Up to a dozen House Republicans are likely to join Democrats on Wednesday in voting to impeach President Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol one week ago, predicts Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan.
A number of GOP House members — including the No. 3 Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — have said they will vote for impeachment. “I think we’ll probably get closer to 10 or 12 that will sign on,” Slotkin said.
During the debate on the House floor on Tuesday, Democrats made it clear they blame Trump for inciting an insurrection. Some Republicans agreed, but others claim the move to impeach Trump a second time will only further divide the country.
“I represent a Trump-voting district. This is not what the average person wants,” Slotkin said on NPR’s Morning Edition. “But it doesn’t obviate us from our responsibility to say very clearly that this is not OK and that we can’t let our politics descend into violence.”
Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who held defense and intelligence positions under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, called the attack on the Capitol “a generational event like 9/11.”
Below are highlights of the interview, edited for length and clarity.
You’ve said you support impeachment and that you came to this decision after conversations with some Republican colleagues, which you called particularly hard. Can you tell us about those conversations, both in Congress and in your district?
Right after the attack, we started having conversations — sometimes in groups, bipartisan groups, sometimes just point-to-point conversations. And I think what was striking … was we were in agreement that what the president had done was egregious. We were in agreement about how historic the event was — the symbol of our democracy attacked. But there was this debate about timing and the divisiveness potential of impeaching the president.
And it seemed to me that the only divide was just whether to take the step of actually sort of pushing back and providing some accountability. It was there that I really made my decision.
We’re learning that at least three House Republicans, the No. 3 Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Congressmen John Katko and Adam Kinzinger, they’ve all said they will vote to impeach the president. Based on these conversations that you’re having, do you think there are more to come?
I do. I think we’ll probably get closer to 10 or 12 that will sign on. I’ve had a lot of really wrenching conversations with folks who are trying to make the decision. And I understand their pain because, frankly, in 2019 when we went through the first impeachment, I had to come to grips with the fact that I might lose my seat because of my decision to support impeachment. That’s a tough thing to do. And in retrospect, I’m glad that I got over that in my first year in Congress, that I had that existential moment where I had to make that decision.
I’m hearing a lot of my colleagues having that same internal battle. My message to them is there has to be some things that are more important than just keeping this job. And it’s about protecting the country that we love.
Your district, as you’ve mentioned, is a purple one. The president did so well there and in both 2016 and 2020. What are your constituents saying to you?
I happened to have also, in addition to a town hall yesterday, an in-person event previously scheduled for our small businesses in a very conservative part of my district. And I actually was really heartened. You know, people came up to me saying, “I didn’t vote for you. I’m a Trump supporter, but that violence is just not OK. I’m sorry you went through that.”
And that made me feel good that people realize that we sort of looked into the abyss last Wednesday and we just can’t go down that path. But people don’t like what happened, they don’t support it for the most part, the average person.
But they’re worried, and we live in a district, Michigan’s 8th District, has been dealing with some of these crosswinds since April, when our own capitol in my district in Lansing was invaded basically by folks carrying weapons. And I think people are worried about, how do we proceed? Where do we go from here? How do we live together as neighbors? Because some parts of the country may be able to separate into two Americas, but not in Michigan, not in the 8th District. We got to figure out how to come together again as Americans. And that, I think, is going to be my mandate for this next second term for me.
We’re a week away from President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Are you concerned at all that these impeachment proceedings will interfere with his agenda?
Sure. There’s been real debate about this, and I think it’s going to be important to just stay very, very focused on our priorities. The most important thing is that we help get senior confirmed national security officials into their positions. I need a new secretary of defense. I need the new director of homeland security. We need to make sure that our security is our priority. And so I want that to take precedence over everything else.
And I can certainly see why the new incoming president and lots of people would just want to kind of clean the slate and get working on his agenda, particularly because of where we are with COVID. But I’m just telling you that if you don’t do something to hold people accountable when they use violence in our politics, it will happen again and again and again. And we just can’t let our country go that way.
You’re a former CIA analyst. What more needs to be done at a federal and local level to ensure security at the Capitol?
Well, I think for security at the Capitol, security in the country, we have to realize the events of last week were a generational event like 9/11. The post-9/11 era is over, where external threats outside the country are the biggest threat to the American people. The biggest national security threat right now is the division among us.
Jeevika Verma, Ziad Buchh, Jan Johnson and Denise Couture produced and edited the audio version of this story. Avie Schneider produced for the Web.