AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden stopped shy of joining Democratic calls for the impeachment of President Donald Trump for pressing Ukraine’s leader to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, when party leaders in the House announced an impeachment inquiry would begin.
A growing number of Democrats have been calling for impeaching Trump for months, but leading House Democrats had been reticent to push the issue, which would ultimately be voted on by the Republican-led Senate. That changed Tuesday evening when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced an inquiry would take place.
Golden, a Democrat, has taken a careful approach with the Republican president since winning his seat in the 2nd Congressional District in 2018 after narrowly defeating a Republican incumbent in a district that Trump won in 2016.
He was one of only 33 House Democrats who hadn’t backed impeachment or the inquiry as of Tuesday evening, according to a Politico count. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, announced support for the inquiry on Tuesday.
The whistleblower complaint released last week was the tipping point. It alleges in part that Trump urged Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate if Biden misused his power by pressuring the government into firing a prosecutor in 2014 while his son Hunter was on the board of a Ukranian gas company.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump ordered aid withheld from Ukraine before a call with Zelensky in July. That aid was released in September. Trump earlier in the day called the allegations a “witch hunt” and said he would release a transcript of the call Wednesday.
The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to release the whistleblower report so far and will address the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Seven House Democrats signed a Monday letter in The Washington Post saying Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine president to investigate Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in 2020, would be an impeachable offense if true.
Golden, a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been allied with that group of freshmen members with military or intelligence backgrounds, but he did not go as far as they did in a Tuesday statement that said the whistleblower report must be released.
“The House of Representatives must take every action necessary to combat this administration’s stonewalling of the rule of law,” Golden said. “Ensuring that the [House and Senate intelligence panels] receive the full text of the whistleblower’s complaint is a necessary first step.”
King backed the inquiry for the first time in a Tuesday statement, saying Trump’s actions “require an immediate and exhaustive investigation” and that the House “had no choice but to make use of its only remaining option.” Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, voted to impeach Trump in July and backed Pelosi’s move in a Tuesday statement.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, issued a Tuesday statement saying she would not comment on the inquiry, citing the Senate’s role in voting to remove a president. She also said “the law is clear” an urgent whistleblower complaint must be shared with the intelligence committees. Collins expected a briefing on the matter in the Senate Intelligence Committee later this week.
While Golden didn’t join his party in calling for impeachment on Tuesday, his statement was a departure from remarks this summer, when he called impeachment talk is part of “the BS that … drives the silent majority of American insane” and is not the best way to address what his constituents need. He said he could change his mind if new “substantive” information emerged.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.