U.S. Congressman Jared Golden Credit: Gabor Degre

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden said Wednesday he will back a resolution from House Democrats outlining the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The freshman from Maine’s 2nd District — where a majority backed the Republican president in the 2016 election — has walked a fine line on impeachment for more than a month as one of only a few Democrats to hold out on publicly supporting the inquiry. He cited procedural reasons for the Wednesday decision, but stressed it should not be taken as a sign of support for impeaching Trump as Republicans rushed to label it as just that.

The resolution to be voted on Thursday would provide for open hearings and directs the intelligence panel to draft a report making recommendations on impeachment. Impeachment articles could later go to the House floor for votes. If any pass, Trump would be tried in the Republican-led Senate, where 67 votes would be required to remove him from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced the inquiry in September after a whistleblower report emerged saying Trump may have pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate a political rival, but it has mostly happened behind closed doors. Republicans have assailed the process as illegitimate. A federal judge ruled last week that the inquiry was legal.

Golden has said he disagreed with the decision to open an impeachment inquiry, but he backed the procedural resolution citing a need for public hearings around the process, saying it should give Republicans “everything they’ve asked for” over the past few weeks.

“As I have listened to the concerns of the president and his Republican supporters in Congress, they’ve made it clear they want public hearings … and legal representation,” he said in a phone interview. “This resolution is going to give it to them.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, said in a statement that she would also support the outline “because government for the people must include them in this historic process.” Pingree has told Maine Public she is likely to vote to impeach Trump.

After Pelosi announced the inquiry, the White House later released a readout of the call in which Trump references U.S. aid to Ukraine before asking President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in 2020, and his son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm.

Golden has insisted the House should have exhausted other options before pursuing impeachment proceedings. Politico has counted him as one of only five House Democrats to not back the inquiry. But he has defended the way the probe has been conducted so far, telling the progressive Maine People’s Alliance this month that he supports Pelosi “in the current process.”

He maintained that stance Wednesday, saying it was “always clear to him” that the whistleblower’s complaint needed to be investigated. He said his vote should not be taken as support for impeachment. That decision, he said, won’t be made until all facts are aired.

“People should read this vote as my support of getting the truth,” Golden said. “At the end of the day this is going to be about whether or not the president has broken the law and whether or not the president’s actions are deserving of impeachment or not.”

Golden has been criticized from the left and right on the issue. A spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm said in a statement his “decision to back impeachment will be the nail in his political career’s coffin.” The three Republicans running in a June primary for the seat were immediately critical in statements.

Former state Sen. Eric Brakey said Golden sided with “obstructionist Democrats,” while Adrienne Bennett, a former spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, said it “looks like he received the order to fall in line” and former state Rep. Dale Crafts said Golden is tiptoeing around a “political game” that he called an “attack” on Trump and “his pro-economy, pro-jobs and pro-growth policies.”

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...