Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Jan. 13 vote to impeach President Trump, one of just 10 Republicans in the House to take that historic step, stunned her mostly conservative Southwest Washington constituents and immediately vaulted her into the national spotlight.
For Herrera Beutler, a 42-year-old mother of three beginning her sixth term, the decision was not political but rather an intensely personal defining moment.
In a Friday interview with The Daily News, she said the events of Jan. 6 determined her course of action for the following week. Hiding with colleagues from the violent mob that was ransacking the U.S. Capitol on that day, she told how she was flooded with emotions.
“I was heartbroken. I was aghast. I was in disbelief,” she recalled. “I was praying. I was like, ‘We’ve got some pretty big angels, a couple of big angels, and we’re fine.’ Just knowing how badly outnumbered everybody was at that point, and how beaten everybody was, the fact that there wasn’t a mass casualty event to me just demonstrates, I feel like, I do think God, I do think God intervened.”
“When I look at the picture of the Capitol police officer on his face, with the crowd standing over him, or of someone being bludgeoned to death, I cannot express to you the feeling inside that says, ‘I will stand up to that any day of the week and twice on Sunday,’ ” she said.
“To me that’s what my vote represents. I will not tolerate that and nor will, I believe, a majority of the good people in my district, in our state and in our country.”
‘Truth defeats fear’
On the House floor Jan. 13, Herrera Beutler said:
“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail. I’m afraid that patriots of this country have died in vain. I’m afraid that my children won’t grow up in a free country. I’m afraid injustice will prevail.
“My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side — I am choosing truth, she said. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
In a telephone interview with The Daily News Friday afternoon, Herrera Beutler described how, after the impeachment vote, she embarked on a two-day social media campaign to offer “indisputable and publicly available facts” to support her decision.
Social media response
Her Twitter account has 44,300 followers. Her thread of tweets on Thursday and Friday resulted in 25,500 retweets and 81,700 likes.
Herrera Beutler’s official Facebook page has nearly 26,000 followers. Her announcement of her impeachment vote resulted in 10,000 emojis, 13,000 comments and 1,100 shares.
The reactions were mixed.
One woman, Heidi St. John told her congresswoman: “You are so blind. I promise you, this will be the last time we elect you to represent the patriots of Washington state.”
Maia Corbin countered: “I wish you’d started standing up to them four years ago, but I’m glad you’re doing it now.”
Herrera Beutler is hopeful her factual barrage will have an impact.
“I would just ask people who are going to be honest with themselves, to be willing to look at the facts — and I’m trying to get them all out there, on my Twitter and my Facebook,” she said.
“I’m trying to just communicate the reasons behind my vote — I really, really thought people understood,” she said. “The ones who really want to hear, which is almost all of them, when you tell them what went down, what was happening, and the inaction of the President, the things he did as it was happening, they’re shocked.”
GOP believes Trump won
A new Pew Research Center poll released Friday showed Trump’s overall approval rating dropped to 29% following the Jan. 6 attack. However, the same poll reported that two-thirds of Republicans, 64%, said Trump either “definitely” or “probably” won the 2020 election. Final election results showed Joe Biden held a 7 million popular vote margin and won 306 Electoral College votes, to 232 for Trump.
“The reality for me is the violence and the anger of the mob… (and) within those people there groups of would-be assassins who had embedded themselves, and literally were using the chaos and the violence as cover to hunt lawmakers,” she said in Friday’s interview.
“They were hunting, it was a direct assault on the Constitution — they were hunting the numbers 2,3 and 4 in line to the presidency, and in the process a police officer was bludgeoned to death, many of them were beaten, many of them were shaken and beaten, and by the time they were beating on the doors of the House, there just a handful of police officers even left in the House.”
‘This was not Antifa, this was not an invented situation,” she added. “Sheer numbers tell you that.”
Herrera Beutler said she was stunned when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her of a conversation he had with Trump on Jan. 6: “He said to the President, ‘You’ve got to hold them. You need to get on TV right now, you need to get on Twitter, you need to call these people off.’ And he said, the President said, ‘Kevin, they’re not my people.’ ”
She said McCarthy told the President, “Yes they are, they just came through my windows and my staff is running for cover. Yeah, they’re your people. Call them off.”
Trump’s response, as McCarthy told Herrera Beutler, was, “Well I guess these people are just more angry about the election and upset than you are.”
Herrera Beutler said the President’s failure to respond to the Jan. 6 attack was “a dereliction of duty, a violation of his oath of office to protect the Constitution.”
“A president who sees an attack happening like this has an oath by his office to do what he can to stop it, and he didn’t.”
“I just think you have to take your party perspective out of this,” she explained.
Herrera Beutler said she has not encountered a negative response from most of her Republican colleagues.
“I’ve been trying to be very respectful, because I would say a majority of my colleagues wrestled with how to vote on this with their souls,” she said. “I know good people voted both ways on this, and I won’t’ question it.”
She said she remains optimistic.
“My hope is that this will be enough of an event to start to open people’s eyes and recognize that the Republic isn’t over — it all works.”
“I just want to remind people that we will have an election in two years, and an election in four years, and I am so confident that the people who swear by the Constitution, who love free markets, and liberty and equality and justice and peace, those people are going to help us move forward,” she said.
“That’s not to say things are going to be pretty and easy. But I am excited that the darkness and the fear that everybody’s been feeling is not going to win.”