Local people on Tuesday drew their lines on the impeachment process against President Donald Trump — whether on a sidewalk or in political office — as the two articles of impeachment against Trump are set to enter debate today before the full United States House of Representatives.
Democrats have brought two articles of impeachment against Trump: the president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of next year's election, and Trump obstructed Congress' investigation.
In the coming U.S. House vote on Trump's impeachment, Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer told the News Tribune on Tuesday he will be voting against both articles of impeachment.
"I don't believe there's any evidence there to support impeachment. The Democrats have totally failed with their witnesses that they've produced. There is no constitutional or legal argument for those as criminal acts that they've put into this impeachment article, so therefore there is no impeachable offense — and it's, quite frankly, a political charade that has been perpetrated on the people and on the president," Luetkemeyer said.
He represents Missouri's 3rd Congressional District, which includes Jefferson City and parts or all of Callaway, Cole, Miller and Osage counties, among others.
Luetkemeyer said the impeachment proceedings are "a political exercise" on Democrats' part, "not a criminal activity they're trying to point out. They disagree with (Trump) politically, and they're taking a political exercise to voice their political opinions. This is not what impeachment should be about, but that's what they've done."
Based on Associated Press reports, the approaching vote on the articles of impeachment in the House likely will be completely split along partisan lines between Democrats and Republicans — still leaving enough votes by the Democratic majority to push impeachment to the Senate for a trial next year, where it seems likely the Republican majority's vote will prevent Trump from being removed from office.
Members of the group Jefferson City Area Indivisible rallied Tuesday in front of Luetkemeyer's office in Jefferson City, demanding Luetkemeyer and his colleagues vote fairly and impartially on impeachment.
"(Legislators) must carefully listen to and weigh the evidence presented and vote devoid of any political considerations to uphold the Constitution and the American Republic," according to a letter from JCAI addressed to Luetkemeyer at his Jefferson City office.
It was also abundantly clear from JCAI members' chants, hand held signs and released statements they want the outcome of impeachment to be Trump's removal from office — having found the allegations made against him regarding Ukraine and Joe Biden compelling, fair for the group means being able to impeach and remove Trump.
"At least he'll have a black mark against him" going into the next election, Marsha Dalton said of the likely outcome that Trump is not removed from office through impeachment.
Dick Dalton, Marsha's husband, hoped the allegations against Trump could be compelling enough to change minds about wanting Trump to stay in office.
"To me, this is a moment that could bring that out," he said.
The Rev. John Bennett said impeachment is necessary because of the "embarrassing" and "tragic" effects of Trump's policies on U.S. democracy. Bennett was part of the "Medicaid 23" group arrested in May 2014 after forcing Missouri state senators to stop their debate because the protesters in the Senate chamber's upper gallery sang and prayed so loud it was difficult for the lawmakers to hear each other on the Senate floor.
Tony Smith said impeachment has "always been a political process," because politicians run it.
The politics of impeachment and the integrity of the process are meant to be two separate things, though.
Smith said people were in front of Luetkemeyer's office "to uphold the idea that the Constitution is more important than any politician."
He said impeachment acts as a deterrent to abuses of power, shows presidents they are not above the law, and is a fair and reliable way to resolve allegations.
"We're here today because we believe in the process," Smith added.
Luetkemeyer assured he can and will vote fairly on Trump's impeachment, despite Trump being a member of the Republican party.
"I have done that all through the process. I read the conversation, the transcript of the conversation the president had with the Ukrainian president. I read that," Luetkemeyer said.
"I tried to get into the hearings, to listen to them when they were in the secret alcove down in the basement of the visitor's center. They wouldn't let me in. I tried to read the transcript of those things; they wouldn't give it to me. They would for the Democrats, but they wouldn't for the Republicans," he said.
"I listened to the public testimony of the different witnesses — all of the witnesses — as well as the college professors they had brought in to try to describe constitutional process. And I have yet to hear one firsthand account of anything that the president did wrong, that anybody heard, saw or thought they did, other than these people with second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-hand knowledge of something they thought was wrong — that the transcript shows, in my mind, there's nothing there," Luetkemeyer said.
He said Trump "has done nothing different than any other president prior to him in the way he's negotiating with foreign countries, other than being tougher. He's a business(man) who understands leverage, and he's being tougher in his negotiations, and he's being successful in them," citing trade deals, agreements or negotiations with Canada, Mexico, China, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
"I think he's doing a fantastic job," Luetkemeyer said of Trump. He hoped Trump would continue to strengthen the military, grow the economy, balance the federal budget to reduce deficits and added "health care is high on his agenda."
Luetkemeyer did not anticipate partisanship getting any better. He accused media, in particular, of being antagonistic toward Trump, "not giving him props for the things he's accomplishing."
Smith said outside Luetkemeyer's office in Jefferson City that "we're going to remain divided" as a nation, whatever the outcome of impeachment. He added, "Where that leads us, I don't know."