WASHINGTON — The advancing impeachment process represents potentially fraught political territory for Democrats in Nebraska and Iowa.
President Donald Trump still has his share of supporters in the region, after all, and even some who aren’t his biggest fans would prefer Congress to focus instead on policy matters.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb issued a brief statement Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that articles of impeachment will be drafted.
“As impeachment papers are written to hold President Trump accountable for corrupt behavior that puts our national security at risk, we look to our members of Congress to put aside their partisan loyalty for the good of the Republic,” Kleeb wrote.
Leading House Democrats say they had no choice but to proceed with impeachment given the president’s actions, saying he withheld U.S. military assistance in an effort to pressure Ukraine into besmirching a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The White House and Republican defenders on Capitol Hill have characterized the Democrats’ evidence as circumstantial or have simply said the president’s moves were a justified effort to root out corruption.
Thus far, Nebraska’s all-GOP House delegation has stood behind with Trump in resisting impeachment.
Rep. Don Bacon has repeatedly said that while the president acted unwisely, his conduct does not rise to the level of impeachment. The Omaha-area congressman reiterated that Thursday.
“I don’t think a law was broken,” he said. “I don’t think it was impeachable.”
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Kara Eastman and Ann Ashford are among the Democrats vying to face Bacon on the ballot next year, along with Morgann Freeman and Gladys Harrison.
Eastman said Trump needs to go.
“This is a solemn day,” Eastman said in a statement Thursday. “There should be no celebration for the need to impeach the President. I have always said that I respect the office of the President. The problem America faces now is that Donald Trump does not respect the office.”
Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine amount to bribery and extortion, she said.
“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” Eastman said.
Ashford, on the other hand, said that drafting articles of impeachment makes sense but that she wants to read the fine print before deciding whether she would vote for them.
“Like every Nebraskan I talk to, we’re watching this, and I think we want to move forward and move past this,” she said. “I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t find this incredibly sad, that we are in this place. But we all want to move forward, we want to get to a resolution and we want to get back to the business of the country.”
Ashford described that position as a “measured” approach.
“I don’t think this is a time for hysterics or knee-jerk reactions,” she said. “I think that’s what gets us into trouble every single time. I don’t think it’s a time for partisanship.”
Rep. Cindy Axne represents southwest Iowa, including Council Bluffs, and is among the Democrats who flipped a swing district in 2018 and helped deliver the House to her party.
Those members are in the spotlight now when it comes to impeachment.
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, released a statement Thursday casting impeachment as an attempt by Democrats to undo the 2016 presidential election results.
“Instead of working for their constituents, they are kowtowing to Nancy Pelosi and her blatantly partisan attempt to kick our duly-elected president out of office,” he said.
Axne did not respond to a World-Herald request for comment. She did issue a press release Thursday that did not address impeachment but instead called on her party’s leaders to take action on a new North American trade agreement.
Democrat Chris Janicek is running for his party’s nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Ben Sasse in 2020.
While Sasse has criticized Trump’s conduct in regard to Ukraine, the senator has also referred to the House’s impeachment inquiry as a “partisan clown show.”
Janicek welcomed Pelosi’s announcement and highlighted her talk about guarding against “king-presidents.”
Janicek said the situation is not about particular policy preferences but rather upholding the rule of law.
“While Trump’s popularity is good in Nebraska, his presidency can NOT be allowed to continue under the cloud of a man who operates beyond and outside the best interests of our country,” Janicek said.