Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted "present" on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, one of the sharpest splits she has made with the Democratic Party while seeking its presidential nomination.
"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," Gabbard said in a statement from her presidential campaign after the vote.
Trump was impeached Wednesday night by a 230–197–1 vote in the House on the first article and 229–198–1 on the second.
Almost all Democrats voted for impeachment, with all Republicans voting against. Gabbard was the only member of Congress to vote present on the articles, choosing explicitly to not vote for or against the charges, which accused Trump of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the star first-term representative of New York, said she was surprised by Gabbard’s present vote, and that the Hawaii representative owes it to her constituents to explain why she did not pick a side.
"Today was very consequential. And to not take a stand one way or another in a day of such grave consequence to this country is quite difficult. We’re sent here to lead,” she said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also appeared surprised when she read someone voted "present" as she gaveled out the vote on the first article.
Gabbard said she is "standing in the center" with her present votes. "I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing," she 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."
Gabbard, who is not running for reelection in Congress, has been all over the map on impeachment since the process began. In October, she appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show to criticize the lack of transparency of Democrats' impeachment process. “I don't know what's going on in those closed doors,” she said. This week, she introduced a resolution that would censure Trump, rather than impeach him. In her statement Wednesday night, she said the resolution would "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."
Campaigning in South Carolina on Monday, she said she was not yet sure how she would vote on impeachment.
"I'm taking this time for myself to be able to review everything that's happened, all the information that's been put forward," Gabbard said at Furman University. "And just all the factors that go into really trying to figure out what is the best action to take for our country. And for democracy. It's not a simple or easy decision to make."
Matt Berman is the politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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