How Colorado’s House Reps Got To Their Positions On Trump Impeachment

December 17, 2019
Colorado's delegation to the House of Representatives, left to right, Ken Buck, R, Democrats Jason Crow and Diana DeGette, Republican Doug Lamborn, Democrats Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter and Republican Scott Tipton.Colorado's delegation to the House of Representatives, left to right, Ken Buck, R, Democrats Jason Crow and Diana DeGette, Republican Doug Lamborn, Democrats Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter and Republican Scott Tipton.Photos: Associated Press, CPR News and U.S. House
Colorado's delegation to the House of Representatives, left to right, Ken Buck, R, Democrats Jason Crow and Diana DeGette, Republican Doug Lamborn, Democrats Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter and Republican Scott Tipton.

The seven members of Colorado’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation will cast historic votes Wednesday on whether to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.

Looking back, it now seems the vote was inevitable. As with past impeachments, there has been a strong partisan tinge to the debate. 

The state’s three Republican representatives were clear from the start that nothing they’ve seen or read about the president's conduct amounts to an impeachable offense.

Rep. Doug Lamborn said he hasn’t seen a quid pro quo. And Rep. Ken Buck, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said, “This isn’t impeachable conduct and that’s the real problem.”

One of the arguments Republicans have made is that the whole impeachment process is politically motivated and Democrats have had it out for Trump since the day he took office.

That hasn’t been the case for Colorado's democratic members. During an October 2018 debate, then-candidate Jason Crow said he’d hold the administration accountable but didn’t support impeachment. 

“I don’t want any president to fail. Cause we’re talking about the president of the United States,” he said at the time. “And if a president fails the country will suffer as a result of it.”

Back then, many Democrats just called for investigations. A year ago, Rep. Diana DeGette wasn't talking about Ukraine. She wanted to see Trump’s tax returns, as well as investigate Trump’s executive actions and rules. 

“We need to be responsible. We need to be respectful. But we need to issue those subpoenas,” she had said.

Then Rep.-elect Joe Neguse echoed her sentiment in a Nov. 25, 2018, MSNBC interview. “The 115th Congress really abdicated its constitutional duties of oversight. And I think the next Congress needs to be prepared to do the opposite.”

The one Colorado Democrat who supported impeachment well before the Mueller report and the Ukraine call is actually no longer in the House — that was Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

It might feel like the nation has been talking about impeachment for years, but it was really only after Democrats took control of the House in 2018 that the shadow of impeachment loomed large. By late spring of 2019, the Mueller report was out and the White House then barred administration officials from appearing before Congress. Neguse said the pursuit of impeachment was about Congress’ constitutional responsibility.

“I understand that some folks want to make this into a political argument, but for me, it’s tied far more to the fundamental nature of our republic and protecting the rule of law, protecting the electoral process,” he said.

In July 2019, an impeachment resolution made it to the House floor. That early vote showed a split among Colorado Democrats on starting the impeachment process. 

Both Neguse and DeGette supported the resolution. DeGette said an impeachment inquiry was overdue. But Reps. Jason Crow and Ed Perlmutter voted to table the resolution.  

It was only when the whistleblower complaint about the President’s Ukraine call came to light in September that Perlmutter changed his position. He told CPR’s Colorado Matters that his journey to impeachment followed much the same path as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's.

“The effort to bribe a foreign government with aid that the Congress had already appropriated to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia,” Perlmutter said. “I think for her, too, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Trump’s withholding of aid to Ukraine was also a breaking point for Crow. He led a group of moderate freshmen Democrats with national security backgrounds to write a September op-ed about the dangers of the president's alleged actions.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about making sure the president didn’t abuse his authority and in the process of doing that put our national security at risk,” he said.

On Sunday, Crow became the last Colorado Democrat to publicly declare his support for the articles of impeachment. It ensures a party-line vote for the delegation — one that is likely to reflect the larger House split on the issue. If articles are approved, it sets up a 2020 trial in the Senate and a shift in state attention to Sens. Michael Bennet, a presidential candidate, and Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Republican up for re-election.