Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) bucked the Democrat Party on Wednesday by voting present on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Gabbard, who remained undecided in the lead up to impeachment, was one of only four House Democrats to defy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the party-line vote. In a statement released after the articles passed, Gabbard lambasted the bipolar choice presented to lawmakers on impeachment.
“After doing my due diligence … I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no,” the congresswoman said. “I am standing in the center and have decided to vote present. ”
Gabbard went on to explain that while she believed Trump was “guilty of wrongdoing,” she similarly had misgivings about her party’s approach to the impeachment process.
“I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country,” she said, before suggesting Congress would be better served by censuring Trump instead.
“Congress must be unequivocal in denouncing the president’s misconduct and stand up for the American people and our democracy,” Gabbard said. “To this end, I have introduced a censure resolution that will send a strong message to the president … while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide.”
Despite the explanation, the congresswoman’s detractors were quick to suggest her present vote was in league with pro-Russian sympathies.
Two things Tulsi Gabbard decided not to vote for:
1. Affirming the U.S. won’t recognize Russian claims in Crimea
2. Impeaching Trump
— Casey Michel 🇿 (@cjcmichel) December 19, 2019
I've been saying for months that Tulsi Gabbard is setting out to try to sabotage Democrats. Expect her to run third party with the backing of Russia's troll/disinformation army https://t.co/w1bJVZPxHT
— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) December 19, 2019
Gabbard has faced such accusations for years, a product of her willingness to challenge the Democrat Party’s foreign policy status quo. In October, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even suggested Gabbard was being groomed to run third-party in order to ensure Trump’s reelection.
“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton said, referring to Gabbard but not using the congresswoman’s name explicitly.