“Do you trust him to protect us?” Hampton Roads’ congressional delegation displays strong feelings about votes on impeachment.
When the impeachment of Bill Clinton landed on his desk 22 years ago as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, called a political scientist at U.Va. with a question: what were the grounds, really, for impeachment?
“He said, ‘You’re asking the wrong question,’” Scott recalled, pausing for a few moments before headed to the House of Representatives’ chamber to vote to impeach Donald J. Trump for the second time.
“He said, ‘the question is, why is impeachment in the Constitution?,’ and the reason is it’s there is for when you can’t wait till the next election or the end of a term to remove someone,” Scott said.
After the attack on the Capitol that followed Trump’s fiery speech to supporters at a rally next to the White House, Scott said the United States can’t wait.
“He’s got the nuclear button. .. Who else is he going to pardon to cover up his crimes ... Who’s going to be responsible for security at the inauguration? Donald J. Trump. He’s not going to be there, he’s got no personal interest. Do you trust him to protect us?” Scott said.
Scott doesn’t. And a big reason why is Jan. 6.
“You’ve got to ask, where was the National Guard, where was law enforcement, they had plenty of warning ... the Norfolk FBI said they had intelligence that people were ready to make war,” Scott said.
“The facts are clear ... Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican, said the president summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. She said everything that followed was his doing,” Scott said.
Several members of the House and Senators “were within seconds of being captured by that mob,” Scott said.
He said Vice President Mike Pence, who some mob members yelled they wanted to hang, “got clear with five minutes to spare .... did you see those photos of that noose?”
Scott thinks there are other acts for which Trump could be impeached, ranging from his attempt to coerce Georgia officials to overturn results of the election in that state to violation of the emoluments clause which bars federal officials from accepting money or gifts from foreign governments.
But he said the evidence that Trump incited an insurrection when he urged his supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building can’t be denied, and allows for exactly the urgent removal of an official that the Constitution’s impeachment clause intends.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, whose district includes the Middle Peninsula and part of James City County, was among the 197 Republicans who voted against impeachment.
Wittman said his vote “in no way means I agree with the president’s actions and statements leading up to the storming and illegal entry of the Capitol building.”
He said voted against because “I believe impeaching the lame-duck President before the peaceful transition of power occurs will only further inflame emotions and further divide the Nation.”
Ten Republicans and 222 Democrats voted to impeach Trump. No Democrats voted against.
“The first thought that comes to mind is, it’s a very sad state or very sad place to be for our country,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Norfolk.
She said Trump’s incitement “happened in broad daylight on national TV, as he encouraged the group of people gathered, who then turned into rioters to go to the Capitol, to stand up for an election that he lost and to cause violence.”
Luria said several Republican House members said they know voting for impeachment is the right thing to do and “are truly struggling,” but “they fear for their lives, they fear for their family’s lives.”
“President Trump has violated his oath of office and in doing so endangered put countless Americans at risk, endangered our Republic and threatened our national security,” said Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, whose district includes most of Chesapeake and Suffolk.
“He is unfit to lead the United States for even a day longer,” because of his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, McEachin said.
Sen. Mark Warner said he supports removing the president from office but preferred invoking the 25th Amendment.
“Having been on the floor of the senate on January 6 and seeing these thugs take over the capital who clearly had been incited to this action by Donald Trump, there has to be consequences,” Warner said. ”People are calling for unity and healing ... before you can move to unity and healing, there has to be some level of consequences for actions.”
Warner questioned why the country wasn’t more prepared for the riot.
”I was told by the FBI, literally last Tuesday night, the day before the insurrectionists arrived, that they had everything under control,” he said. ”Why didn’t we have more intelligence?” Warner asked.