After U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler announced late Tuesday that she would break party ranks to impeach President Donald Trump, David Nierenberg sent her an email.
A longtime political player in Southwest Washington, Nierenberg has been close with the Republican congresswoman since she took office in 2010. Still, his two emails to her in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot had gone unanswered.
This time, she responded.
“She’s well aware there will be a nasty and forceful pushback,” said Nierenberg, a Camas resident, investor and frequent Republican donor. “But people are delighted she did the right thing.”
Herrera Beutler joined nine other Republicans who voted yes to a historic second impeachment of the outgoing president Wednesday, one week before Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated. Republicans in the swing district say her vote elicited mixed emotions.
Nierenberg said the attack on the U.S. Capitol shook the congresswoman deeply. Herrera Beutler has not answered many media inquiries in the aftermath but did publicly voice frustration. She described Trump’s comments after the riots as “pathetic.”
“Jaime has told me that her personal experience last Wednesday was terrible, horrible and worse than anything else than she has experienced in her life,” Nierenberg said. “And bear in mind, she gave birth to a first child with no kidneys.”
Nierenberg, whose firm gave $11,200 to Herrera Beutler’s re-election campaign last fall, has not shied from criticizing Trump and his Republican allies, but Herrera Beutler has walked a narrower line.
Although she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, she did in 2020 and lamented his election loss as recently as last Wednesday in a recorded statement on Twitter.
As talks of impeachment grew, she said she would “ascertain the facts.”
After last week’s failed insurrection, House Democrats drew up an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection.” By the time Herrera Beutler took to the House floor to vote on impeachment, she said she was in favor because she had decided to “choose truth.”
“Our enemy isn’t the president or the president-elect. Fear is our enemy,” she said. “My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth. It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
Fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, whose district encompasses central Washington, also voted to impeach.
Joel Mattila, chair of the Clark County Republican Party who traveled to the Republican National Convention last summer for Trump’s nomination, said he’s hearing disappointment locally.
“My phone has been blowing up all day long, from old party regulars to just your average voters, and there is a lot of disappointment,” Mattila said.
The people he’s hearing from say the impeachment process was rushed, he said: “They didn’t hold hearings, they never gave him or his attorneys a chance to respond.”
While the Clark County GOP in recent years has been hostile toward Herrera Beutler, saying she was not conservative enough, Mattila said a change in leadership has softened that somewhat. But Wednesday’s vote is, he said, a setback.
“I think it most certainly is going to impact her. There is major disappointment in the rank-and-file of the Republican Party with her,” he said.
Like the district, Republican lawmakers reached about Herrera Beutler’s vote split in their reactions. State Rep. Jim Walsh, of Aberdeen, said that while he was unhappy with Trump after the riot, he felt impeachment a week before the president’s last day was “political theater.”
“The real question is: is this a practical thing or not?” Walsh said.
State Rep. Paul Harris, of Vancouver, said he supported the vote after what Herrera Beutler experienced at the riot, which forced lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead.
“She was there and saw and felt the danger of the situation,” Harris said in a text message. “I respect and value her decision.”
State Sen. John Braun, the Republican leader from Kalama, didn’t directly address Herrera Beutler in remarks to reporters about impeachment. But he said lawmakers need to find ways to work together.
“We’ve got a long way to go in our state and in our country,” Braun said.
Time will tell if the vote comes back to haunt Herrera Beutler or build her independent bona fides with constituents. Nierenberg said he wouldn’t be surprised to see more Democrats or independent voters turn to her.
Walsh noted Herrera Beutler has faced this kind of criticism before.
“Jaime’s an interesting person,” he said. “Her political death has been predicted many times but it’s never happened.”