February 12, 2021

Jaime Herrera Beutler

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump, discusses her vote, the impeachment trial, whether there is any chance of conviction and the future of the GOP.

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Ten Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump. She was one of them. This Week on Firing Line. After those deadly riots at the Capitol, among the Republicans who joined Democrats in the vote to impeach, Representative Jaime Hererra Beutler… 

JHB on House floor 1/13/2021: “I am not choosing a side. I am choosing truth.”

…a six-term Congresswoman from a purple district in Washington State. With the trial in the Senate underway…

Rep. Jaime Raskin (D), Lead House Impeachment Manager: “If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.” 

David Schoen, Attorney for Fmr. Pres. Donald Trump: “This is nothing less than the political weaponization of the impeachment process.” 

…and most Republicans defending President Trump, what does Representative Jaime Hererra Beutler say now?

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible in part by… And by… Corporate funding is provided by…

HOOVER: Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler, welcome back to Firing Line. 

BEUTLER: It’s good to be here.

HOOVER: It has been just over four weeks since you, along with nine other House Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump. How do you feel about your vote now? 

BEUTLER: You know, I feel like it was still the right vote. I don’t have a moment of regret. That doesn’t mean that it has made everything easy and pleasant in my world. But I think if it’s right, it was right then, it’s right today. And I feel I feel like it was the decision that was most akin to the things I believe as a Republican. And I think it was the right thing really for the country.

HOOVER: Did you vote to impeach because you believe President Trump acted in violation of his oath of office? 

BEUTLER: That, fundamentally, yes. And, you know, as a Republican, we talk about the Constitution being so central to our platform. When you take your oath of office, you’re swearing allegiance to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. On January 6th when we were counting the electoral votes the Constitution was under assault, a sustained assault, for a number of hours, and the president played a role in inciting it. But I also believe, for those people who say he didn’t, I would say look at the things that he did during that three plus hours. And I think that speaks to his motives. He spent time calling senators, asking them to further delay the counting, he tweeted attacks at Mike Pence as Mike Pence was literally being escorted for his life. People were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” They had erected a gallows outside of the Capitol on the lawn area. You know and honestly the fact that the president’s first message was basically was a wink and a nod to those protesters. He said, “we love you, you’re special.” So all those things, all that to me says either the president didn’t know it was happening, which I find hard to believe, or worse, he decided to do nothing as it was happening. And that, to me, is a direct violation of his oath of office.

HOOVER: Congresswoman, where were you when this happened?

BEUTLER: Well, in different places. But when they started breaking down the door, the main door. I was on the House floor, on the Republican side of the aisle as they started banging. And I’ll never forget that. You know, one of the members turned to me and said, “I’m really scared. I’m really, really scared.” And I thought, wow, there’s a giant mob outside literally beating down the door. I don’t think it gets any more real than that. I do think that—

HOOVER: Were you scared?

BEUTLER: Yes, of course I was scared, but I wasn’t– I was more of the mind that, look, I feel when it’s your time to go, you’re going to go. And I felt like it wasn’t my time. I’m not going to lie, I was praying. I was absolutely praying, and I had some peace in that. There was a member that walked by, Jim Jordan walked by and he said, “you know you ladies need to go  be by some of the men,” literally kind of trying to warn us, like the door is about to come down and it’s going to be chaos in here. So there was the assault coming in the main door. And then where the woman who got shot, directly across there’s another door. So there was two doors. They took us out those doors and down some steps. And you know there was one Capitol Police officer in the hallway with a firearm. I mean, this protest was like just barely missing us by a hallway and us getting out these other doors. It was remarkable.

HOOVER: So you said on the House floor 

JHB 1/13:  My vote to impeach a sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side I am choosing truth. It’s the only way to defeat fear. 

HOOVER: Can you explain those remarks?

BEUTLER: I really wanted to convey that I wasn’t making this decision out of fear, political fear, physical fear. I wasn’t personally thinking, ahh I had a horrible experience, I’m going to take retribution on you. It had nothing to do with that. I really felt–  I wanted people to understand, I’m not going to be cowered into going one way or the other on this. I’m going to stick with what I see is truth. And that’s why I said I’m not choosing a side. This is about choosing truth. And I do believe that truth is what pushes out fear. And I wanted to just speak that truth from the House floor. Like come what may, the truth is the President had incited this riot, he did nothing to stop it. And that’s a violation of his oath. That’s impeachable. If it was a Democratic president, I would have felt the exact same way. In fact, I would argue that there are a number of my colleagues who would have possibly seen it that way as well.

HOOVER: One hundred and thirty nine of your Republican colleagues in the House continued to object to the election results even after the riots. What do you say to them? 

BEUTLER: Wow. You know what I’ve been telling folks is, I know people who went into that day wanting to vote one way and came out of it voting another. I thought it took more courage to change your stance at that point. I went into that day knowing I was going to vote to seat the electors. That’s not to say that I didn’t think there were problems in certain states. I think there were, but it was very clear that it wasn’t widespread fraud. Like, it wasn’t a stolen election. I think everybody is right to say, let’s make sure that those states are all doing better in their electoral processes, and the Constitution gave us a place for that. The Constitution allows those states to have sent us other electors and not one of those states did. So for me, going into the vote, I honestly thought more people would be voting that way because it seemed pretty cut and dry. I usually don’t carry around my pocket Constitution. But you know what’s funny is in the last probably six weeks, I have dog-eared that sucker more than I have in my last ten years in office. And again, Republicans are the party of the Constitution. This is to me about are we going to be a united Republican majority that adheres to the values that are set out in the Constitution: individual liberty, the pursuit of life, and the ability to raise your family how you want, run your business. All those things are so critical to me. Free markets. I just, that’s part of why I am a Republican. Are we going to be a party that’s united around those ideas? Or are we going to be a long term minority dedicated really to the personality of one person? I say no to the latter. 

HOOVER: Congresswoman, your district is in southwestern Washington and the Chair of the Clark County Republican Party, the county you represent, said your vote means that you’re retiring either “willingly or unwillingly.” And he said, quote, “I can guarantee you she is going to have a primary opponent.” What’s your response?

BEUTLER: I’m not going anywhere. I’m definitely going to be running for reelection. You know this, I understand that they’re frustrated. I also should say it’s not the first time that that county party has taken issue with me. They’ve censured me before. So it’s not like, you know—

HOOVER: This wouldn’t be your first primary challenge. 

BEUTLER: This would be my first primary challenge and it won’t be my first rodeo with people on the extreme right. You know, I’m as conservative, this is the irony to me is, I’m as conservative as it gets. You know, I was homeschooled for a majority of my education. I’m  pro-life. I’ve never voted to raise taxes at any level. And I won’t. So actually, I haven’t strayed on this.

HOOVER: So you said earlier that, you know, even though you don’t regret your vote, you can’t say that it’s been pleasant. What did you mean? 

BEUTLER: Oh, my goodness. Think about any place that you’re at, whether it’s in your work or your church, your kids’ school, you know, your team, so to speak, is where you get some of your support. Right? You expect incoming fire from the other side, you’re ready for it and the team rallies around you. Friendly fire is the worst. 

HOOVER: So your team is not rallying around you right now.

BEUTLER: I would say, you know, surprisingly, some are, some aren’t. I’m more speaking to those people who I know know better, all those people who have said, my whole life that the Republican Party is the one of law and order, it’s the one of morality, it’s the one that adheres to the Constitution. I’ve had many of those people reach out and say, how could you do this to Donald Trump? And my response is, this isn’t about Donald Trump. This is about my own oath to the Constitution. And those people know better. 

HOOVER: Do you feel betrayed by them? 

BEUTLER: I wouldn’t say betrayed. Disappointed. Because I believe the things that we collectively have talked about and agreed with. I do believe that your word is your word. I do believe that taking the oath means standing by your oath. So, disappointed, I think, is more where I’ve been at. You know, even the day of the insurrection, I was walking through these empty halls and I ran into a couple of police officers who had literally had the you-know-what kicked out of them, right? And it was all over their face. I was so angry at that moment. I just was like – and I said, I said, because I hadn’t seen anything yet, “has anybody seen the president on TV? Has anybody seen him tweet anything? Has he said anything about stopping this?” And the officers just kind of went [shrug]. And, you know, in that moment, I just thought: why defend that? There’s nothing about that that’s Republican, there’s nothing about that that is conservative. That’s us centering around the ego of one person and, man, that’s never been the Republican Party. That was never what I grew up in. That’s not what I’ve spent the last 10 years defending. And it’s not who we’re going to be going forward. That’s what’s amazing about this. People who– you know, I do think we saw the fragility of our democratic republic on display on January 6th. But I think we also saw its strength because after everything was cleared, after we finally got the reinforcements that the Capitol Police needed, right, after everything was put back in place, Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, came back out onto the floor of the House and the Senate, we got back out there and we voted to seat the electors, and the Constitution moves on. So it took us a while to get to this place. I do think it’s going to take some time to get out of it. 

HOOVER: So right now, President Trump’s second impeachment trial is underway and it is very different from the first. House Democrats moved to vote very quickly, without an investigation or without witnesses. In your view, was that the best course of action?

BEUTLER: So I actually thought that – so if I was the Speaker of the House, if I was Nancy Pelosi, if I was a Democrat, I would have said, ‘what’s the best way to bring, you know, this impeachment in a way that that earns the trust and the respect of half of America,’ right? And I reached out to Pelosi. I talked to Steny Hoyer. I did every back channel I could to the incoming Biden administration to say, “Let’s do this in a bipartisan way. Let’s take some time and do it right. Let’s make the case.” You know, nobody is privy to the information we were privy to– I shouldn’t say nobody. There was a lot of information on TV and I chose, you know, my rationales from the stuff that was publicly available so that no one can say we didn’t know. However, I think we could have brought more people along if we had done it that way. 

HOOVER: So what would have been the best approach to making it even more bipartisan?  I mean, look, this was the most bipartisan impeachment in the history of the country, but what could have made it even more so?

BEUTLER: I think had we made the evidence, we would – if we would have elucidated the evidence on the world stage between the members, I think – I think there was a lot of room for people to not vote for impeachment by doing it in this rushed way. I would have liked to have somebody come up and talk about the calls that the president was making to other senators while they were in lockdown. I would like someone to answer for the fact that the president’s tweeting attacks at Mike Pence as people are rushing in shouting, “hang Mike Pence.” And the reason I say this is, when I get the chance to talk with Republicans who are upset about my vote and I share these things step by step, maybe they don’t all agree, but they all come to at least a place of saying, ‘you know, maybe I agree or disagree, but I respect your opinion.’ And I think that’s what I would have been after. Now, having said that, Nancy Pelosi did it how she did it. I didn’t have a choice on the process. I only got to vote yes or no. And I think that beyond a shadow of a doubt, the right vote is yes. And now I’m kind of working, I would say, backwards. I’ve been making phone calls, trying to reach out to people.

HOOVER: You’re explaining your vote and your position to your constituents. Tell me, the conventional wisdom, Congresswoman, right now is that there will not be 17 GOP senators willing to vote to convict. What do you think?

BEUTLER: Oh, I really am not sure. I feel like there have been, depending on the – in the last two weeks, there were times when I would have said yes, and today I’m not so sure. And this week, Senator Shelby has announced that he’s going to retire. I think there might– I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few more retirements. Will we get to 17? I don’t know. 

HOOVER: Yeah. Look, I want to turn to some of your colleagues in the House and some of the dynamics in the House Republican Conference. And I’d like to take a look at a video of one of your newest colleagues in the House before she was elected. Take a look at this.

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE MONTAGE: Q is a patriot, we know that for sure, but we do not know who Q is and the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon. It’s odd there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon. But anyways, I won’t – I’m not going to dive into the 9/11 conspiracy. // You know if school zones were protected by – with security guards, with guns, there would be no mass shootings at schools. Do you know that? That was David Hogg, right there. And he’s a coward. He can’t say one word because he can’t defend his stance because there is no defense for taking away guns. // I have two daughters. I never want to see Sharia in America. And so I really want to go talk to these ladies and ask them what they are thinking and why they’re serving in our American government. They really should go back to the Middle East.

HOOVER: That was Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has since renounced some but not all of those views. You have said that her views are, quote, “not just objectionable, but insane.” But when given the chance to strip her of her committee membership last week, you voted against it. Explain why. 

BEUTLER: Well, because it was in no way punitive. She’s still a member of the House and she still has the ability to vote on those same assignments. I honestly think it would be better for her to stay on the committee. And again, if I was strategizing for the Democrats, I would have said, “you have to stay on the Education Committee. And you know what? We’re going to do a series of hearings on school shootings. And we’re going to bring folks in from all sides to talk about it. And you have to sit there and listen to what they have to say. And you can defend your own ideas.” I don’t understand why we’re so afraid to, I think, speak truth to her, right?

HOOVER: Yeah.

BEUTLER:  I mean, I can’t believe I have to say this, but the wildfires in California did not start by space laser. And it’s not some conspiracy with people of Jewish ancestry behind it. That’s nuts. For all of this, I’ve looked at it and thought, what’s the most constructive way for us to move forward? I do think that when you step into that place where opposing teams are saying who gets to be on what committee, you’re opening up a Pandora’s box. I guarantee you, when Republicans get the majority back, there is going to be a whole people– people with a whole list, and they’re going to go after all these Democrats. And I think – so then we end up in this place where we’re doing nothing but shooting at each other. And I just think there was a better way to do that. You know, I also think – and I did communicate within my own conference to my Republican members and to my leadership — we should move to censure her.

HOOVER: So now you have said that you would be in favor of censuring Marjorie Taylor Greene. Tell me, do you have confidence in Kevin McCarthy as a leader in dealing with this fringe faction within your conference? 

BEUTLER: I really believe that the way we look at this needs to be: what moves us forward? So I’m not going to pick apart members of the Republican leadership based on what I think they should do, which is – but I have taken upon myself to communicate with them. I think Republicans should censure her. I think it’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate: we’re rejecting QAnon. Time will tell whether the Republican leadership agrees with me or not.

HOOVER: Do you think there’s more support within your conference to censure her?

BEUTLER: There is. I don’t know how widespread. I know members would, because some have called for it.

HOOVER: Representative Liz Cheney is the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, and she voted to impeach Donald Trump. Sixty-one Republicans voted anonymously to remove Liz Cheney from her leadership post, and only 11 Republicans voted to strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Green from her committee assignments. What do you say to those who have the perception that Marjorie Taylor Greene has more support within the conference than Liz Cheney?

BEUTLER: You know, I think it’s hard to base who has real support based on secret ballots. I really do. I will tell you, you know the most – so, voting to impeach was obviously very public. And that’s why I think you saw a smaller number. I again, I just keep coming back to this actually isn’t about Liz Cheney or Marjorie Taylor Greene. This isn’t about either of those women, or even Kevin McCarthy. This is whether or not the broader Republican Party is going to say, we’re not QAnon, we’re not cool with the Proud Boys, we’re not white supremacists. And we’re going to reject those things, and the party of the personality of one man. And that’s ultimately – when I look at all of this, I think, how can I help move that forward? There are Republican voters who maybe don’t know better, who bought into some of this stuff. How do I help bring those back to rally around the principles that are the Republican Party? You know, we’ve talked about limited government, low taxes, free enterprise, life. That’s what I’m interested in. 

HOOVER: If this isn’t about Marjorie Taylor Greene, you know, to what extent are you concerned, Congresswoman, that she represents actually a larger problem within the Republican Party, sort of more broadly? That there is an ascendance within the GOP state parties, maybe even within the RNC committee membership of the prevalence of conspiracy theories and this paranoid style of American politics. Are you concerned that she actually is just the tip of the spear?

BEUTLER: I think the thing I’m concerned about is that there are a lot of people out there who either don’t know the truth or reject it. Up until this last week, I don’t know that I’ve said her name. I have no intention to dive into the personal politics of Marjorie Taylor Greene. I have every intention of speaking to the 74 or so million Americans who voted for Donald Trump, some of whom really do want to move on. I’m trying to speak courage to those folks. Look, and that’s part of why my impeachment vote was so important. It was to say: look, we’re done with this and join us. We’re not going to stand for being conspiracies and fear mongers and liars. Done with that. And I do believe most people will get there because the whole reason they’re engaged is because they love the country. Right? Now fear, I think, has motivated a lot of people. And the left does it too. You know, I have said to a number of my Democratic colleagues who have said, “congratulations on your vote.” And I say, “Thank you for that. Now go speak truth to your team.” And if we do that together, maybe we can get back to a place where the American people would trust what we say, and we can move forward as a nation, and we can debate the merits of tax policy and health care policy. I can’t wait to get back to where it’s two strong parties, not hating people or hating each other, but speaking truth, and debating the best policy to support and serve the American people. 

HOOVER: In 1966, William F. Buckley Jr., who was the host of Firing Line for 33 years, was asked a question about extremism in American politics. Take a quick look at this clip.

REPORTER: The Republican Party has taken official action to rid itself of what it considers the extremist influences, specifically the John Birch Society. Now, as a Republican, do you support such action? 

BUCKLEY: The Republican Party has never conceded that it is influenced. So how can it remove something that never existed in the first instance? What certain Republican officials have consented to do is to state publicly that they do not seek the support of the John Birch Society, which in the sense is a venture in redundancy because I don’t see that it was ever clear that they did seek the support of Mr. Robert Welch. The support of Mr. Welch being, as we all know, a negative asset in terms of modern politics.

HOOVER: I mean, Buckley has gotten a lot of credit because he essentially called out the extremism on the right. One of his biographers said, he pointed out the John Birch Society was, quote, “outside the parameters of what responsible conservative opinion is.” Who is standing up for what responsible conservative opinion is right now?

BEUTLER: There’s a lot of people, believe it or not. Some are elected officials. You know what I’ve really been pleased to see is people who are part of the evangelical church leadership. Not all of them, but a number are standing up and saying, ‘wait a minute, this isn’t – this isn’t who we say we are. This isn’t right.’ You know, I had a letter from a constituent who was upset with me about my impeachment vote, so upset. And I was able to respond to him and give him my rationale. And he wrote back and said, “Well. OK, I trust you.” That was gold to me because it means that people want the truth. And so if we’re willing to stand up and say it, more people will hunger for it and we’ll get what we need to go. You know, as much as this last six weeks have not been the most pleasant for anybody – the last year hasn’t been the most pleasant for anybody, it’s been horrible – I still have hope in this institution. And, I really believe, I’m not leaving my party. I want to, you know I should mention this, the young Republicans put out a letter a couple of weeks ago, a simple little letter that these teenage Republicans thought, “we’re going to make this public.” And it said, we basically – we’re not the party of QAnon. We renounce these crazy conspiracy theories. And I loved it because it means that the next generation is going to be stepping into these shoes to lead in truth. And I do think that there’s hope. I think we’re going to move in the right direction. It’s just painful now. 

HOOVER: You’re considered one of the most bipartisan members of the House of Representatives. President Biden ran on a campaign of unity. How’s he doing?

BEUTLER: Time is starting to show us. I actually think he really could have done an amazing thing by stepping forward and telling Nancy Pelosi to wait on impeachment, to do it in the way I described earlier, right, and truly extend a hand to the other side and say, come with me. And he missed it. That was disappointing. However, I think, you know, another chance would be around this COVID package. And here the Biden administration is saying, ‘Well, I’m looking at almost a two trillion dollar bill and I’ll go it alone if I have to.’ My message to them would be: don’t do that. Set your term off right by demonstrating willingness to do the hard thing, which is to do it right. Bring others aboard, bring them along. That’s leadership. I can tell you it is hard to bring people out of a place where they disagree with you to where they agree with you. I’m walking through it every day right now.

HOOVER: So you’re saying, don’t use budget reconciliation. 

BEUTLER: I think it’s a mistake. I would also point back to when Republicans tried to use reconciliation for the Obamacare repeal. And because of the constraints of it–

HOOVER: Yeah

BEUTLER: –it means you’re not going to do it right. That was one of the reasons I voted against that bill, because it left out all of the things that were going to make health care better, which was what our promise was. I would say the same to Democrats: don’t make that mistake. Because look what happened.  We ended up doing nothing. And health care is still in a terrible place. So I just think it’s a missed opportunity. But we’ll see. Maybe he’ll switch gears. I don’t know. 

HOOVER: Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, thank you for returning to Firing Line.

BEUTLER: It’s a pleasure. Thank you. 

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