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AUGUSTA, Maine — When it comes to impeaching President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden says the intent behind Trump’s actions will matter most, recognizing that Democrats and Republicans may be frustrated by his fine-line stance.
The freshman Democrat representing Maine’s 2nd District is one of just 10 House Democrats by Politico’s count to not expressly support an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump misused his powers by pressuring the Ukraine president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is aiming for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in 2020.
Golden has advocated for investigating the allegations made in a whistleblower complaint that focused, in part, on Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, but he said in a Tuesday interview that he still does not support the impeachment inquiry outright.
Whether Trump should be impeached will depend on whether that process shows the president believed he was acting in the best interest of the country or for himself, Golden said.
“For me, that’s the most important issue at stake,” he said. “Did the president put his personal gain above the best interest of the country, or did he in fact believe that this was what he should be doing?”
All of the House Democrats who have held out on impeachment come from districts that Trump carried in 2016. The Maine delegation is split on the issue: Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, and Sen. Angus King, an independent, support the impeachment inquiry, while Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, has said she won’t comment on the merit of the inquiry.
He has been critical of the current impeachment inquiry process, telling WGAN on Tuesday that he would have “handled it differently” than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, by waiting for transcripts of the call and the complaint to be released before making a decision.
Golden told the station that his stance has frustrated some on the right and left as he approaches his first re-election race in 2020 in the swing 2nd District. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn is the only Republican to declare to run against him so far.
Brakey said Tuesday that Golden is “trying to have his cake and eat it too” on the issue. He said the strategy won’t sit well with Republicans in the 2nd District, who Brakey would “kick him out of office” if the congressman comes down stronger on the issue.
“It’s like, which is it, do you think he’s guilty of these things or not?” Brakey said
Former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat who also represented the 2nd District for eight years, said the area is not one to adhere to party lines, having backed for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, Collins, Trump and Golden. He said people there are “independent-minded.” But he said Golden will have to take a side eventually if articles of impeachment come before the House.
In that event, Golden will have to explain his position thoroughly to his district, Baldacci said, likening it to the criticism he faced when he voted against the Iraq War in 2002, which was popular at the time.
“It’s a roadmap of getting back to your district, facing the question, and standing up in front of people and telling them why you did what you did,” Baldacci said.
Golden pointed to the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s as an example of his philosophy on impeachment. The scandal came after President Ronald Reagan’s administration sent money to Nicaraguan rebels attempting to overthrow the socialist government after Congress passed a law banning the practice and sold missiles to Iran to secure the release of hostages.
The congressman said while Reagan broke the law, “no one was questioning whether or not he was faithful to his duties as president of the United States.”
“At the end of the day, it is a personal decision, it is a political decision, and one, I hope to play a positive role in leading our community towards the facts and then having a discussion about what is the best decision for our country,” Golden said.