, a New Jersey congressman, said he opposes both articles of impeachment and plans to switch parties.

During a call with reporters, Golden said Trump clearly engaged in “an orchestrated campaign” to smear former Vice President Joe Biden with assistance from a foreign country. That, he said, is one of the fears that caused the founders to include a provision to impeach the nation’s chief executive.

Golden mentioned that he had “expressed my concern that a partisan impeachment would further deepen the political divisions in this country” earlier this year, adding at the time, “The best recourse would be to rely on our electoral process to litigate our differences.”

But he has changed his mind.

“In this current moment, when the subject of the president’s actions has been to corrupt that very process, relying on the next election cannot be the solution,” Golden said.

Only two presidents have been impeached in the country’s history: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both survived trials in the Senate. Another, Richard Nixon, resigned as the House prepared to impeach him in 1974, short-circuiting the process by becoming the first American president to quit midway through a term.

Golden said making a decision “has not been easy for me” as he watched testimony, talked to people who experienced earlier impeachment proceedings, read the words of the nation’s founders and more.

“This weekend, I was still really weighing this,” he said, reaching a conclusion only in the past 24 hours.

Golden said he wound up deciding to oppose the obstruction charge because he does not believe the House exhausted all its avenues for securing the testimony and records it sought. Before jumping to impeachment, he said, it should have gone to court to seek judicial orders that Trump produce the desired evidence.

He said that if Trump refused to obey a judge’s order, he might make a different decision. As it is, he said, the obstruction charge isn’t justified.

In agreeing to back the impeachment effort, Golden shrugged off more than $325,000 in advertisements urging him to stand with Trump and ignored pleas from Republican foes to oppose Democratic moves to try oust the president.

Given that Trump won Golden’s district by a margin of 10 points in 2016, the congressman’s decision to support impeachment carries with it the likelihood that many constituents will be unhappy with his choice.

“Jared Golden is trying to have his cake and eat it, too, but voters in Maine know that he is choosing Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats’ unhinged caucus over his constituents,” said Nina McLaughlin, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “Golden’s political career is over, and voters won’t forget his cowardice come November.”

Golden shrugged off the possible political fallout.

“I can’t think of the politics of this,” he said. The legislator said he figures it is “almost a wash” between those who back his choice and those who disagree with it.

There are many Mainers in the mostly rural district who have prodded Golden to support the impeachment articles approved by the Judiciary Committee last week. Some have been urging him to impeach Trump since the time he arrived in Washington a year ago, the congressman said.

In a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, Trump wrote that “any member of Congress who votes in support of impeachment — against every shred of truth, fact, evidence and legal principle — is showing how deeply they revile the voters and how truly they detest America’s Constitutional order.”

Golden said he had not seen the letter, but it struck him as another example of the president “leveling threats” against politicians who fail to fall in line.

“This is how the president got himself into an impeachable situation,” Golden said, adding Trump keeps trying “to tee up and strengthen the odds of his own reelection.”

Golden also addressed criticism by some foes that the House should be focused on the nation’s business instead of going after the president.

He said the House Democrats have been churning out bills since the session began.

“We’ve continued to legislate,” Golden said, while the GOP-controlled Senate refuses to consider the bills and passes few of its own.

The House is scheduled to vote on the impeachment articles Wednesday. If approved, as expected, the Senate anticipates conducting a trial early in 2020 that would put Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, on the hot seat. It takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove an impeached president.

Golden, 37, won office last year in one of the closest congressional elections in the nation, besting two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin in the first federal race to use ranked-choice voting.

There are at least four Republicans vying for the chance to take on Golden next year, but Poliquin is not among them. He is caring for his ailing parents instead of seeking a rematch.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.