Nine of Washington’s 10 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including two Republicans, voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, after a mob, incited by Trump, stormed the Capitol last week, leaving five people dead.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, joined all seven Democratic House members from Washington state in supporting impeachment.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, was the sole “no” vote on impeachment in Washington’s congressional delegation.
McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse both signed on to a legal brief in December seeking to overturn the election results in four states won by President-elect Joe Biden, but both voted to certify the election results last week.
“A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation’s capital,” Newhouse wrote Wednesday. “It is also a vote to condone President Trump’s inaction. He did not strongly condemn the attack nor did he call in reinforcements when our officers were overwhelmed. Our country needs a leader, and President Trump failed to fulfill his oath of office.”
Newhouse was the first Republican to speak on the House floor in favor of impeachment. He faulted Democrats for not speaking out about things like the clash at the Seattle police’s East Precinct last summer, and said “others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner.”
He was followed soon after on the floor by Herrera Beutler.
“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” she said. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
In total, 10 Republican representatives voted to impeach Trump.
McMorris Rodgers said Trump “showed a complete lack of leadership in the face of an attack on the U.S. government,” but, she said, it was not impeachable.
“The Article presented before the House centers around whether President Trump’s words directly incited the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol last week,” she wrote, shortly after her “no” vote. “Based on my assessment of constitutionally protected speech, I do not believe his words constitute an incitement of violence as laid out in Supreme Court precedent.”
She faulted Democrats but also said, “Trump supporters like me” have turned “a blind eye to arrogant, prideful, and bullying behavior.”
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said he voted to impeach President Trump “because he is a clear and present danger to the country.”
“History will judge the president harshly” Larsen said. “Regardless of whether the president is removed before the end of his term, both he and the domestic terrorists he inspired will be held accountable.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, tested positive for coronavirus after the attack on the Capitol, blaming Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks when they were in lockdown. She said it was “indisputable that Donald Trump incited insurrectionists.”
“We must send a clear message to the president that the United States Congress and the American people will not stand by and allow one man to turn our democracy into an autocracy,” Jayapal said. “That we will not stand by while that man incites insurrectionists to launch a deadly assault on our country.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, said “the president called for this seditious attack” and then refused “to call off the mob when it became violent.”
“The President’s actions show his absolute ineptitude and inability to perform the most basic and fundamental duties of his office,” Smith wrote. “With just a matter of days left in his term, President Trump has demonstrated he remains an unpredictable threat to peace and our democracy.”
Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Tacoma, called Trump a “clear and present threat.”
“Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection against the Congress, violating his oath, and we took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” Strickland, newly elected in November, told The Seattle Times after her vote. “He was trying to overturn the results of a legitimate 2020 election and sadly, people lost their lives, a lot of people were hurt. I felt a duty and responsibility to uphold the oath that I took and that’s why I voted to impeach.”
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said the president was “manifestly unfit for office.”
“He should absolutely be removed from office,” said Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish. “This isn’t about politics. This is about protecting our democracy.”
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, said they supported impeachment and removing the president from office. It will take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict Trump and remove him from office or bar him from holding office in the future. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that the Senate trial would not begin until next week, after Biden’s inauguration.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, wrote that “The sitting president of the United States undeniably incited the deadly events of January 6. He summoned his supporters and urged them to attack.”
She commended Republicans who supported impeachment for having “the courage to put country above partisanship in this moment.”
For Herrera Beutler, her vote represents the culmination of a seesaw relationship with the president. In 2016, she said she couldn’t vote for Trump, her party’s nominee, after he was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. But she changed her mind in 2020 and supported Trump’s reelection.
Last week, immediately after the mob stormed the Capitol, Herrera Beutler said: “My guy didn’t win in November, he lost the election and I hated that, but in four years there’ll be another election if we reject this despicable violence.”
Then, on Tuesday night, she forcefully condemned Trump, saying he “incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power.”
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Herrera Beutler’s statement on impeachment had drawn more than 2,700 responses on Twitter. They included some attacks from Republicans in her district, and sniping from Democrats who wondered why she did not fully break with Trump earlier. But many of the tweets expressed gratitude, including from Democrats in her southwest Washington District.
“I may have voted against you in November but I want to say thank you for standing up for American values in this crisis,” wrote Joe Igla, who is listed in state records as a registered voter from Vancouver. “There is no healing without accountability.”
For Newhouse, whose district through a vast swath of Central Washington supported Trump by big margins in 2016 and 2020, there could be political blowback.
A fruit grower from Yakima County, Newhouse was first elected to represent the district in 2014, when he fended off a strong general election opponent, Clint Didier, a farmer who ran as a conservative Tea Party Republican.
Didier, currently a Franklin County commissioner, on Wednesday denounced Newhouse’s vote as a “betrayal” of constituents. “My phone has been ringing off the hook,” Didier said. “They are very upset. I have never seen so much anger.”
Joshua Freed, who lost campaigns for both governor and lieutenant governor last year and now chairs the King County Republican Party, condemned the votes of Herrera Beutler and Newhouse.
“By only standing up to violence or extremism when political convenient, their actions today only help continue the violent socialist destruction of our cities,” Freed wrote.
Ron Dotzauer, a longtime Democratic political operative, predicted Herrera Beutler’s stance in favor of impeachment could solidify backing from independents in her district.
“Newhouse has more vulnerability than she does,” Dotzauer said. “Both of them were gutsy. But if I wanted to rank them on who had the tougher pill, he is in a tougher district.”
The Washington state Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment.
Tina Podlodowski, chair of the state Democratic Party, had backhanded praise for Newhouse and Herrera Beutler, for, she said, “finally demonstrating some semblance of a conscience by joining their Democratic colleagues in holding the president accountable for his actions.”
“We wish they had done so before the violence inspired by the president they enabled for four years literally arrived on their doorstep,” Podlodowski wrote. “As for Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, there are no words strong enough to condemn the rank cowardice she has shown throughout Trump’s presidency and her refusal to confront the effect of enabling such violent rhetoric should surprise no one.”
Staff writers Jim Brunner and Maya Leshikar contributed to this report.