Gabbard defends 'present' vote on impeachment: Voters should decide

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' Fox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials MORE (D-Hawaii), a 2020 White House hopeful, on Thursday defended her decision to vote “present” on impeaching President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE, which sparked a wave of backlash from Democrats.

Gabbard, the sole remaining Democratic presidential candidate in the House, told Hill.TV that while she thinks Trump is “absolutely” guilty of wrongdoing, a vote in favor of impeachment “should never come about as a culmination of a highly partisan process.”

“This is something that our founding fathers warned us about,” Gabbard said. 

“Making this statement, voting 'present,' taking a stand for the center. Standing for our democracy and really that this decision of whether to remove Donald Trump or not must be in the hands of voters," she added. "I believe that they will make that decision.”

The Hawaii congresswoman noted she has instead introduced a resolution censuring Trump.

“We’ve actually already introduced it,” she said. “It basically points out some of the examples that I’ve raised of actions of wrongdoing by this president and a demand for an apology to the American people.”

A number of Democrats expressed disappointment and frustration over Gabbard’s refusal to vote in favor of two articles of impeachment, which charged the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, late Wednesday.

“Whenever we have a vote, we should vote 'yes' and we should vote 'no.' And voting 'present' is a very tough position to be in. To not take a stand in a moment that is so consequential I think is quite difficult," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement Grassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa JD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians MORE (D-N.Y.) said in response to Gabbard's move. 

Though she came out in support of the impeachment inquiry, Gabbard remains one of the only candidates in the crowded Democratic field to remain skeptical of impeachment. In September, she broke with many of her fellow 2020 contenders, calling impeachment “terribly divisive” for the country as a whole. 

—Tess Bonn