Republicans in Minnesota's congressional delegation all said Tuesday that they are opposed to the impeachment of President Donald Trump in his final days in office, arguing it would be divisive after previously expressing doubts about the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden's win.
"I think impeachment is going to only further divide an already divided country," Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber said in an interview Tuesday. "I think it is time we all tone down our rhetoric and understand that first and foremost, we're Americans."
The House is expected to take up articles of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday, in response to his role in inciting last Wednesday's violent attack on the House and Senate last week. While decrying the violence and calling now for unity, all four Minnesota Republicans previously made public expressions of support for Trump's unfounded claims of voter fraud, and three of them signed on to an unsuccessful legal effort to overturn Biden's win.
Their Democratic colleagues, who have lined up behind removing Trump as quickly as possible, aren't having it.
"The time for unity was when Joe Biden won the election," Rep. Angie Craig said. "Unity was to tell your constituents the truth, that that election was free and fair and that the president lost. That was the time for unity."
Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, called Republican calls for unity "hollow." She said all Republican elected officials who supported Trump owe it to the country to "speak the truth about what happened here. What we saw on Wednesday was an armed and violent mob attack on the legislative branch and the U.S. Capitol at the instigation of the president of the United States. That's what happened."
With Trump increasingly isolated, and a few prominent Republicans in Congress coming out for impeachment, the Minnesota Republicans said it's a better idea to let him serve out his last days.
"The best way through this is to get through the inauguration," Stauber said, adding that he plans to be in attendance next week as Biden is sworn in. So is Rep. Tom Emmer, who called impeachment "a bad idea. The president has acknowledged that we're going to have a peaceful transfer of power."
Sentiment is strong among Democrats to move more decisively. "I'm in favor of whatever removes this president from serving one more day in office," Craig said.
Other Minnesota Democrats have set a similar tone. Rep. Ilhan Omar is among the House Democrats who immediately started working on articles of impeachment. Anger among some Minnesota Democrats has also extended to congressional colleagues for encouraging last week's violence; on Tuesday, Rep. Dean Phillips released a statement calling for the censure of Missouri Rep. Mo Brooks, who at a rally before the Capitol breach urged those present "to start taking down names and kicking ass."
"Separate yourself from seditionists. Condemn insurrectionists," Phillips said in a press release.
Stauber declined to say directly whether he'd vote for a milder rebuke of Trump, like a censure, as some Republicans have suggested; Emmer said he's opposed to that, too.
Emmer is the fourth-ranked House Republican in leadership; the third-ranked, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced Tuesday that she would vote to impeach, as did two other House Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and John Katko of New York.
Stauber and Emmer joined a minority of Republicans last week, just hours after the attack, who voted in favor of certifying Biden's Electoral College win. The other two Minnesota Republicans in Congress, Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fischbach, voted against it.
"Joe Biden has been certified as the Electoral College victor and will take office as the next President on January 20," Hagedorn, who declined an interview request, said in a prepared statement. "This latest attempt by House Democrats to impeach President Trump is further dividing the nation and subjecting the American people to yet another partisan battle."
Fischbach also declined an interview but released a statement through her spokesman. "Rep. Fischbach fully condemns the violent riots that took place at the Capitol last week, but she believes impeachment would only further cement the divide in our country. She looks forward to a peaceful transition of power on January 20 — a hallmark of our democracy," it said.
In defending his stance, Stauber mounted an argument that other Republicans — including Trump — have used in recent days: trying to draw an equivalency between the violence on Capitol Hill last week and the violence and unrest that broke out in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities last spring and summer following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
"That was wrong, the mob violence, the rioting was not acceptable," Stauber said. "It's not acceptable at our nation's Capitol, it's not acceptable in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Kenosha, as we saw through the summer. I condemn all violence."
Those demonstrations are hardly comparable to a sitting president provoking a riot against his political rivals, Smith said. "That is a cynical effort to avoid the truth and avoid accountability," she said.
Asked to gauge Trump's accountability for what happened, Stauber said: "Words matter. We are all responsible for our words and actions in a highly charged political situation, you have to be very careful with the words we choose. As I've said, I would have chosen, certainly, very different words than [Trump] did."
Even after voting to certify Biden's win, Stauber and Emmer have continued to nod to concern over the unproven claims of voter fraud espoused by Trump that seemed to be driving most of the rioters.
Asked whether he still has those concerns, Stauber said: "I have accepted the electoral votes from each of the states. If there are irregularities or fraud, that is going to be up to the states to determine. That's up to the states. They make the election laws."