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Tourists To The U.S. Capitol Have A Particularly Close Vantage To Impeachment

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tourists descend on the U.S. Capitol every day to see the place where the country's laws are made. This week, they were also steps away from history. Jenny Gathright from member station WAMU spoke with some of them about being so close to the impeachment trial of President Trump.

JENNY GATHRIGHT, BYLINE: The last time a president was impeached, Rebecca Vandagriff was writing for the politics section of her high school newspaper. Today, in the midst of the third impeachment trial in history, she's sitting outside the U.S. Capitol, chaperoning a group of high schoolers on a trip to D.C.

REBECCA VANDAGRIFF: It's a big day, so we're - I'm not going to lie. I'm a little excited, even though maybe I shouldn't be.

GATHRIGHT: Vandagriff teaches U.S. history back home in Katy, Texas. She thinks the impeachment of Trump was justified, but she's urging her students to make an evidence-based decision for themselves.

VANDAGRIFF: Do not jump on the impeachment bandwagon just because of your personal feelings.

GATHRIGHT: One of the students on the trip, 18-year-old Rylie Reid, looked at the evidence and thinks Trump did abuse the power of his office.

RYLIE REID: I think there's a lot of kind of fishy stuff going on, so I'd want it to be a pretty transparent and honest process.

GATHRIGHT: It's a process Tshai Stephenson, a tourist visiting from New York, says she has no patience for because she's kind of given up on the idea that politicians have her best interests at heart.

TSHAI STEPHENSON: And it's just, like, talking over - it's not like - no one's listening. And I just blank out. It's like - it's just arguing for the sake of arguing.

GATHRIGHT: Rusty Burt, who is visiting from Louisiana, is also unexcited about the impeachment trial going on inside the Capitol.

RUSTY BURT: Well, in my opinion, it's a waste of our time.

GATHRIGHT: Burt supports President Trump, and he's ready for this to be over.

Security is tight outside the Capitol, but on the streets nearby, there's plenty of activity - visitors wearing Make America Great Again hats, groups of demonstrators calling for Trump's removal from office and the end of what they call a fascist regime.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Convict, remove, send Trump and Pence to jail.

GATHRIGHT: Twenty-year-old Marlee Baron is appreciating the moment and planning to wait in line to see if she can watch the trial in person.

MARLEE BARON: It's cool that I'll be able to, like, tell my kids or tell people that, like, oh, I was there when, like, this was happening. It was so important. Like, I got to actually see it.

GATHRIGHT: Baron is in town with some of her classmates from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. One of those classmates, Emily Crosby Lehmann, says she's disappointed with the way Senate Republicans have been running the process, but she's also hopeful that her generation will remove the politicians she disagrees with from power.

EMILY CROSBY LEHMANN: If I could say anything to them, I would just say, like, the world is watching. We're the next voters. And if we don't like what we're going to see, then we're not going to vote for this.

GATHRIGHT: Crosby Lehmann is making a point you hear from people on the other side of the aisle, too - that ultimately, the real effects of impeachment will play out in the next elections.

For NPR News, I'm Jenny Gathright in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF EAST RIVER PIPE SONG, "CYBERCAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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