Congressman Tom Emmer says he opposed the Jan. 13 impeachment of President Donald Trump because the country needs to move forward.
“It’s time for cooler heads, calmer, thoughtful people to just take a step back, understand that the president has said that there will be a peaceful transition,” the Republican representing Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District said.
He argued that impeachment will only serve to further divide the nation.
“It’s not because this would intensify any supporters on behalf of the president,” Emmer said. “It’s more about respecting one another.”
The Minnesota DFL released a statement Jan. 13, accusing Emmer being unwilling to hold Trump accountable for what the party believes was encouragement of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
“It is deeply disturbing that Emmer chose his political party over his country, his career over the Constitution, and a mob over the people of Minnesota,” DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in the statement. “There is no offense more impeachable than sedition and treason against the United States government, and Emmer’s vote not to impeach has condoned this behavior which should be universally denounced. Representative Emmer failed to stand up for the rule of law and American democracy when it mattered most and the people of Minnesota will not forget that.”
The U.S. House voted Jan. 13 to impeach Trump, who is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, on charges of incitement of insurrection. The Minnesota congressional delegation split along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of impeachment and Emmer and his Republican colleagues voting nay.
Violence ‘a long time coming’
Impeachment followed the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, when supporters of the president forced their way into the building during a largely ceremonial Congressional proceeding to certify the Electoral College vote.
That morning Emmer was in his office when police found a pipe bomb about 100 feet from the window of his office at the National Republican Congressional Committee, he said.
“That certainly should have raised eyebrows so that people would realize that this probably was not going to be just a normal protest,” Emmer said.
Initially Emmer did not know the bomb was real. By the time the NRCC was evacuated in response to the bomb, he had already left for the Capitol building, Emmer said.
“You know, you just assume that if they found something that’s that significant that they would have the appropriate security in place,” Emmer said. “So while I was on the House floor, the last thing I was concerned about was our security.”
He was in the cloak room when he learned the Capitol had been breached. Soon barricades were erected by the doors and the members were instructed to retrieve the gas masks from beneath their chairs, because of the possibility that tear gas would be used.
Then someone began ramming the door to the chamber and another person hammered on the back door with what Emmer thought was a piece of furniture. Eventually security evacuated the House members through tunnels beneath the Capitol to an undisclosed, secure location. There they were instructed to put away their phones and not tell anyone their location.
“Within five minutes some Capitol Hill security folks are grabbing the mic and saying, ‘Whoever is doing the live interview on their phone, stop,’” Emmer said.
Members eventually made it back to the floor around 10 p.m. and finished certifying the Electoral College results shortly before 4 a.m. the next morning. After that, Emmer said he began learning how serious the attack really was.
Emmer said that throughout the siege he was not concerned, until later when he saw the videos of Capitol Hill police being attacked.
He now wonders why more alarms weren’t raised after bombs were found at the NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hours before the insurrection began.
While House Democrats place the blame for the Jan. 6 violence squarely on Trump’s shoulders, Emmer said all elected officials have some culpability in the violence.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Emmer said. “I think everybody who holds an election certificate bears some responsibility for this.”
He said elected officials need to think about how they engage with constituents and consider what they tell voters to do. He pointed to calls for members of the public to harass members of Trump’s cabinet in public — apparently a reference to statements Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, made in 2018.
“We have to recognize that we’re the ones that have led us to this place, and we need to be the solution now,” Emmer said.
The violence came after dozens of unsuccessful legal challenges to the election by Trump and his supporters, but no evidence of widespread fraud has been revealed.
“The fact that a candidate follows every legal process available to them at the presidential level, that’s entirely appropriate and that’s their right, and at the end of the day the state legislatures certify those results and send it to Congress, and that’s what determined who won the election,” Emmer said.
Emmer voted to certify the election results Jan. 6.
But he does have concerns about constitutional questions regarding how some states made changes to their electoral systems ahead of the election. He cited Article II of the U.S. Constitution, saying it gives state legislatures the sole authority to determine how state electors are chosen.
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress (...),” reads the second paragraph of Article II of the Constitution.
Emmer argued that only state legislatures have the authority to change election laws. When some states changed their election procedures to protect voters’ health during the election, they did so through governors’ orders, court rulings and secretaries of state. Emmer questioned the constitutionality of those changes.
Emmer said reestablishing the legislature’s sole power over election procedures would help rebuild voters’ trust in the electoral system.