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Reps. Lauren Underwood, Cheri Bustos to back Trump impeachment

Underwood and Bustos are two of 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 and the group has been closely watched for defections.

Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., speaks while joining fellow House Democrats to mark the 200th day of the 116th Congress on the steps outside the U.S. Capitol on July 25, 2019.
Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., speaks while joining fellow House Democrats to mark the 200th day of the 116th Congress on the steps outside the U.S. Capitol on July 25, 2019.
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WASHINGTON – The two most vulnerable incumbent House Democrats in Illinois, Reps. Lauren Underwood and Dan Lipinski, who have been taking their time on a decision, said they will vote Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump.

Underwood, a freshman, is one of 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 and the group has been closely watched for defections. The other Illinois member in the group of 31, Rep. Cheri Bustos, from Moline, also announced on Tuesday she will vote to impeach Trump.

Trump and his allies have targeted the 31 in a bid to peel off Democratic impeachment votes. Trump won Underwood’s 14th district by almost four points. Underwood already has been the subject of Trump tweets and ads designed to pressure her on the historic vote.

Speaking from the House floor on Tuesday, Underwood said in a brief speech, “As I’ve weighed this solemn decision I’ve listened to our community, examined important testimony and evidence, and studied the drafted articles.

“The President has demonstrated a pattern of corrupt behavior, and abused his power for his own personal political gain when he pressured foreign leaders to conduct investigations against political rivals, jeopardizing our country’s national security and the integrity of our elections. The testimony and evidence put forth led me to a clear conclusion. In order to uphold my sworn oath, I must vote to protect the Constitution and will vote in support of the articles of impeachment.”

Underwood, from Naperville, has no primary opponents. Her November race in her GOP-leaning district will be the biggest in the Chicago area, no matter who among the seven Republicans running in the primary wins the nomination.

Before Underwood spoke, Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro in Southern Illinois, recalled in his short House speech the bi-partisanship involved when ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevch was impeached in 2009 when he was a member of the Illinois House. The lone vote against impeaching Blagojevich, Bost said, came from his sister-in-law, a reference to Deb Mell, the former alderman and Illinois state representative.

“If you come from the state of Illinois, you understand what it is to have an impeachment that’s compelling, overwhelming and bipartisan,” Bost said.

“There was clear and convincing evidence of crimes committed by the governor. … What we have that we’re dealing with here this week is not a crime. And it is not overwhelming.”

Lipinski, from Western Springs, is the Democrat most at risk in the March primary, facing two major rivals.

Lipinski, in a statement, put distance between himself and Democrats who called for Trump’s impeachment before the Ukraine call controversy erupted with the whistleblower disclosure of a questionable July 25 Trump call with the Ukraine president.

“I would prefer we get direct evidence, but President Trump blocked that effort and Speaker Pelosi won’t wait. Since I must vote now, I will vote yes because with reasonable inference there’s evidence that the president abused his power in the Ukraine matter. The House acts as a grand jury; we only need probable cause to send to the Senate for trial.

“Some claim impeachment without removal is punishment, but the expected Senate outcome would give the president the opportunity to claim complete vindication. This will not constrain his actions and may embolden him. It may further weaken Congress. November 2020, President Trump may be re-elected.

“The evidence gathered in the impeachment inquiry indicated that President Trump should be rebuked for his actions on Ukraine, so I voted yes. The inquiry has been validated. But those who pushed House Democrats to move impeachment right now may have handed President Trump a major victory,” Lipinski said.