U.S. Congressman Jared Golden. Credit: Gabor Degre

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District said Tuesday he will vote for an article of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abusing the power of his office, but oppose House Democrats’ second charge of obstructing a congressional probe.

The announcement ended the monthslong speculation on how the freshman Democratic congressman would vote on the issue. He represents a Republican-leaning district that elected him narrowly in 2018 and backed Trump by 10 percentage points in the 2016 election.

The congressman has worked to draw a line between his October vote in support of the impeachment inquiry and his feelings on whether Trump should be impeached. He told reporters in a Tuesday call that he deliberated the split decision over the weekend, but he won’t win credit from Republicans who criticized it instantly.

Since House Democrats have enough members to advance the articles to a Senate trial amid unified Republican opposition, the effect of Golden’s vote will be largely on him. He was the first member of Congress to announce that he will split his vote on the articles when the House votes later this week.

The two articles likely to be advanced by House Democrats on Wednesday charge that Trump abused his power by pressuring the Ukrainian leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading hopeful for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in 2020, and obstructed Congress by directing officials to not comply with investigations.

In a four-page formal statement to be placed in the congressional record, Golden said the House investigation “clearly” unearthed evidence that Trump and administration officials used the power of the presidency in an attempt to damage his political opponent, which crossed a “red line” and constituted an impeachable offense.

“I simply decided to do what I believe is in the best interest of the country, regardless of the politics,” Golden said. “The president is doing the exact opposite. I find that the evidence in this is indisputable.”

[Read his full decision here]

Golden said he chose not to support the second article on obstructing Congress because House Democrats had not reached the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and there are unanswered questions surrounding the charge. He also said the House has not exhausted all options before impeachment, including recourse through the courts.

Golden said he spent the weekend reading about the Founding Fathers’ view on impeachment and talking to scholars and others who had reviewed impeachment proceedings — and didn’t have a decision until “the last 24 hours.”

“Even after looking at the evidence, I think one has to consider that if you think something wrong has been done, you have to weigh heavily whether or not it rises to the level of impeachment,” he said.

Golden has faced mounting pressure to make a decision for months. Republicans and Democrats have rallied outside his Bangor office in the last two weeks.

In October, he said the intent behind Trump’s actions would ultimately determine for him whether the president should be impeached. A few weeks later, he voted to move the inquiry forward, stressing that while he had disagreed with how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, had launched the inquiry, he believed it was being carried out fairly.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s liberal 1st District has said she would vote for both articles. Golden joined 27 Democrats from Trump-leaning districts to commit to voting to impeach by Tuesday, according to The Washington Post. Two House Democrats oppose impeachment.

In a statement, Nina McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Golden was “trying to have his cake and eat it too” on the issue. Republicans running for the nomination to face Golden in 2020 took similar lines in Tuesday statements.

Former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon Falls said in a statement that the congressman “plans to betray” pro-Trump constituents, while Adrienne Bennett, who was the spokeswoman for former Gov. Paul LePage, said Golden was “putting his concern for the Biden family” ahead of constituents. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn called it “an insult” to the district.

Golden has acknowledged that such a decision might be seen as unpopular with some of his constituents, but said on Tuesday that he couldn’t think about the politics of the vote and that he had a “conscious decision” to not use his re-election prospects as a gauge.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s almost a wash and it’s not something worth considering in regards to what the right thing is,” he said.