Lee holds town hall amid partisan divide over impeachment

November 24, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nearly 2,500 miles away from Washington, U.S. Rep. Susie Lee acknowledged to the crowd she had been nervous to walk into a town hall meeting held in her southwest Las Vegas congressional district in the midst of the impeachment inquiry that has turbocharged political divides.

Lee, a first-term Democrat who represents a swing district, has been targeted with protests, phone calls and more by Trump supporters over the impeachment inquiry. She’s among those in contested House seats trying to grapple with the partisan divide amplified by the impeachment inquiry in a divided Congress.

Ahead of Lee’s town hall, constituents began submitting questions online, with most of them centering on impeachment. She decided to tackle that issue first, explaining her vote to affirm the impeachment inquiry and formalize the rules moving forward.

“A lot of the people came because that was what drove them here, so I just thought let’s get that out of the way so we can talk about all the other stuff we’ve been working on,” Lee told The Associated Press in an interview afterward. “The purpose of this town hall is really for those people who want to listen and want to understand what the process is that I went through in making that decision.”

As she walked into the room Saturday, she could not miss President Donald Trump’s supporters sitting in the front rows of her Saturday meeting donning the president’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats.

“I can sense the tension in the room,” Lee said to the crowd of about 200 people, most of whom seemed to be supportive of her. “The tension in our country.”

To try to minimize disruptions throughout her hourlong meeting Saturday, the town hall’s moderator and Lee’s staff urged people to write their questions on slips of paper that were collected in a bowl in the front of the room.

They largely succeeded, encountering only periodic interruptions with a comment or shout from someone who disagreed with Lee as she talked about health care, immigration and trade, an issue where she said she found common ground with the president.

But no issue drew more acrimony than impeachment.

As Lee explained her vote and concerns about military aid being withheld from Ukraine as Trump pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, a man sitting in the first row in front of Lee raised a sign into the air that read “Stop your war on our president!!!!”

Lee stopped her explanation and asked the man to lower his sign and he obliged. She was met with several more interruptions as she continued, at times raising her voice to finish a sentence over shouts.

About two-thirds of the crowd applauded her while many of the rest booed.

“I took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said as she wrapped up the topic. “I feel that this decision may have not been the best political decision in the world for me, OK? But the bottom line is, that was my oath and that’s why I took it.”