Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard defends voting ‘present’ on impeachment as ‘an active protest’


ABC News(MANCHESTER, N.H.) — In the face of criticism, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard defended her decision to vote “present” during the House’s formal impeachment vote against President Donald Trump, saying Thursday that her vote was an “active protest” against the “terrible fallout of this zero sum mindset” between the two political parties.Political pundits, members of the media and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stormed social media following the vote, offering praise or questioning Gabbard on her decision.”There’s no winning here. Everyone is losing. Our country is losing,” Gabbard said.She was the only lawmaker to make the choice not to take a side on impeachment during Wednesday’s vote.She repeated her sentiment in a Twitter post on Thursday, saying her vote was about “freeing our country from this damaging mindset so we can work side-by-side to usher in a bright future for all.”For weeks Gabbard said she was undecided on impeachment, claiming she wanted to fully review both sides of the argument before making a final decision.She told reporters earlier in the week, “It’s really important that every member of Congress cast their vote based on what’s in the best interest of the country rather than based on political implications.”Gabbard added that she based her vote on what she felt was the right thing to do — not the political fallout.By Wednesday, the Hawaii congresswoman had come to a decision, she said after the vote she couldn’t vote for the measure “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 added, “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.”After the impeachment vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer questions about when she will deliver the articles to the Senate for trial and who would be the House impeachment trial managers.Pelosi signaled there might be a delay saying “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side, and I would hope that that will be soon.”The speaker added “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully it will be fairer and when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”Gabbard told The Hill on Thursday she was surprised by Pelosi’s remarks.”You can’t kind of just shift and change and make up the rules as you go along,” Gabbard told The Hill. “If you’re going to pursue this process, you’ve got to let it play out the whole way through.”The congresswoman cited that the process has had a hyper partisan nature from both Democrats and Republicans.

My ‘present’ vote was an active protest against the zero-sum game the two opposing political sides have trapped America in. 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 #StandWithTulsi pic.twitter.com/nmhEL5bi4Q

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) December 19, 2019

Earlier in the week Gabbard introduced a censure resolution saying Trump “abused the powers of the Presidency for his own personal political gain.”The vote came just one day before the sixth December Democratic presidential debate, being held at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.Days before the deadline to qualify for the debate, Gabbard — who was only one poll shy of making the debate stage — tweeted that she would not be appearing, even if she were to quality.Instead, she will continue campaigning in New Hampshire. Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.