One of the few Democrats in the U.S. House who hasn’t taken sides on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, said Wednesday he will vote in favor of the proposed rules to govern the process.

Golden said he has not made any decision about whether Trump ought to be impeached.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District Photo by Eric Connolly

The vote to establish rules is on tap for a House vote Thursday and would mark the first time that lawmakers have explicitly endorsed the inquiry into Trump’s alleged effort to squeeze Ukraine to investigate the son of one of his Democratic rivals. The issue has gathered a considerable amount of testimony from administration insiders who have undermined the White House position that the president merely sought to combat corruption.

Golden, who represents one of the most pro-Trump districts held by a Democrat, said his concern all along has been about process.

The resolution laying out the rules for the inquiry will guarantee public hearings and allow Trump’s lawyers to ask questions, he said. It is “all about process,” the first-term legislator said, and what it calls for is fair to everyone, including the public.

All three of the Republicans who hope to unseat him next year said Golden is making the wrong call. The Republican National Committee’s spokesperson, Nina McLaughlin, said, “Coming from a district that overwhelmingly supports our President, Golden’s choice to abandon his district will have Mainers abandoning him at the polls in 2020.”

A statement by four House Democratic leaders this week said the evidence “we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election.”

As a result, they said, “the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct.”

Maine’s other House member, Democrat Chellie Pingree in the 1st Congressional District, said, “The evidence that has already been made public draws a picture of a president who believes he is above the law and has put his personal political and financial gain above the nation’s interests. ”

“The gravity of the committees’ findings should be aired in open hearings so that Americans can hear the sworn testimony of witnesses and fully understand the evidence upon which the articles of impeachment would be drafted,” she said Wednesday, adding that she will also vote “for the clear and transparent impeachment procedures” called for in the resolution.

Golden, who lives in Lewiston, said Republicans have complained about the closed-door depositions and other aspects of the inquiry. He said he listened to their concerns and is glad the proposed rules address the issues raised by critics.

Golden said the rules offer more to Trump than the House gave to either of two former presidents who faced impeachment in modern times, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned in 1974 shortly before a near-certain vote for impeachment while Clinton was impeached in 1998. The Senate, though, did not vote to convict him.

Though he endorsed going ahead with the inquiry, Golden isn’t necessarily on board for impeachment.

“I have not predetermined any kind of vote for articles of impeachment,” he said, adding that it’s possible there won’t be any.

“I am not anywhere near making a commitment,” Golden said, but he’s eager to hear the testimony and learn more about what lawmakers involved in the inquiry find out. He said the testimony that has been released raises concerns but there is more to discover.

“We’ll see what these individuals have to say,” he said, when they’re questioned in public by both Democrats and Republicans.

In addition, Golden said, there is still “a greater discussion to be had about what to do about” whatever the inquiry determines Trump did. It’s not clear whether the actions should lead to impeachment, he said.

For now, though, setting the rules is “an important in regard to having a good process.”

Golden has grown more critical of Trump recently.

In a speech to Piscataquis County Democrats this month, he said that demeaning comments by the president about former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, left him “boiling a little bit inside” because the president should not “trash” a top military leader who has served the country well.

Golden, a Marine Corps veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Trump’s slur “reveals the lie that comes out of many peoples’ mouths when they say they respect those who serve.”

Golden is up for re-election next year. Three Republicans are vying for the chance to challenge him: Adrienne Bennett, a former press secretary to Gov. Paul LePage; Eric Brakey, a former state senator from Auburn; and Dale Crafts, a former state lawmaker from Lisbon. They’ll face off in a June primary.

Bennett said the inquiry, begun a month ago, “has been a kangaroo court from the beginning. The Democrats are now trying to legitimize a political fishing expedition that’s been tainted from the start. Mainers deserve a member of Congress who will stand up to leadership and reject this witch hunt.”

She said she is “not surprised by how he intends to vote. I’m sure he received the order to fall in line and once again is happy to do so.”

Crafts said Golden “is tiptoeing around this impeachment political game that’s happening in Washington.”

He said the resolution “is not only an attack on President Trump, it’s an attack on his pro-economy, pro-jobs and pro-growth policies” and called for Golden to work with Trump instead of against him.

Brakey said that “after weeks of sticking his finger in the air, Jared finally sides with obstructionist Democrats instead of the Maine people.”

He said that Golden moving forward with impeachment now is “political posturing that does nothing to benefit everyday Mainers,” particularly since “Mainers and Americans can decide for ourselves next November whether to keep Donald Trump.”

On the other hand, some progressives are happy that Golden has signed on for the inquiry.

Marie Follayttar, director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said her group is grateful the congressman “is now calling for an open and public impeachment inquiry so that the evidence can be investigated.”

“It is now up to members of the House and Senate to decide if it’s acceptable for a president to use the withdrawal of military aid to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political rival,” she said.

Golden won his seat last year in one of the closest House races in the country, defeating two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin. Poliquin opted not to seek a rematch because he wanted to spend time helping his elderly, ailing parents.


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