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Upton opposes 'highly partisan' bid to impeach Trump

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said Thursday he plans to reject articles of impeachment that are being drafted against President Donald Trump by U.S. House Democrats in a vote expected to take place next week. 

The House Judiciary Committee debated Thursday articles of impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to Trump's handling of foreign aid to the Ukraine. The Democratic-controlled committee is expected to approve the two articles, clearing the way for a vote of the full chamber before lawmakers leave Washington, D.C., for the holidays at the end of next week. 

FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2019 file photo, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., is seen at U.S. Capitol in Washington.  (Anna Moneymaker/Pool via AP)

Upton, who defeated Democratic political newcomer Matt Longjohn by 4 percentage points in 2018, said he will be voting no when the articles of impeachment come up before the full U.S. House. 

“Regrettably the impeachment process has become exactly what our great founding fathers warned us against," Upton said in a statement. "It has been highly partisan and clearly motivated by what I believe is an attempt to overturn the last election. I get it. Democrats aren’t happy with the result. But the time to vote on the next president is next November, not next week." 

Upton, Michigan's senior Republican, did not endorse Trump in 2016 and hasn't indicated whether he will in 2020. 

Upton's decision ensures all six Michigan House Republicans will oppose impeachment. Independent Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township has indicated he will back impeachment, while Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Elissa Slotkin of Holly and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills are undecided.

Trump is accused of holding up the congressionally approved aid on the condition that Ukraine leaders investigation former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge him in 2020, and son Hunter Biden, who worked on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma even though he had little energy industry experience. 

"The president’s behavior was wrongheaded, inappropriate and ill-advised, but was it impeachable? My answer is no," Upton said, noting that he also voted against the abuse of power article of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton in 1998. 

"Many times throughout history presidents have demanded executive privilege. The Constitution establishes an independent judiciary for a reason, to settle disputes between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch," he continued. "Since the courts have not ruled in this situation, obstruction of Congress is premature.

Upton voted for other articles of impeachment against Clinton. 

He urged lawmakers to seek a return to bipartisanship after the impeachment vote, which is expected to break along party lines. 

"After these votes, we need to work on bridging the partisan divide in this country. We can’t rewind; we need to reset," Upton said. "Together, we need to focus on what the American people really want us to focus on, solving problems that actually impact their lives.”

Democrats have made Upton one of their top targets for 2020 after he last year survived his closest election in decades. Likely Democratic opponent Jon Hoadley, a state representative from Kalamazoo, supports impeachment and criticized Upton's stance.

"Congressman Upton's remarks sound to me like someone who is walking away from his oath of office and trying to create a partisan smokescreen," Hoadley said in a statement. "... I think what President Trump did was wrong. Apparently, Congressman Upton does not."

klaing@detroitnews.com