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Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin On Impeachment Decision

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin walked off the stage at her Rochester, Mich., event, she got on the phone with us. And I asked her what she had noticed about the crowd's reaction when she spoke about her decision to support impeachment.

ELISSA SLOTKIN: What really caught my attention today was how many folks there were in the audience - Trump supporters, people wearing hats and holding posters in support of the president - who were actually listening and who were letting me talk and explain myself. And to be honest with you, all I can do as a member who's from a very mixed district is to make the most objective decision I can, be transparent with my constituents and explain to them how I make decisions. And I know that many of them aren't going to agree with me, but my hope is that they at least understand that I made this decision based on a sense of personal integrity and my oath of office. And I hope that they hear that.

CORNISH: I want to ask you about how you did come to your conclusion because Republicans have argued that what the president may have done was wrong but not impeachable. On this first article specifically of abuse of power, how did you reach the conclusion that you did that this deserves impeachment?

SLOTKIN: I actually just by chance had a holiday party for a bipartisan caucus that I'm a part of - something called the Problem Solvers Caucus - that happened to be held at the National Archives. And the National Archives houses the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence. I mean, it's a very weighty place. And it reminded me of what I was doing and how important it was to go back to those original documents.

And when it comes to an article of impeachment on abuse of power, for me, it started with the fact that the president and, in addition, his lawyer said openly that they reached out to a foreigner and asked for an investigation of a political rival.

CORNISH: You're saying these are things that actually tipped you in this direction. Like, was there an inflection point?

SLOTKIN: It tipped me in - certainly, that's the reason I called for an impeachment inquiry. And then throughout the testimony, if you read the transcripts, if you go through the tapes, you see both firsthand and secondhand accounts of people supporting that very basic idea of inviting a foreigner to participate in some way in an American democratic election. And I can't stand by that. I cannot let that just go because the president says a lot of things and does a lot of things. There has to be some protection of our system.

And I felt my oath of office kick in, my duty to protect and defend the Constitution. And the evidence, I believe, confirmed that first, initial statement or set of statements by the president and his lawyer.

CORNISH: I want to talk about Van Drew. He's the New Jersey representative who has consistently voted against the president. And now he is switching parties. What is your reaction to that as someone who is also in a mixed district?

SLOTKIN: Well, it sounds like a decision made almost exclusively on political expediency. My understanding is that he was in a tough Democratic primary. My understanding is he might not have won that primary. And so in contrast to everything I've ever heard from him, he made the decision to go over to the Republican side. And obviously, he's free to do that. I just think it reflects just such a cynical, political way of looking at your job as a leader and as a representative.

CORNISH: What is your advice, though, to lawmakers in moderate districts who are facing similar tough decisions? I mean, you only narrowly beat a Republican incumbent last year.

SLOTKIN: Yeah, yeah.

CORNISH: And your district did go to Trump in 2016.

SLOTKIN: My advice is to make decisions that allow you to look in the mirror every morning. My advice is to trust the voters - that they would rather have a representative with integrity than one who agrees with them on every single issue. People have to do things based on their oath of office, or else they should find something else to do.

CORNISH: But, you know, the House speaker worked very hard to try to protect moderate Democrats from risking their seats through this process. Do you think that she could've done more?

SLOTKIN: I think the speaker and the leadership team as a whole has been very responsive to Democrats across the political spectrum, including folks from tough districts. For me...

CORNISH: But you have in your op-ed, I've been told more times than I can count that the vote I'll be casting this week will mark the end of my short political career.

SLOTKIN: Yeah. Yes, I have. We've had articles written in our big papers about it. And that may be true. That may be correct. And all I can do is hope and put my faith in the voters - that they'd rather have someone with a backbone and with integrity than someone who just puts a talking point or puts a position out there to make everybody happy. But if it is the end of my political career, and I hope it's not, I - it is the greatest honor of my life to be the representative of Michigan's 8th District. But if the voters decide differently, at least I can walk out of the job with my head held high, and that is extremely important to me.

CORNISH: That's Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat who plans to vote for impeachment in the House this week.

Thank you for your time.

SLOTKIN: Thanks so much, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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