Washington(ANN)-US Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has defended her controversial decision to vote “present” during last week’s formal impeachment vote of President Donald Trump, saying she feared it would only “embolden” the president and increase his chances for re-election.
“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 said in an interview with ABC News in New Hampshire on Saturday.
The Hawaii representative said the prospect of a second term for Trump and a Republican-controlled House was a “serious concern” of hers, adding that she was worried about the potential ramifications of Trump getting acquitted in the Senate.
Gabbard told ABC News that Trump’s inevitable acquittal in the Republican-held Senate could leave “lasting damage” on the country as a whole.
The Democratic congresswoman, who is an outspoken critic of her own party, was the only lawmaker to vote “present” instead of taking side on Trump’s impeachment on December 18.
Since then, the 38-year-old has faced intense criticism from political pundits, lawmakers and voters from both sides of the aisle.
Gabbard also said that her vote was “not a decision of neutrality,” reiterating that she was instead “standing up for the people of this country and our ability to move forward together.”
Defending her vote as prioritizing principle over political expediency, she added, “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.”
A two-thirds majority vote would be needed in the Senate to remove the president from office.
With Republicans in control of the upper chamber of Congress, Trump’s acquittal in a January trial seems certain.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump in September after an unknown whistle-blower alleged the Republican president pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his power by withholding $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure the Kiev to conduct an investigation that would benefit him politically.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the impeachment inquiry against him as “a hoax”.
Trump’s allies say he is completely aware of the impact that impeachment may have on his legacy and have described him as infuriated over the prospect, taking impeachment more as a personal attack and an attempt to delegitimize his presidency than a judgment on his actions.
Government ranks as top US problem in 2019
A new Gallup poll released on Saturday showed that more than one in four Americans cited government as a top problem facing the country for the third straight year.
The survey found that 27 percent of Americans referred to the government — encompassing concerns about President Trump, Congress and government dysfunction in general — as the top challenge this year when asked to name “the most important problem facing the country today.”
The figure exceeded the average of 22 percent in 2018 and is the highest annual average for the problem in Gallup records.
This is while economic and national security concerns, as Gallup said, have been conspicuously absent from the top mentions.