Just one day before the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, seized on the opportunity to defend her “yes” vote on impeachment during a virtual town hall with constituents.
The range of comments she received Monday spoke to how divisive her vote proved to be in the district — while some said they were “proud” of her decision, others condemned her. Herrera Beutler said she was happy to field criticism, including that of a man who said she should be removed from office for denying Trump due process.
“First of all, an impeachment trial is not the same as a criminal trial or civil suit … so when you talk about due process, it’s not the same thing,” she said. “He’ll have his day in court. Literally, it starts tomorrow.”
Herrera Beutler broke down impeachment proceedings into two components: the House’s vote on articles of impeachment, and the subsequent Senate trial, which is a process outside the criminal realm. Representatives’ votes to impeach, she said, are basically a question of whether there is enough information to investigate.
“And I would say, ‘hell yes, there’s something to investigate,’” she said.
Herrera Beutler was on the House floor during the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five dead after a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding in an attempt to halt the counting of electoral votes, which had been certified by all 50 states. The attack was preceded by a rally in which Trump told supporters to march to the capitol to “take back our country.”
“Leading up to the speech there were certainly calls for violence. There were calls to overthrow the process,” Herrera Beutler told listeners. “The president himself said things like ‘we’re never going to give up, we’ll never concede, it doesn’t happen, you don’t concede when theft’s involved.’”
But the sixth-term congresswoman said there’s room for debate around whether Trump’s words that day directly incited the insurrection. What’s more “damning,” she said, and indicative of the former president’s motives, was his inaction during the hours-long attack.
Herrera Beutler described Republicans calling for the commander-in-chief to step in to no avail. One heated conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump was “chilling,” Herrera Beutler said.
“He said ‘well, Kevin, I guess they’re just more upset about this election theft than you are,’” she said. “The president was basically saying ‘nah, I’m OK with this.’”
“Did he send anyone in to help? No. But he did place calls to senators while they were in lockdown. And you know what he said? He said ‘can you do something to further delay the electoral counting?’”
The inaction, she said, was a direct violation of Trump’s oath to protect the Constitution, considering the counting of electoral votes is “the actual Constitution in progress.”
“That’s as impeachable as it gets, in my books,” Herrera Beutler said.
The “final straw” for the Battle Ground Republican was a tweet Trump sent later that day which read “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
The tweet was taken down by Twitter, which later suspended Trump’s account permanently.
Herrera Beutler told listeners that the attack was a terrible personal experience, and that she’s “just sorry that my children had to see it.”
She also repeated her denunciation of baseless claims of widespread election fraud that underpinned the events of Jan. 6. She said she’s “shocked” at how many people “didn’t know the truth.”
“I think that’s on all of us elected leaders. I really do,” Herrera Beutler said. “I think we need to be honest with the people we serve and with the people in our own party.”
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick also joined Herrera Beutler during the town hall to field questions on vaccinations, many of which came from older constituents struggling to acquire a dose of the life-saving medicine.
While Melnick cited the state Department of Health’s hotline (1-800-525-0127), he also echoed what public health officials have been voicing across the state: that demand for the vaccine is simply outweighing supply.
To put it in context, Melnick said Clark County has more than 89,000 people now eligible for the vaccine due to their age. Yet the county is only receiving 1,500 to 5,000 doses each week. Plus, some people in the first phase of eligibility — health care workers and emergency responders — are still waiting for a dose.
But Melnick — who works with several counties in Southwest Washington — said he’s working with the state to learn more about allocation and potentially get more doses locked in for rural areas. He said Pacific County, for example, is seeing fewer doses than he would like considering how many older Washingtonians live there. Herrera Beutler said she’s also “going to bat with the governor’s office” to ensure equitable distribution.
To speed up vaccination across the state and country, Herrera Beutler also told constituents that she’s pushing to break off a chunk of a major COVID-19 relief bill stuck in Congress. Of the $1.9 trillion in the proposed stimulus bill, she said, $160 million specifically targets vaccine distribution and acquisition.
“So we’re just saying ‘pull that piece out and pass it now,’” she said. “We can’t wait.”