Democratic Hawaii congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard echoed a point frequently made by Republicans that she believes the impeachment of President Donald Trump helps him win reelection and will cost Democrats seats in the House of Representatives.
Gabbard spoke with ABC News Saturday about her controversial decision last week to vote “present” rather than in favor of the two articles of impeachment held against Trump. The congresswoman said the fallout of the president getting acquitted by the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate could leave “lasting damage” across the United States. She went on to express her “serious concern” that Trump will win a second term and that Democrats could lose their current 233-197 majority in the House.
Gabbard was widely criticized by Democrats, and commended by Trump, after being the only congressional lawmaker to not choose a side in the impeachment. She said the process has only served to “embolden” Trump’s reelection campaign.
“I think impeachment, unfortunately, will only further embolden Donald Trump, increase his support and the likelihood that he’ll have a better shot at getting elected while also seeing the likelihood that the House will lose a lot of seats to Republicans,” Gabbard told an ABC News reporter in New Hampshire Saturday.
That same “zero-sum game” talking point has been widely disseminated by Republican leaders ranging from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, who said Democrats are only pursuing impeachment to make up for a “weak” field of candidates.
Gabbard took on a tone similar to that of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang in expressing her hopes for moving the country forward, rather than left or right ideologically. “[My impeachment vote] was not a decision of neutrality,” she said, “[it was me] standing up for the people of this country and our ability to move forward together.
“Thinking about what’s politically advantageous, whether for me or for my party, does not enter into my mind around these decisions that have really great consequence,” Gabbard continued.
Trump responded to her vote with praise. “I give her respect. She didn’t vote the other day. I give her a lot of respect. Because she knew it was wrong. She took a pass,” he said last week, prompting Gabbard to rebuke his gratitude and double down on her belief he is “unfit” to be president.
“Look, there is no question in my mind that Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president and commander in chief. I’ve said this over and over again,” Gabbard told The Hill TV hosts Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti last week. “I am running for president to defeat him for that reason. He launched an illegal and unconstitutional attack launching missiles into Syria. We don’t see any of the talk in Congress about that.”
Gabbard has a history of refusing to toe the Democratic Party line, having given up her seat in the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential primaries in order to throw her support behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton. She and the former Secretary of State engaged in a brief spat in October over misconstrued comments that Clinton called her a “Russian asset.”