On Trump impeachment, divisions between urban and rural Democrats

Mt. Ayr, IOWA/Wharton, N.J., Nov 25 (Reuters) - First-term U.S. congresswoman Cynthia Axne, back home in her rural Iowa district for the Thanksgiving break, faced a room full of farmers on Saturday who made clear their opposition to the impeachment investigation of Republican President Donald Trump.

Axne, 54, avoided any mention of impeachment until one of her constituents, a Democrat who voted for her, said he views the investigation as a waste of time and money: "Let's not vote for impeachment. Let's get stuff done. I'm sick of it!," he bellowed. Others nodded in agreement.

Meanwhile, 1,000 miles away in the old industrial town of Wharton, New Jersey, freshman U.S. congressman Tom Malinowksi was treated like a rock star when he told a crowd of about 150 he believed the evidence to impeach Trump was overwhelming.

With each mention of impeachment and denunciation of Trump, Malinowski was greeted with loud applause from voters packed into a tiny library basement, where the room hummed with talk of ousting the president.

These two freshman lawmakers flipped districts from Republican control in the 2018 midterm congressional elections, two of the 41 net gains that helped Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011.

Yet on impeachment, as they face close fights for their seats again next November, their approach is starkly different. Axne avoids any mention of it; Malinowski leans into the topic.

Polls show public sentiment about impeachment breaking along partisan lines, but the reaction of Democratic voters in these two swing districts suggests there is also a rural and suburban divide on the issue among Democrats.

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First public hearings of Trump's impeachment inquiry features two veteran diplomats testimony
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First public hearings of Trump's impeachment inquiry features two veteran diplomats testimony
Career Foreign Service officer George Kent, left, and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, and career Foreign Service officer George Kent, both to the right, are sworn in before they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. Committee members are seated left. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, left, and Career Foreign Service officer George Kent are sworn in prior to testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Photo via AP)
Top US diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on November 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie US aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (L), speaks with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (C), and Republican Counsel Steve Castor during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
Democratic Counsel Daniel Goldman asks questions of witnesses US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Top US diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on November 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie US aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Democratic Counsel Daniel Goldman questions top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. as Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) (R), Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) (L) and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) listen during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, speaks during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, with witnesses Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent testifying, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by JIM LO SCALZO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Republican Representative from California Devin Nunes (L) and legal counsel Steve Castor (R) listen to Charge d'Affaires at the US embassy in Ukraine Bill Taylor during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC,on November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by JIM LO SCALZO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
US Representative Jim Jordan (R), Republican of Ohio, attends the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, with witnesses Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent testifying, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Shadows cover a Boston Globe front page headline stating "THE CASE TO IMPEACH, FOR ALL TO HEAR" posted at the Newseum on November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) listens during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, with witnesses top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William B. Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent testifying, on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
Chairman Adam Schiff (L), Democrat of California, and Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R), Republican of California, during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, with witnesses Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent testifying, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr. (C) listens to opening statements before providing testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are making a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate political rivals in exchange for military aid and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs looks on during the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Charge d'Affaires at the US embassy in Ukraine Bill Taylor (L) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia George Kent (R) are sworn in to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald J. Trump, on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump.(Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs looks on during the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the media work as top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George P. Kent testify before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. In the first public impeachment hearings in more than two decades, House Democrats are trying to build a case that President Donald Trump committed extortion, bribery or coercion by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rival in exchange for military aide and a White House meeting that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sought with Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor (C-L from back) and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent (C-R from back) testify during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 13, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs and Ukrainian Ambassador Bill Taylor(front), the top diplomat in the US embassy in Ukraine arrive in the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on November 13, 2019. - Donald Trump faces the most perilous challenge of his three-year presidency as public hearings convened as part of the impeachment probe against him open under the glare of television cameras on Wednesday. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
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"I don't talk about impeachment," Axne, who defeated Republican David Young in 2016 by just two points, said in an interview.

"These are hard working, salt of the earth people who just want to make a living and provide for their families. They’re tired of what they consider the bureaucracy and the politics of Washington and that’s true to what Iowans are. Impeachment is not a priority in their lives."

Axne supports the impeachment inquiry, and says if there is proof Trump abused his office and harmed America's national security in his dealings with Ukraine, she will vote to impeach him - even it means losing her seat. She agreed she could face voter backlash.

"My job is to work for the people here in this district and do a good job for them. But my job also is to protect this country. If we find out that the president has put us in harm’s way, then I have absolutely no problem losing a seat over that."

To loud applause in his New Jersey district, about 50 miles west of New York, Malinowski said: “The president is free to pursue a foreign policy that he believes is in the national interest, but he is not free to pursue a foreign policy that only serves his political interest,”

Malinowski, 53, a Polish-born former employee of the State Department, was the first New Jersey House member to call for Trump's impeachment. He asked the crowd to put up their hands if they were watching the hearings and nearly all of the some 150 people in attendance put their arms in the air.

Five days of public hearings in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry concluded on Thursday. The probe is looking into Trump’s pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Trump in 2020, and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The probe is also examining whether Trump abused his power by temporarily withholding $391 million in security aid to Ukraine, approved by Congress to fight Russia-backed separatists, to pressure Kiev into conducting the investigation.

Asked how he was going to vote on impeachment, Malinowski said he had not made a final decision, but added: "I think you can tell from my presentation that I believe the evidence against the president is quite strong."

He had plenty of company at the town hall. Frank Harder, a 71-year retired purchasing agent and registered Democrat, has supported impeaching Trump for months.

“I think the man is a traitor,” said Harder, who has been a registered Democrat since returning from a tour in Vietnam in 1971. “I think he’s Putin’s little puppet,” he said, referring to Trump's efforts to build a closer relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A handful of Republican lawmakers in moderate districts will be greeted on the Thanksgiving break by mobile billboards urging them to support impeachment.

The ads were purchased by the Need to Impeach and MoveOn.org, two left-leaning groups that have been seeking new ways to apply pressure on Republicans and Democrats who have been reluctant to support impeachment.

The ads will target Republican U.S. representatives like Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Elise Stefanik of New York.

In addition to the mobile billboards, MoveOn launched an ad campaign targeting Stefanik in her home district.

(Reporting by Tim Reid and Jarret Renshaw Editing by Alistair Bell)

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