Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii voted “present” on both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, later slamming the process as politically motivated.
Gabbard’s vote did not jeopardize the easy House majorities to charge Trump with abuse of power followed by obstruction of Congress. But the move aligned with her previously wavering on impeachment, having run as the sole Democrat not in favor of an impeachment inquiry before deciding to support it.
“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, who declined to talk with reporters following her votes, said in a statement soon afterward.
She added that she could not oppose impeachment “because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” nor could she back it “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.”
Gabbard accused Republicans of having “abdicated their responsibility to exercise legitimate oversight, and instead blindly do the bidding of their party’s leader.” She also had harsh words for her fellow Democrats, arguing that their “extreme rhetoric was never conducive to an impartial fact-finding process.”
She pointed to a censure resolution she had introduced that she said would “send a strong message to this President and future presidents that their abuses of power will not go unchecked, while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide.”
In a video tweeted Thursday, Gabbard said that her votes represented a return to a mindset “of negotiation and compromise,” later adding that if “we don’t break this stalemate we find ourselves in, America is done for.”
“My ‘present’ vote was an active protest against the zero-sum game the two opposing political sides have trapped America in,” she tweeted. “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”
The Hawaiian presidential candidate was not alone in opting not to vote along party lines on Wednesday. Democratic Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voted against both articles, and Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted no on the second article.
Gabbard announced in September that she had changed her mind and supported an impeachment inquiry after looking at the transcript of the conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On the campaign trail, she has expressed skepticism on impeachment.
“I have had concerns for a long time about impeachment being pursued for partisan reasons,” Gabbard said earlier this month, noting that she did vote to authorize the inquiry. “Pursuing impeachment for partisan reasons is something that will only further divide an already divided country and it actually undermines our democracy.”
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.