Home NEWS In a Colorado bellwether, stark divides on Trump and impeachment

In a Colorado bellwether, stark divides on Trump and impeachment

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John Weiland, a retired city worker in Lakewood, has never been a fan of President Donald Trump. As of late, he finds more folks are in agreement with him.

“He needs to be impeached and he needs to be censured by his people, by the GOP, at the very least,” said Weiland, a left-leaning unaffiliated voter. “They need to say, ‘Look, buddy, you’re making us all look bad.’ But I don’t know how much they think he’s making them look bad. That’s the puzzling factor for me.”

Weiland says he’s unsure whether Trump is becoming a worse president by the day, or if more information is floating to the surface. But at the very least, Trump’s mode of operation needs to shift, he says.

“It frustrates the hell out of me to watch his style of governing,” Weiland said of the president. “Congress gives (Ukraine) money to help fight the Russians and then he goes, ‘No, no, no, wait a minute. You can’t have it until you promise me this or that.’ That’s just flat-out wrong.”

After a vote in the U.S. House on Halloween, the impeachment inquiry has entered its public period, with televised hearings beginning Wednesday. Democrats will try to highlight, through closely watched testimony, any evidence the president committed impeachable offenses. If recent history is an indication, the inquiry will be divisive, stoking strong sentiments over the holidays and beyond.

Win McNamee, Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives votes on a resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry centered on U.S. President Donald Trump in in Washington, DC. on Oct. 31, 2019. The resolution, which passed by a 232-196 margin, creates the legal framework for public hearings, procedures for the White House to respond to evidence and the process for consideration of future articles of impeachment by the full House of Representatives.

In more than a dozen conversations with residents in Jefferson County, Colorado’s political bellwether, over the past several weeks, themes emerged. Democrats tended to see the impeachment inquiry as the natural next step in holding a lawless president accountable. In the eyes of many, impeachment has been a long time coming.

Republicans took aim at the impeachment process, but also questioned the substance of the allegations against Trump. They expressed deep distrust in the news media and the reporting that has been done on the president and Ukraine.

Ken Seitz, for example, says he watches only 10 minutes of TV weather nightly and no news, since he doesn’t consider any news outlets, even conservative ones, worthy of his trust.

The Republican retiree doesn’t use the word “coup” — coups are, by definition, violent, he says — so he calls the impeachment inquiry a power grab by leftists.

“The talk of impeaching Trump started before his inauguration,” said Seitz, a 63-year-old who lives in unincorporated Jefferson County.

“So, this isn’t news, this isn’t because something came up in Russia or any other place in the world. This is, to me, as a staunch conservative, a left-wing power grab and an attempt to disrupt the election in 2020. Nothing more than that. No one will convince me that it’s anything but,” he added.

JoAnn Furay, 70, sees it differently. Very differently. The Lakewood Democrat considers the president and his administration to be corrupt. She supports the impeachment inquiry and is baffled that many others do not.

“I think we need to stand up for our Constitution,” Furay said. “Our institutions are at risk right now and if nothing is done, years down the road we will say, ‘My God, look how horrible things were and how corrupt that administration was, and yet nobody did anything.’”

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

LAKEWOOD, CO – NOVEMBER 7: JoAnn Furay, 70, of Lakewood considers the president and his administration to be corrupt. November 7, 2019. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Across the country, it is places like Jefferson County — suburban, politically purple and ideologically moderate — that Republicans and Trump’s re-election campaign are counting on to be a roadblock to liberal incursions and impeachment, a seawall against threatening blue waves.

Trump won 42% of votes here in 2016, fewer than Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 46% in 2012 and John McCain’s 44% in 2008. But Republicans are hoping their claims of liberal overreach in Denver and Washington, D.C., resonate, allowing them to compete here next year.

Polling on impeachment in Jefferson County, and the rest of Colorado, has been scant. A survey by several Democratic pollsters in mid-October found a slight majority of Coloradans support the inquiry and nearly half support removing Trump from office.

The poll combined results from Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, where 103 respondents — 36% of whom were Democrats and only 18% of whom were Republicans — said they supported the inquiry by a 61%-37% margin. Fifty-six percent said Trump should be impeached, compared to 39% who opposed impeachment. But the margin of error was high for those figures, and not isolated to Jefferson County, making it impossible to draw significant conclusions, the pollsters said.

Shelly Foland, a 60-year-old conservative in Golden, sees no reason for an impeachment inquiry, believes Trump is being denied due process rights, and thinks Democrats are running a secretive, behind-closed-doors investigation. With only a year to go before the 2020 election, Democrats should instead drop their investigation and allow the democratic process to play out, she says.

“I don’t believe the Ukraine call has anything impeachable in it. The Democrats have been trying to impeach the president since before he was even in office. So, this is just more of the same, after the Mueller investigation failed,” Foland said.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Shelly Foland, a 60-year-old conservative, is pictured Nov. 6, 2019, at her home in Golden. She says she sees no reason for an impeachment inquiry.

Monica Shanley, a 42-year-old Lakewood Democrat, says Trump’s behavior since taking office has been appalling, the actions of a divisive bully. She says the impeachment inquiry is worthwhile, even if the Senate acquits Trump and he is not removed from office.

“If he doesn’t get impeached — or if he does, and still runs — the American public needs to know exactly what he did and why he shouldn’t be allowed back in office,” Shanley said. For that reason, she urged Democrats to make impeachment hearings as open and efficient as possible. “It has been such a long process and I know, in general, impeachment is. But I think the quicker, the better.”

Matt Van Gieson, an Arvada Republican, thinks Democrats have had it in for Trump from the beginning.

“From my perspective, it seems like the Democratic Party has had a punishment in mind since the day after the election and they’ve been continually trying to find a crime to fit the punishment,” said Van Gieson, 39. “I think President Trump lends himself to falling into traps occasionally, and I think that’s maybe what he’s done here.”

“They may have potentially found something that could, potentially, be an impeachable offense,” he added. “I don’t necessarily believe from my reading that it is, but I could definitely see how for some people it doesn’t pass a sniff test of what they would want a politician to do. It’s the closest they’ve gotten to an impeachable offense.”

Dave Nelson, an 85-year-old Lakewood Democrat, has supported impeachment for a while now. Trump, whom he politely calls “the gentleman in the White House,” is there under pretense, he says.

“He has a difficulty coming up with the truth,” Nelson said of the president. “And it seems to me like he’s in it for personal gain, rather than national interest.”

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