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News / Clark County News

Herrera Beutler stands by impeachment criticism in town hall call

Congresswoman discusses inquiry during Thursday evening conference call with constituents

By Mallory Gruben, The Daily News
Published: November 16, 2019, 4:51pm

LONGVIEW — Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler repeated her criticisms of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump in a telephone conference call with constituents Thursday night.

The process is flawed by limited due process, fairness to all sides and full access to information, the 3rd District Republican from Battle Ground said.

“Let me be clear. … My overall feeling is that nobody is above the law. There should be an investigation into the events and circumstances surrounding the president’s call to the Ukrainian president,” Herrera Beutler said.

But that investigation must be impartial and open, she said. “Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening right now, and that’s what I object to.”

The call was Herrera Beutler’s first major interaction with the public since she voted against launching the formal impeachment inquiry. When the action passed in a party-line 232-196 vote on Oct. 31, Herrera Beutler called it a “farce.”

“A president should not be impeached over accusations of wrongdoing. I believe they (the accusations) must be proven,” she said Thursday night.

Instead of pursuing a “truly impartial fact finding” process, Democratic leaders are holding private meetings in some of the Capitol’s most secretive rooms, she said. The information shared in those meetings has not been publicly released, and many Congress members and citizens have been barred from viewing primary sources in the investigation, said Herrera Beutler, repeating widespread GOP criticisms of the process.

Democrats contend the process is identical to the one House Republicans used to impeach President Bill Clinton.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has said the Oct. 31 resolution “establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the president and his counsel.”

Still, Herrera Beutler said the impeachment process, now in its sixth week, remains “very lopsided and largely secretive” and is impinging on Trump’s right to defend himself.

A caller from Onalaska identifying herself as Susan asked Herrera Beutler to explain whether asking Ukraine officials to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in return for military aid constitutes a criminal act. And she wanted to know whether witness statements in cases like this are always taken in secret.

Herrera Beutler said the inquiry shouldn’t be about “whether Donald Trump carries out policy in a way that I would, whether I think his diplomacy is sparkle-y, whether he does this in a way that makes people feel warm and fuzzy. … The question is whether he committed high crimes and treason with regard to (with)holding money.”

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Herrera Beutler never directly said whether she thinks Trump’s actions were criminal, but she noted that it’s not an uncommon practice to “demand corruption be rooted out before we give countries … money.”

Other callers shared Herrera Beutler’s view of the impeachment process.

“How do we let the Democrats know to either stop this … and get on with the business of running the country, or convince them to let us in on some of this stuff so we can be fair in our assessment of what’s going on?” asked a woman identified as Fran from Vancouver.

Herrera Beutler said that she’s been working on legislation amid the “polarizing and political impeachment” process. She pointed to a maternal mortality bill she cosponsored to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms up to one year after birth, introduced to the House last week.

The bill is a “major investment in providing medical care to mothers when they are still in a high-risk phase, which is the entire first year after birth,” she said.

Herrera Beutler’s also addressed the following items during the town hall:

• Health care: She said she backs “price transparency” in health care, and she’s advocating that hospitals post the prices for their most common procedures on-site or online. She also said the House Appropriations Committee, which she serves on, has approved almost $9 billion for chronic disease research such as Alzheimer’s in recent years.

• Homelessness: Herrera Beutler said the problem is growing across Southwest Washington due to a lack of affordable housing and substance abuse, along with other causes. Herrera Beutler said she’s backing policy to help address some of those concerns, including a bill with her former political opponent U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, to “remove barriers for affordable housing.”

• Breaching Columbia-Snake River dams: Herrera Beutler opposes dam removal because it would have an “unimaginable impact” on the economy, clean energy sources and current salmon runs. “I think we need to move forward on the offense and increase our salmon production on the hatchery side.”

• The Interstate 5 Bridge: Herrera Beutler said she’d prefer a bus rapid transit system to light rail option for a new interstate crossing

Mallory Gruben: Mallory Gruben mallory.gruben@tdn.com; 970-597-0308