For our year-end member drive, we’re going behind the scenes with MinnPost’s Washington correspondent Gabe Schneider during one of the biggest national stories of 2019: the impeachment of President Trump. We can’t have a reporter in D.C. without the support of readers like you. If you value this coverage, help us reach our fundraising goal by Dec. 31 and make a tax-deductible donation today. Thanks. – Laura Lindsay, Membership Manager
Reporters filled the press gallery bleachers from end of end, elbow to elbow. Overlooking the dais, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presided, reporters swamped the bleachers. In every seat was a reporter. Behind every reporter in a seat was a reporter standing up. Behind every reporter standing up was the wall where the vote would be projected and where all of us would have to turn our necks (uncomfortably), waiting to see which representatives would end up voting to impeach a president for the third time in U.S. history. So many people wanted to see this that they issued a secondary press pass — my “standing room only” press pass was #216 (which was also the number of votes needed to impeach).
Reporters had come in and out during the six hours of debate that preceded the impeachment vote. As I stood there, waiting, my eyes mainly wandered to the Minnesota delegation. Everyone at one point or another seemed to be looking intently at their phone. Rep. Pete Stauber, off to the sidelines of the Republican side, occasionally stood up to clap during Republican speeches. I couldn’t see Rep. Jim Hagedorn until he actually voted against the articles, but Rep. Angie Craig sat in the middle of the chamber while Rep. Ilhan Omar sat near the front, almost out of my sightline.
At one point, after Pelosi finished her speech, Rep. Dean Phillips gave the speaker a high-five. Later, Phillips sat next to Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican-turned-Independent from Michigan whom Phillips had been trying to draft into the impeachment effort.
Then of course, there was Rep. Collin Peterson.
The vote was sectioned into two articles of impeachment. The first article, abuse of power, accused Trump of using his office to press Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election. The second charge, obstruction of Congress, was issued because the president blocked testimony and refused to participate in the House investigation.
For the first charge, my eyes mainly fixed on one name projected onto the wall behind me: Peterson. After a few minutes of waiting, it flashed “no.” For the second article, again Peterson voted “no.”
The other Minnesota members voted as expected: Republicans voted no on both articles. Democrats voted yes. And when the vote ended, I slowly made my way out of the chamber, down the stairs, and to the speaker’s lobby. There, peering into the windows, reporters were waiting to speak to members as they left. I spotted DFL Rep. Betty McCollum, but she made a beeline for the door on the other side of the chamber.
Looping around, I caught her on the way out. I asked her for her thoughts on the proceedings. “I think everybody knew how people were going to vote,” she told me. “I think the chamber was very solemn, as it should be. This is a very sad day.”
The St. Paul congresswoman then left for the elevator. I floated around for a while longer, but the House chamber had mostly cleared out.
There are only two news outlets in Minnesota with full-time reporters in the nation’s capitol. MinnPost is one of them, and I’m grateful to serve as its Washington correspondent. I think such coverage serves an important role in keeping tabs on the state’s representatives in Congress, of course, and I appreciate that we allow all Minnesota newspapers to run our coverage free of charge.
Being here means being able to have someone here to filter through the noise. It means hearing firsthand from your elected officials about what they’re doing — and why. And it means being able to seek out and tell the stories that are most meaningful to Minnesota.