2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) on Wednesday decided to vote "present" when the official articles of impeachment came to the full House floor for a vote.
She explained her decision in a lengthy statement she provided following the vote:
Throughout my life, whether through serving in the military or in Congress, I’ve always worked to do what is in the best interests of our country. Not what’s best for me politically or what’s best for my political party. I have always put our country first. One may not always agree with my decision, but everyone should know that I will always do what I believe to be right for the country that I love.
After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.
I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present. I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing.
I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.
On the one side — The president’s defenders insist that he has done nothing wrong. They agree with the absurd proclamation that his conduct was “perfect.” They have abdicated their responsibility to exercise legitimate oversight, and instead blindly do the bidding of their party’s leader.
On the other side — The president’s opponents insist that if we do not impeach, our country will collapse into dictatorship. All but explicitly, they accuse him of treason. Such extreme rhetoric was never conducive to an impartial fact-finding process.
The Founders of our country made clear their concerns about impeachment being a purely partisan exercise. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton warned against any impeachment that would merely “connect itself with the pre-existing factions,” and “enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.” In such cases, he said, “there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
Donald Trump has violated public trust. Congress must be unequivocal in denouncing the president’s misconduct and stand up for the American people and our democracy. To this end, I have introduced a censure resolution that will send a strong message to this president and future presidents that their abuses of power will not go unchecked, while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide.
I am confident that the American people will decide to deliver a resounding rebuke of President Trump’s innumerable improprieties and abuses. And they will express that judgment at the ballot box. That is the way real and lasting change has always occurred in this great country: through the forcefully expressed will of the people.
A house divided cannot stand. And today we are divided. Fragmentation and polarity are ripping our country apart. This breaks my heart, and breaks the hearts of all patriotic Americans, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.
So today, I come before you to make a stand for the center, to appeal to all of you to bridge our differences and stand up for the American people.
My vote today is a vote for much needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country. Let’s work side-by-side, seeking common ground, to usher in a bright future for the American people, our country, and our nation.
And, of course, progressive darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took issue with Gabbard's stance, without naming her directly.
“Today was very consequential, and to not take a stand one way or another, on a day of such great consequence to this country, I think is quite difficult,” Ocasio-Cortez told the New York Post. “We are sent here to lead.”
“Whenever we have a vote, we should vote ‘yes’ and we should vote ‘no.' Voting ‘present’ is a very tough position to be in," AOC explained. "To not take a stand in a moment that is so consequential, I think it’s quite difficult.”
Ocasio-Cortez is upset that Gabbard sees both sides of the issue. And, in a lot of ways, the presidential candidate is reflective of moderates in this country. She doesn't agree with the Democrats' partisan witch hunt but, at the same time, she believes President Trump committed wrongdoing. She's entitled to be in the middle and vote "present" if she doesn't agree with what determination both sides came to. AOC is mad that Gabbard isn't a "lock in step" kind of Democrat. She really is a free-thinking kind of person.