Tulsi Gabbard votes 'present' on Trump impeachment

In a surprise move, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic candidate for president, voted "present" Wednesday on both articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

"After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no," Gabbard said in a statement issued minutes after her vote.

Though the Hawaii Democrat had voted in favor of an October resolution that moved the impeachment inquiry forward, she had not publicly said whether she would vote for or against impeachment itself.

"I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present. I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing," she said. "I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country."

She added that it should be up to the American people to decide Trump's fate in November.

"I am confident that the American people will decide to deliver a resounding rebuke of President Trump’s innumerable improprieties and abuses. And they will express that judgment at the ballot box," she said.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard throughout her political career
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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard throughout her political career
US Democratic Representative from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard speaks during a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) on 'The Plight of Religious Minorities in India' on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 4, 2014. Several US lawmakers voiced concern for the future of religious minorities in India in a hearing that critics denounced as an attempt to influence upcoming elections. With polls starting April 7 in the world's largest democracy, several activists testifying before the US Congress' human rights commission expressed fear for the treatment of Muslims and Christians if Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi becomes the next prime minister, as surveys predict. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
First Hindu Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, speaks at the unveiling ceremony of life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Secaucus, NJ on May 31, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 25: Davan Gabbard (L), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (C) and Emily Tisch Sussman attend ELLE's annual Women in Washington Power List dinner hosted by Robbie Myers, ELLE Editor-in-Chief, with Gucci at Villa Firenze, the home of the Italian Ambassador, on March 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Elle)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington D.C., Sunday, March 10, 2013. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, attends news conference with democratic freshmen members-elect, in the Capitol Visitor Center. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 26: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, talks with Joe Scarborough, of MSNBC, before the Congressional Women's Softball game that pits Congresswomen against female journalists at Watkins Recreation Center on Capitol Hill. The reporters prevailed in a 11-8 victory. The game benefits the Young Survival Coalition that helps young women with breast cancer. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEB. 01, 2012: Tulsi Gabbard interviewed at Roll Call in Washington D.C. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call Photos)
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, nominates Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark)
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard speaks during Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 25: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, greets Celestino Almeda, a veteran reprinting the Philippine Commonwealth Army, during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Emancipation Hall to honor Filipino veterans of World War II on October 25, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 25: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, attends a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Emancipation Hall to honor Filipino veterans of World War II on October 25, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 06: Tulsi Gabbard speaks at Bernie Sanders 'A future to believe in San Francisco GOTV Concert' at Crissy Field San Francisco on June 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 17: Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Brian Mast, R-Fla., conduct a news conference in Rayburn Building on the Burn Pits Accountability Act, which evaluates the 'exposure of U.S. service members and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals,' on May 17, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 05: Abraham Williams (L) and Tulsi Gabbard attend the Sean Penn CORE Gala benefiting the organization formerly known as J/P HRO & its life-saving work across Haiti & the world at The Wiltern on January 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for CORE, formerly J/P HRO )
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Democratic Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted with Republicans on a procedural vote before the full House vote on the articles of impeachment, and then joined with the GOP to vote against allegations the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.

Van Drew announced his vote last week, leading to a thank you tweet from the president and an invitation to join the Republican party, an invitation sources have told NBC News he's likely to do.

"Always heard Jeff is very smart!" Trump tweeted.

Peterson held his cards closer to the vest. His spokesperson told NBC News last week that he was undecided on how he would vote.

Van Drew and Peterson are from districts that Trump won in 2016.

They were also the only two who broke with their party in October, when House Democrats voted for a resolution formalizing the rules and procedure for the impeachment inquiry. The resolution passed 232-196.

Van Drew, a freshman member of the House, has consistently opposed impeachment.

"Without bipartisan support I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate," he told NBC News in October.

Van Drew won his race in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District in 2018 with 53 percent of the vote. Trump won the district in 2016 over Hillary Clinton with 51 percent of the vote.

Peterson, who's held his seat since 1991, represents a rural district that Trump won in 2016 by 30 points — the most Trump-friendly district in the country that also elected a Democratic congressman.

He had complained in October that the House inquiry was "hopelessly partisan."

"Without support from Senate Republicans, going down this path is a mistake," he said then.

Peterson voted in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry into then-President Bill Clinton in 1998, but wound up voting no on the actual articles of impeachment.

Another Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted in favor of impeaching the president for abuse of power but against the article of impeachment on obstruction of Congress.

Golden, a freshman lawmaker who comes from a Republican-leaning district that Trump won by 10 points in 2016, explained his reasoning to his constituents in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

"While I do not dispute that the White House has been provocative in its defiance and sweeping in its claims of executive privilege, I also believe there are legitimate and unresolved constitutional questions about the limits of executive privilege, and that before pursuing impeachment for this charge, the House has an obligation to exhaust all other available options," he wrote.

No Republicans voted in favor of impeachment, but one former Republican did. Independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan voted in favor of both articles.

Amash left the GOP in July after the release of the Mueller report led him to first call for Trump's impeachment.

"No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us," Amash said in an Independence Day op-ed announcing his departure from the party. "If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it."

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