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Here’s how Duke alums on Capitol Hill stood on impeachment

Duke is everywhere, very much including Washington, D.C. 

Seven Duke alumni serving in the Senate or House of Representatives voted on impeachment, voting along party lines—as nearly all lawmakers did—in the impeachment process that ended in President Donald Trump’s acquittal in the Senate Feb. 5. 

Trump, a Republican, was impeached in December in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Not a single Republican voted across party lines to support impeachment in the House. The core argument Democrats made was that Trump withheld military aid in a bid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. 

The GOP-run Senate acquitted Trump of both charges largely along party lines, with Utah Senator Mitt Romney being the only Republican who voted to convict Trump of abuse of power. He voted to acquit Trump of obstruction of Congress. 

Here’s how each of the seven Duke alumni in Congress stood on impeachment, beyond just their vote. 

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, Duke School of Medicine ‘88

A Libertarian known to buck Trump at times, Paul was a fierce defender of the president during the impeachment process, voting to acquit him on both charges. 

Paul fought a "fierce campaign" to block witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, threatening Republican incumbents in tight districts. If enough lawmakers supported witnesses, he vowed to have the Senate vote on subpoenaing witnesses Trump wanted called, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. 

In the end, the Senate didn’t bring witnesses to the trial. During the trial, Paul named the alleged whistleblower who initially raised concerns about Trump’s Ukraine dealings out loud. Most Republicans didn’t mind

Representative Mo Brooks, R-Ala., Trinity College of Arts and Sciences ‘75

Brooks has voted along with Trump 97% of the time this Congressional session, and the impeachment process was no exception, voting against impeachment. 

During the impeachment inquiry in October, Brooks joined fellow Duke alumnus Bradley Byrne and about two-dozen other House Republicans in barging into a closed-door deposition. 

“Show your face where we can all see the travesty that you are trying to foist on America and the degradation of our Republic that you’re engaged in,” Brooks said

Brooks repeatedly has called Democrats moving to impeach Trump "socialists" on Twitter, accusing them of impeaching Trump for purely partisan reasons. 

Representative Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., Trinity College of Arts and Sciences ‘77

Like Brooks, Byrne stormed a closed-door impeachment deposition during the House’s impeachment inquiry and voted against impeachment. 

House Democrats’ articles of impeachment were the “most legally unsound in history,” Byrne said.

“From the beginning, this has been a sham and this House has been nothing but a star chamber! The Democrat majority literally locked themselves in the basement of this building, hiding from the American people,” Byrne said in a release. “When my colleagues and I refused to stand for it, Democrats moved to public hearings but denied us questions, denied us witnesses and denied the President any meaningful opportunity to defend himself.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Trinity College of Arts and Sciences ‘75

Capito took a more measured tone on impeachment than some of her fellow Duke alumni in Congress, but still voted to acquit Trump on both charges. 

Capito called the House impeachment process "partisan" and "political," but said she "listened with an open mind" during the Senate impeachment trial. Unlike fellow West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a red state moderate Democrat, Capito voted against witnesses in the trial. 

“I do not believe the House proved an offense that would justify the grave step of overturning the 2016 election and taking away from West Virginians the ability to decide for themselves in the 2020 election,” she said in a release explaining her acquittal vote. 

Representative Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., Ph.D. ‘98

One of the very few pro-life Democrats in Congress, Lipinski voted to impeach Trump for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

As one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Lipinski struck a tone of thoughtful consideration of the articles of impeachment in a Chicago Tribune op-ed explaining his decision. Lipinski argued Republicans were avoiding evidence and said that Democrats should have worked harder to get testimony from people with first-hand knowledge of the situation. 

“The evidence gathered in the inquiry indicates that President Trump should be rebuked for his abuse of power with regard to Ukraine, so I will vote for impeachment. Without question the impeachment inquiry has been validated,” Lipinski wrote. “But those who pushed House Democrats to move ahead with impeachment at this time may have handed President Trump a major victory.”

Representative Scott Peters, D-Calif., Trinity College of Arts and Sciences ’80

Peters, a moderate and former San Diego City Council member, voted to impeach Trump on both articles. 

Prior to the Ukraine scandal, Peters had supported opening impeachment proceedings against Trump on charges of obstruction of justice stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Mueller’s findings only got a “glancing reference” in the impeachment. 

Peters said that Trump invited foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election in withholding the military aid to Ukraine. 

Representative Mike Levin, D-Calif., School of Law ’05

Levin, a freshman Orange County Democrat, voted in favor of both articles of impeachment. 

In a statement explaining his decision, Levin touted passing nine bipartisan bills in his time on Capitol Hill and said he did not come to Congress to impeach a President. But he felt it was necessary to do so to “support and defend” the Constitution. 

“The President violated our Constitution—and undermined our national security—when he pressured a foreign government to interfere in our elections for his personal and political gain. He then orchestrated an absolute obstruction of the impeachment inquiry, proving that he believes that he is above the law,” Levin wrote. “No one is above the law, not even the President. That is why I support both Articles of Impeachment.”

Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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