U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has weighed in on last week’s developments regarding a whistleblower complaint and impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, saying that based on what was known then, she doesn’t see the allegations as meeting the threshold to remove the commander in chief from office.
Herrera Beutler responded to questions regarding a whistleblower complaint that alleges Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating a company that Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, was involved in.
An unclassified version of the complaint was released by the House Intelligence Committee last week. It details a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky that the whistleblower alleges constituted a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of law or Executive Order.” The unnamed whistleblower wrote that Trump pressured Zelensky into investigating Biden, among other suggestions the whistleblower felt were made to “advance (the president’s) personal interests.”
Herrera Beutler acknowledged that the allegations were “serious” but based on information available last week — a memorandum detailing the call and the complaint — “the allegations remain unproven,” she said.
Herrera Beutler said Trump “did not demonstrate great judgment” during the phone call, which according to the whistleblower complaint was listened in on by about a dozen White House officials. But she said the bar set for a member of Congress was whether the president committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not simply a judgment call.
“I’m focused on whether or not the president coerced Ukraine to influence the 2020 election by threatening to withhold aid to that country,” Herrera Beutler wrote to The Reflector, referring to reports that Trump had directed officials to be slow on giving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine around the time of the July call.
“Asking a country to investigate and root out corruption or election interference is not a crime in itself, even if the investigation may involve your political opponents,” Herrera Beutler wrote.
Herrera Beutler also addressed whistleblower allegations that White House officials attempted to restrict access of a transcript of the call by putting it into a data system designed for material of an “especially sensitive nature.”
The congresswoman said “we absolutely should find out if (an attempt to conceal the call) happened and who may be involved,” though given that Trump made the statements with about a dozen staffers listening in, “it would be premature to rush to declare that the president took part” in any efforts to hide the call’s existence.
The whistleblower complaint was released following a call by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin an impeachment inquiry against Trump, a process Herrera Beutler also addressed.
“Impeachment is one of the most serious responsibilities of my job under the Constitution. We know it’s also incredibly disruptive and polarizing,” Herrera Beutler wrote.
The congresswoman pointed to the attention and resources impeachment would take, noting it would shift focus away from issues she has addressed during her work in the House, such as prescription drug prices, economic growth and care for veterans.
“These priorities haven’t gone anywhere, but it will be that much harder to advance solutions to them if we’re spending our days locked in impeachment proceedings,” Herrera Beutler wrote.