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Michigan reps split on impeachment as Dems push to remove Trump

Washington — Seven Michigan lawmakers were among 213 Democrats who introduced an article of impeachment Monday in the U.S. House charging President Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his part in the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol last week. 

As Democratic leaders rushed to set up an impeachment vote for Wednesday, freshman Michigan Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer of the Grand Rapids indicated it was something he was "strongly considering at this point." 

"What we saw on Wednesday left the president unfit for office," Meijer told WXMI-TV. 

Other Republican lawmakers warned the effort would needlessly whip up emotions across the country again and prompt possible additional demonstrations. GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton told WJR-AM (760) on Monday that the impeachment effort is "just done out of bitterness by a speaker who wants to extract one last pound of flesh.”

Walberg said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was only advancing the impeachment push in a bid to be the first speaker to impeach a sitting president twice. By the time the process is complete, he said, the president would have a week left in office.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Flint Township Democrat, said even if the process is drawn out or a conviction occurs after Trump has left the White House, it is important for lawmakers to exercise the authority they have to "rein in a rogue presidency." 

"The fact that we will say to the world that we don't tolerate this, and we won't tolerate this person ever allowing his shadow to glance upon the doorstep of the American government again," Kildee said Monday on CNN. "That's an important statement that I think has to be made even if it takes months."

House Republicans on Monday blocked a measure calling on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to remove him under the 25th Amendment, setting up a Tuesday night vote on the resolution. 

Democratic leaders indicated they would give Pence one day after passing the resolution to take action, but in the meantime, they intended to proceed on a parallel path toward impeachment. 

"Last week, there were indications that the vice president didn't want to go in that direction, but it is correct that he has never taken it off the table," U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, told CNN Monday, noting she prefers the 25th Amendment route to Trump's removal from office.

"There’s a lot of damage that could be done (by Trump) over the next 10 days. The vice president has the very serious responsibility to make sure there is no further harm to this country."

The currently Republican-controlled Senate does not come back into session until Jan. 19, but Democrats are poised to take over after Georgia's two new Democratic senators are seated and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in, tipping the scales in a chamber tied 50-50.

'This is a catalytic moment'

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, said Trump had proven himself a threat and a danger to the republic and must be removed.

"We are in a moment of crisis, a national security crisis, and we need to use the tools in our toolbox to exercise our Constitution and to bring some calm," Stevens told CNN. “This is a catalytic moment in which we need to act quickly and expeditiously."

A violent, pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol building on Wednesday, ransacking offices and forcing lawmakers and staffers into hiding for hours until law enforcement regained control. 

A Capitol police officer died after engaging with rioters, and Capitol police fatally shot a woman as intruders attempted to break into the House chamber. Three others died from medical emergencies during the chaos. 

The rioters, who were encouraged by Trump, descended as Congress was counting the Electoral College votes and confirming President-elect Joe Biden's win.

Walberg echoed comments from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, on Monday, saying the "president touched a hot stove last Wednesday, and I don't think he'll touch it again."

Lawmakers later reconvened and voted to ratify Biden's victory in the wee hours of Thursday over the objections of GOP lawmakers to certain disputed states' election results.

Walberg, along with Michigan Reps. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet and Lisa McClain of Bruce Township, were among roughly 150Republicans who voted against certifying electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Walberg told WJR he'd cast his vote again to object in order to address unproven claims of election fraud. A deeper investigation, he said, would allow the country to avoid the appearance of a "banana republic" in the future.

Still, Walberg said he accepts the final election results and will be at Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

"This is what America does, and we do it every four years, whether we like it or not," Walberg said. "We still are Americans, and we need to move forward.”

Adding to division

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, said with so few days to go before Biden's inauguration, "it’s hard for me to see how impeachment will do anything but further divide our nation."

"There are election reforms that need to be enacted. We must finish our fight against COVID-19 by protecting Americans and reversing its effects on our economy," Huizenga said on Facebook.

"Impeachment proceedings will derail these objectives, deepen divides and make unifying our nation even more difficult if not impossible."

McClain, a pro-Trump lawmaker in office just one week, is opposed to impeachment. 

“I am focused on moving forward and a peaceful transition of power. I believe in the Constitution, and now that the election has been certified, it is time to accept a new administration," McClain said in a Monday statement.

"Impeachment only incites division. I will do my part to ensure that the policies implemented by President Trump including lower taxes, less regulation and free market principles last beyond his presidency and continue to benefit Michiganders.”

McClain said in a later Detroit News interview that she will attend Biden's inauguration, whether in person or virtually due to any COVID restrictions.

“I think that’s the respectful thing to do. I respect the office of the president,” she said, adding she wishes Trump would also attend.

“I wish (Trump) would go, but it’s not my call. That’s his call,” McClain said. “I have to do what I believe in my heart of hearts is the right thing to do. If I truly want healing, if I truly want progress, if I truly want to be able to focus on issues like the debt, like jobs and the economy, I think it starts with coming to the table with some respect.”

Over the weekend, Meijer sharply criticized some of his colleagues for failing to own responsibility for the violence that had occurred.

"While a dead woman’s blood dried mere feet from our chamber, other Republican colleagues doubled down, repeating lies of a stolen election, baselessly deflecting blame for the Capitol assault from Trump loyalists to Antifa, doing whatever they could to justify, equivocate, rationalize or otherwise avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions,” Meijer wrote in a Detroit News commentary.

Meijer also relayed the story of a freshman colleague he encountered at the voting terminal on the House floor, who told him efforts to overturn the election were wrong, but that he feared for his family members' safety.

"Profoundly shaken, my colleague voted to overturn," he wrote. "An angry mob succeeded in threatening at least one member of Congress from performing what that member understood was a constitutional responsibility."

At least 213 House Democrats had co-sponsored the article of impeachment introduced Monday, including Dingell, Stevens, Kildee and Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township and Elissa Slotkin of Holly. 

Slotkin said in a Monday op-ed that she would prefer Pence and the Trump Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment. But if they don't act, she indicated she would support the impeachment article, citing Trump's incitement of the insurrection. 

"These actions are beyond the pale. And the timing of these events, so close to the transfer of power on January 20th, does not nullify the need for accountability," Slotkin wrote.

"The use of violence in American politics cannot be tolerated, and if we sweep it under the rug it will simply keep happening over and over again. It will become a regular tool to meter out winners and losers."

Slotkin, who represents a Republican-heavy district, also said she supports the censure of any elected official, federal or local, who similarly incites violence.

Asked Monday if the Democrat-led House would look at censuring or expelling lawmakers who had objected, Dingell did not answer a reporter on Capitol Hill.

"I'm focused on holding the president accountable to what happened to our democracy and the attack on our democracy Wednesday," Dingell told reporters after presiding over Monday's House proceedings. 

"I read last night that one of our colleagues was telling people (on Twitter) where Nancy Pelosi was" in the Capitol, Dingell added. "That's just inexcusable."

Dingell did not identify the lawmaker to whom she was referring.

Staff Writer Riley Beggin contributed.