Democrats running in NJ mixed on Trump impeachment question
What's at stake in next week's election? Perhaps whether President Donald Trump keeps his job.
The midterm election will determine whether Trump continues to have a Republican-led Congress or whether the Democrats take over the House and — perhaps in a long shot, according to polls — the Senate. Several closely contested races in New Jersey could help determine whether Trump is at risk of impeachment.
Since Trump took office more than a year and a half ago, several congressmen and candidates have come out in favor of impeachment, the first step in the removal of a president from office.
Other candidates are either strong supporters of the president or are waiting to see the results of the investigation into whether he colluded with Russia to fix his election victory.
At least one article of impeachment against Trump has been introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives, but that was tabled almost as quickly as it was introduced. The article was introduced for "high misdemeanors committed as President constituting harm to American society to manifest injury of the people of the United States." Out of the seven Democratic members of Congress from New Jersey, four voted against having the measure tabled. Those five members were Democrats Donald Norcross, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne and Bonnie Watson Coleman — all of whom are seeking re-election in solidly Democratic districts.
The impeachment debate is a topic of discussion in one of the races being most closely watched. The New Jersey Globe reported that state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, has said he would not vote to impeach recently sworn in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. His Republican opponent in the 2nd District, Seth Grossman, has warned voters that electing Van Drew would lead to Democrats kicking Kavanaugh and Trump out of office.
"If Democrats regain control of Congress and Van Drew wins this election, they not only would vote to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, but also to impeach President Trump. In his own words, at the end of the day, Van Drew stands with his party. The Trump voters in this district cannot allow that to happen," Grossman said in a statement.
Over the course of his campaign, Grossman has aligned himself with the "Make America Great Again" slogan, but his social media posts and comments have led to the national Republican campaign committee to pull its support of his candidacy in a district currently held by a Republican.
Another hotly contested race is between U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur and his Democratic challenger Andy Kim in the 3rd District. While MacArthur has closely aligned himself with the president, including holding a fundraiser at the Trump golf course in Bedminster and being the only congressman from the state to vote for Trump's tax plan, he said Kim would do the opposite.
"We don't need a House that's obsessed with impeachment. We need pragmatism," MacArthur said during a recent forum covered by WHYY.
A report in The Atlantic said that while candidates like Kim have been vocal critics of the president they are hesitant to call for impeachment from outside of the Capitol. That sentiment was echoed by Democrat Tom Malinowski who is running against U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance in another tight race in the 7th District.
"I think it's a mistake to talk about impeachment before the evidence is in," he told NorthJersey.com. "In our system, impeachment has to be seen as the patriotic, not the partisan, thing to do."
Mikie Sherrill, the Democrat running in the 11th district, was also hesitant to call for impeachment in a statement she released to NorthJersey.com.
"As a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office, I know that we considered legal proceedings only after law enforcement had finished collecting evidence and presented their findings," she said. "Congress should support Special Counsel Robert Muller's investigation and allow him to finish his work."
One Democrat who has not come out in favor of impeachment of the president is U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, who told the New Jersey Herald that calls to have Trump removed from office, especially before the elections happened, are "irresponsible."
"I think if the Democrats win the House on Election Day, it's going to be by a very narrow margin — and i think if the Republicans win, it will be narrow as well," he told the paper. "And if there is (a move toward impeachment), things have to be based on facts. Until then to make any claim about what we're going to do is just irresponsible."
In a video shared on the New Brunswick Patch, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, said he did not believe it was a time to focus on impeachment.
Pallone said he was focusing instead on "other issues that are important in terms of the economy and healthcare."
"I am concerned that President Trump keeps doing things that come very close to impeachment offense," he said. "He's gotta stop all the divisiveness."
Back in May, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J. 8th District, said if it was proven that Trump had "tried to influence an independent investigation" by asking former FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, that "could be an impeachable offense."
"These reports raise serious questions about President Trump's ability to understand and uphold the duties of his office," Sires said.
U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J. 12th District, who has been a vocal critic of the president, has also introduced a resolution to censure him after saying that there was 'blame on both sides," and some "very fine people," involved in white nationalist marches in Charlotttesville, Virginia, last year.
"If the executive branch refuses to accept facts and truth, Congress has a responsibility to take the lead and be on record unequivocally standing against all forms of terrorism and hate," she told NJ.com.
Watson Coleman also hosted one of the leaders of the impeachment movement, and one of President Trump's favorite political targets, at a luncheon last year. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was the guest of honor at Watson Coleman's annual Women's Power Luncheon, according to the Huffington Post. At the time, Waters was holding an Impeach 45 Tour.
If the House does move forward with impeachment in the next Congress or beyond, one key part of New Jersey's congressional history will be missing from that effort. It would mark the first time that a Frelinghuysen from New Jersey was not in Congress at the time of an impeachment.
The New York Times reported that retiring U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. 11th District, would have been the latest member of his political dynasty to face such a vote. He voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. Almost a quarter century earlier, his father, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, called for President Richard Nixon to resign. And more than a century before that, then-U.S. Sen. Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen voted to convict the already impeached President Andrew Johnson.
"We've been around a long time," Frelinghuysen told the Times.
In addition to the House races across the state, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is also facing a growing challenge from Republican pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin. If any articles of impeachment pass the house, Trump would then be put on trial by the Senate. A conviction requires a vote of two thirds of the Senate, and any conviction of the president results in him being removed from office.
Only two presidents have ever been tried by the Senate, with both Johnson and Clinton acquitted by the Senate . President Richard Nixon resigned before the House could vote on impeachment.