Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was one of four Democrats who did not vote for either article of impeachment against President Donald Trump as introduced by the House of Representatives. Gabbard did not vote against impeachment either, she simply voted “present.”
On Thursday, Gabbard offered an explanation for her vote. Speaking with The Hill, the lawmaker explained that she “absolutely” thinks Trump is guilty of wrongdoing, but that she did not want to legitimize a “highly partisan process.”
“This is something that our founding fathers warned us about,” she said.
“Making this statement, voting ‘present,’ taking a stand for the center. Standing for our democracy and really that this decision of whether to remove Donald Trump or not must be in the hands of voters.”
“I believe that they will make that decision,” she added.
According to Gabbard, it would have been more appropriate to censure Trump instead of impeaching him, which is why she introduced a censure resolution.
The congresswoman said that her resolution “basically points out some of the examples that I’ve raised of actions of wrongdoing by this president and a demand for an apology to the American people.”
Gabbard, who is running for president on the Democratic ticket, is facing intense backlash regarding her vote. A number of Democrats already expressed frustration with the congresswoman’s refusal to vote for articles of impeachment introduced by the Democratic-controlled lower chamber.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said that “voting ‘present’ is a very tough position to be in,” suggesting that Gabbard should have voted either “yes” or “no” if she was looking to take a stand.
As The Hill notes, Gabbard’s stance comes as no surprise, given she has been skeptical of impeachment since the beginning of the inquiry, arguing that impeaching Trump is “terribly divisive” for the country.
My ‘present’ vote was an active protest against the zero-sum game the two opposing political sides have trapped America in. My vote and campaign is about freeing our country from this damaging mindset so we can work side-by-side to usher in a bright future for all #StandWithTulsi pic.twitter.com/nmhEL5bi4Q
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) December 19, 2019
The Hawaii congresswoman holds a number of similarly unorthodox views. Gabbard is centering her 2020 campaign on issues of war and peace, but she has been accused of ignoring crimes committed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Gabbard, who claims to be a dove, also criticized former President Barack Obama for supposedly refusing to combat “radical Islamic terrorism.” In 2016, according to reports, Gabbard met with Trump to discuss joining his administration. The meeting was set up by Trump confidant Steve Bannon.
Furthermore, according to The Intercept, Gabbard is a supporter of Indian nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and she has been embraced by Hindu-American activists supportive of India’s far-right leader Narendra Modi.