When the U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time Wednesday, 10 Republicans joined House Democrats to vote in favor. One of them was newly elected West Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer.
In an interview with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition, Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) said his vote was a matter of facts.
"To put it simply, the article of impeachment that was presented before us was accurate. The president's conduct was disqualifying. And this is the strongest mechanism that Congress has in order to ensure that there is a check on the executive," he said.
Some legislators and political observers have warned that pursuing impeachment and then possibly voting to convict Trump in the Senate would only further divide Washington and the nation. Meijer said he worries that the impeachment vote could make the political situation worse.
"It's absolutely a concern that I have. I don't believe that there should be a heckler's veto when it comes to speech, and I don't think there should be an insurrectionist or assassins' veto when it comes to political action. I have colleagues who who feared for their safety or their family's safety and that helped sway how their vote ultimately went," Meijer said.
"I do think that we need to make sure we work towards ending the political violence that we've seen so far. But in order to really heal the divisions that we have, you can't paper over them. There needs to be accountability. There needs to be a full airing of what transpired, and who's responsible for what. And simply saying, 'It's time for unity, and let's move on,' will only ensure that we face these problems once again," he said.
One other Republican Michigan Congressman, Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) also voted to impeach. Meijer said he talked with his colleagues about the vote, but didn't feel any pressure.
"This was a pretty rare vote in that there was no pressure from [the House] leadership. This was a vote of conscience, and they made it clear," he said.
Metal detectors were installed this week outside the House chamber. Some Republican representatives yelled at Capitol Police working at those detectors. Others just kept walking after setting them off. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said next week lawmakers will face thousands of dollars in fines if they bypass those detectors.
Meijer said his first thoughts are with the Capitol Police, who lost one of their fellow officers in the riot at the Capitol, and another to suicide in the days following. He added that he sees the metal detectors as more of a political stunt than a security measure.
"And now the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, she's trying to force confrontations by creating barriers between the constitutional duty to actually go and vote. There are constitutional protections that prevent there from being arbitrary restrictions on lawmakers in their exercise of that power. She's just trying to score some cheap political points. And frankly, it's an insulting, belittling gesture," Meijer said.
Asked if he believes representatives should comply with rules about going through the detectors, Meijer again questioned their value.
"We're already in a secure building. It's not a question of some folks feeling like they're they're kind of above something else. This adds no security. There's already been an effective and I think good prohibition on weapons on the House floor. That's something that I support. But to say that that makes anybody feel safer, I think is laughable," he said.
Since the attack on the Capital, members of the National Guard have been stationed inside the Capitol. Meijer is a U.S. Army veteran and served in the Iraq War, but wishes the military presence wasn't necessary.
"One of the rationales [for why] they didn't have more National Guard redeployed ahead of the protest was because of the concern of optics. And having troops surrounding the Capitol would not necessarily send the image of separation of powers that we always want to project," Meijer said.
"Now, walking around, 'Fortress Washington' with checkpoints and barriers and National Guardsmen. It's sad that it's come to this," he said. "I'm grateful that the National Guard is out in support to kind of keep things calm, but it just further reiterates how far we have come from, where we need to be, and how much we need to get back to a place where we don't have to assume that there could be an armed assault on our capital at any point in time."
Meijer was elected to his first term in November. His first couple of weeks in office have not been what he had in mind.
"I was not expecting that Day 3 of my tenure in Congress, I would be under assault in the Capitol by a violent mob, and that on Day 10, I would vote to impeach the president [and] hoped it was successful," he said. "We need to get back to a politics of governing right now. We have days where over 4,000 Americans are dying due to COVID. We should have every ounce of our energy focused on getting the vaccine out as widely as possible, dealing with the tiered reopening of our economy where that's safe and appropriate," he said.
"Congress has a job, and we need to be focused on doing that job, and getting back to policy rather than lurching from one crisis to another. That's where our country needs to go. That's why I ran."