Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke candidly on Saturday about her controversial decision to vote “present” during last week’s formal impeachment vote, adding she feared the impeachment of President Donald Trump would only “embolden” him and increase his chance for reelection.
“I think impeachment, unfortunately, will only further embolden Donald Trump, increase his support and the likelihood that he’ll have a better shot at getting elected while also seeing the likelihood that the House will lose a lot of seats to Republicans,” Gabbard said, in a one-on-one interview with ABC News in Hudson, New Hampshire.
Gabbard — a 2020 president candidate — noted that the prospect of a second term for Trump and a Republican-controlled House is a “serious concern” of hers, adding that she’s worried about the potential ramifications that will be left if Trump is acquitted.
She told ABC News that it could leave “lasting damage” on the country as a whole.
The Democratic congresswoman — who is known to be an outspoken critic of her own party — was the lone lawmaker to not choose a side on impeachment, and has faced intense criticism for her choice.
Following the vote, Gabbard defended her decision in a public statement released by her campaign, calling her actions an “active protest” against the “terrible fallout of this zero sum mindset” between the two political parties.
“I am standing in the center and have decided to vote present, because I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” Gabbard said in the statement.
In the weeks prior to the vote, Gabbard had been notably vague when asked about her stance on impeachment, claiming she wanted to fully review both sides of the argument before she made a final decision.
Gabbard told ABC News that her vote, was “not a decision of neutrality,” reiterating that she was instead “standing up for the people of this country and our ability to move forward together.”
She added, “Thinking about what’s politically advantageous, whether for me or for my party, does not enter into my mind around these decisions that have really great consequence.”
On the eve of the full House vote on impeachment, Gabbard introduced a resolution to censure the president. The resolution suggested that Trump had put personal political gain over national interest.
In her written statement, Gabbard added that she based her vote on what she felt was the right thing to do — not the political fallout.
The public and political fallout, however, was swift, with many political pundits, lawmakers and voters from both sides of the aisle taking to social media to offer praise or criticism of the her decision.
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The congresswoman has also been critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, especially as she continues to hold off sending articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Pelosi has said she will wait until the Republican-led Senate works out the details of the trail — mainly in terms of whether or not live witnesses will be called.
ABC News’ Steff Thomas, Mariam Khan and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.
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