For months, it seemed doubtful enough Republicans would vote to convict and remove President Trump from office once the House voted in favor of impeachment. You need 67 votes in the Senate to convict and there are 45 Democrats, plus two independents who often vote with them.
But what if the Democrats had instead moved to censure the president? Would they have won more support?
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew of South Jersey thinks so. Van Drew made national headlines when he switched parties and joined the Republicans after voting against impeachment. He says a different tact by Democrats might have kept him in the party.
Van Drew says he would have been more open to censure.
“I … certainly would have discussed something other than impeachment,” he said. “Impeachment is something that was just not viable for me. And I can’t speak to censuring at this point in time, what I wouldn’t or wouldn’t do, but certainly I know that I was not going to go with impeachment,” he said.
Van Drew says Democrats started losing him once they went “all in” on impeachment. He says the way they started the investigation felt hyper-partisan.
“I think it’s hurt the party, to be honest with you,” Van Drew said.
U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks County, isn’t saying whether he would have voted to censure the president. He did vote against impeachment, even though he’s upset by allegations that President Trump has – and still is – trying to interfere in Justice Department investigations.
“I don’t think township supervisors should call police chiefs. I don’t think any politician should ever cross that line and get involved in law enforcement decisions, so did it show poor judgment? Yes,” Fitzpatrick said.
That said, Fitzpatrick has no regrets about voting against impeachment. For Fitzpatrick, poor judgment is allowed in the Constitution.
“Did it rise to the level of impeachment? No,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent, which is why he pressed for law enforcement agencies to be tasked with heading up the initial investigation. He says Democrats lost him from the inception of their impeachment investigation that relied on House Democrats, and not his former coworkers to gather the facts.
“The second that decision was made to have this political circus, rather than a law enforcement organization find facts, I mean, we all knew what was going on then,” Fitzpatrick said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski from Central Jersey says even though he’s dubious his party could have won over GOP votes for a censure, there’s no way to know.
“I have no regrets, I think conduct that egregious, that impeachable, can only be checked in our constitutional system by impeachment. The president can’t be prosecuted,” Malinowski said.
Malinowski says it’s not up to House Democrats to now try to game out what woulda, coulda and – that they say – shoulda happened.
“I don’t think we can use 20/20 hindsight to determine how they might have reacted had we gone about this in a different way,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery County, sees things similarly.
“We have to hold this president accountable. We did exactly that. I was a proud to be a part of it,” Dean said.
Dean says having no regrets doesn’t mean she and others aren’t gripped with fear of where things are post-impeachment. She’s worried by how Trump has ousted administration officials who testified against him in the House impeachment investigation. Dean says it’s only gotten worse since almost all GOP senators voted to acquit Trump.
“Certainly I worry, it’s really scary. The president has been empowered by the silence or the complicity of Republican senators,” Dean said.
That’s why Dean says House Democrats aren’t backing down.
“The president is unleashed, unhinged, but guess what? This Congress will continue to investigate. We have to investigate. We have to see what the heck is going on with the Department of Justice,” she said.
Dean and others are not showing any signs of changing course after impeachment failed to remove the president. Republicans remain unified behind a president who scored his best approval ratings yet after his acquittal.