HERMANTOWN, MINN. – Pam Carlson and Amy McClure were catching up over drinks at McKenzie's Bar and Grill as the U.S. House was preparing to vote on a second impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Carlson declared that Trump should be impeached, and shot her friend a surprised look when McClure disagreed.
"For inciting that riot?" Carlson asked. "I don't ever want him to be able to hold a federal office again."
"The whole Capitol Hill thing was horrible," McClure agreed. But she said the country needs to move on.
Minnesotans watched — some incredulous, others celebrating — as Trump became the first president in history to be impeached twice.
Some of Trump's supporters in Minnesota dismissed the proceedings in Washington, where the House voted 232-197 to impeach the president. He was charged with "incitement of insurrection" after his supporters violently stormed the Capitol last week. Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in the impeachment vote.
In southern Minnesota, Olmsted County GOP Chairman Greg Gallas called the House vote a "ridiculous charade" and said President-elect Joe Biden should have tried to block the impeachment effort.
"They are choosing to use whatever ... lies and deceit they see fit to tarnish a great man," Gallas said, rejecting the idea that Trump incited people to act. Trump did not directly call for supporters to enter the Capitol during his speech before the mob breached the building, and he said they would be "peacefully and patriotically" making their voices heard. However, Trump also repeatedly urged the crowd to fight, saying, "If you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore."
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell's office has said the earliest he would start an impeachment trial would be Tuesday, the day before Trump leaves the White House. The Senate could also vote to prevent Trump from holding office in the future.
Some of Trump's business partners and Republican leaders in Congress have increasingly distanced themselves from the president after the riot at the Capitol. But several Minnesotans who voted for him in November said Wednesday they see continued support for the president.
Rita Hillmann Olson of New Prague said Democrats believe the impeachment vote will divide the Republican Party. However, the president of Southwest Conservative Republican Women in Minnesota said she thinks the majority of GOP members will instead be unified by a deepened frustration with Democrats, and with Twitter silencing Trump's account.
She said her gut feeling is that the Republican base won't look favorably on GOP members who voted to impeach.
"How is he going to be remembered?" Olson reflected. "Forty-fifth president, impeached twice, good economic policy. You know he did a lot of great things, but they wouldn't acknowledge it."
Becky Hall, a mother of five who has helped rally support for conservative candidates in the Duluth area, said there were times she didn't agree with Trump's rhetoric but she was an avid supporter of his policies. She condemned the violence at the Capitol last week, but didn't believe Trump's words incited it.
"Cut him some slack," she said. "We need to move on now."
Meanwhile, Nate LaCoursiere, a Duluth attorney and law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said Trump "very clearly incited a mob to march on Congress. That's on video. We have that."
LaCoursiere checked his phone repeatedly Wednesday for updates between meetings and classes as impeachment proceedings unfolded.
He was watching to see how his representative, Eighth Congressional District Republican Rep. Pete Stauber, voted. Stauber, along with the other three GOP members of Minnesota's delegation, voted against impeachment.
"If there is not immediate condemnation for this type of language, this type of incitement, this type of attack on American democracy, I for one will do everything in my power to make sure that is someone who is no longer leading and representing this district," LaCoursiere said.
Mary Kirsling, a retired nurse and Democrat in Duluth, said it's "laughable" that Republicans are asking Democrats to tone down the rhetoric.
"If we don't hold people accountable, what's to say this won't happen again? Because then they've gotten away with it," she said. "We have punished people for far, far less."
Kirsling said the start of Biden's presidency could be hampered by an ongoing Senate trial, but she believes it's necessary.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478