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Trump’s impeachment put Doug Collins in spotlight of ‘historic moment’
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a House Rules Committee hearing on the impeachment against President Donald Trump, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. - photo by Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he sees Wednesday’s impeachment vote as a “stain on the House of Representatives” and a barrier to bipartisanship.

President Donald Trump was impeached by the House Wednesday evening in a vote along party lines. He is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The articles of impeachment, for charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, will now go to the U.S. Senate for trial.

As the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Collins was at the center of impeachment proceedings and served as a top advocate for Trump.

Collins said the partisan process, particularly the actions of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, conflicts with what legislators are supposed to prioritize.

“They damaged the very fabric of what it means to be in a minority and majority in this body,” Collins said. “We only exist to get things done, in a sense of trust between members.”

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Collins’ constituents in the conservative Ninth District “are likely quite pleased” with how Collins acted during the proceedings.

“His districts is one of the most Republican districts in the nation, not just in Georgia,” Bullock said. 

Collins’ defense of Trump has also brought him national name recognition, Bullock said.

“I’m a (Georgia State Patrol) trooper’s kid from Gainesville. To be a part of what is knowingly a historic moment was very humbling,” Collins said. “It was very gratifying that I could serve the people of the Ninth District in this role and give them a voice, not only the nation a voice. 

“But it also was one of those things where you take back and look at the moment and there’s a sadness to it, but there was also that gravity of the moment. This will be something that people talk about.”

Ultimately, Collins said Democrats’ push for impeachment hurts efforts at bipartisanship.

“I have members on the other side of the aisle that I disagree with probably about the color of the sky, but we can get along well enough to pass legislation and work on things, and that has in many ways been almost irreparably broken by the charge to impeachment,” Collins said. “... I’m still open anytime that we can work together to get something done. I always have been.”

Collins worked with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, on the First Step Act, a piece of criminal justice legislation that focuses on programs to reduce recidivism. Collins has also worked with Jeffries to introduce legislation that aims to protect independent creators, such as photographers and songwriters, from copyright infringement.

He worked with U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act

, an effort to help newspapers compete with online behemoths like Facebook and Google.

Collins said that while the vote from a Democrat-majority House was expected, one vote was surprising to him. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, voted “present” on both articles of impeachment. She said in a statement that she “could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.”

“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” Gabbard said. “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.”

For Collins, “that was the most telling indictment on the Democrats,” he said.

“One of your own members, a member of the House who is running for president, said you did it the wrong way and you didn’t come to a good result,” Collins said. “She’s wanting to replace President Trump, and yet she couldn’t vote for an impeachment article.”

The trial is expected to begin January in the Senate, where a vote of two-thirds is necessary for a conviction and Trump’s removal from office. While the House is majority Democrat, Republicans have control of the Senate.

Collins said he expects the Senate proceedings to be a relatively short process.

“I think the senators see this for what it is,” he said.

Bullock said Trump being removed from office is unlikely as the case moves to the Republican-dominated Senate.

“To do that would require 20 Republican senators at a minimum to vote for his removal,” Bullock said. “That isn’t going to happen unless some new earth-shaking information becomes available.”

Bullock said “the lines are clearly drawn.”

“Probably nothing that’s happened in the weeks that we’ve had of hearings, first before the (Intelligence) Committee and then more recently the Judiciary Committee, has changed any minds at all,” he said. “People are dug in.”

The impeachment comes less than a year before the 2020 election, when Trump and many members of the U.S. Congress will be seeking re-election. 

Georgia will have two Senate seats on the ballot. U.S. Sen. David Perdue is seeking re-election, and a special election will be held for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year. Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to serve in that seat, beginning in January and until the winner of November’s election takes office.

Collins had expressed interest in that appointment and was even endorsed by Trump.

“There was, maybe is still, talk that he might decide to challenge Kelly Loeffler come next fall,” Bullock said. “And if so, he’ll be, as a result of his performance, much better known in Georgia.” 

Bullock said the impeachment will likely be a factor in campaign strategies for both major parties.

“Both sides will try to use this to rally their base. I suspect Democrats will run on — as they challenge some sitting Republicans — ‘You should vote for a Democrat, and had there been more Democrats, particularly in the Senate, then there might have been a removal,’” Bullock said. “And Republicans will run a platform saying, as the president has been saying, ‘this is a hoax. There’s nothing there, and therefore we should punish the Democrats.’”

Collins said the 31 House members who represent districts that voted for Trump but supported his impeachment will have to answer to their constituents.

“I think they’re going to have a lot of trouble trying to explain this vote to their voters,” he said.