Angie Craig and Rick Olson mugs

Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Rick Olson, a Prior Lake Republican who has announed he'll run for Craig's seat in 2020. 

The Democrat representing Scott County in the U.S. House and other Minnesota members of Congress joined the Wednesday vote impeaching President Donald Trump for abuse of his power and obstructing Congress. 

Angie Craig in an open letter to constituents Sunday said it's clear Trump attempted to coerce the Ukrainian government into investigating a potential rival, Joe Biden, by delaying military aid to the ally country. 

"This is a clear abuse of power by a sitting U.S. President for his own personal gain," Craig wrote. 

"My values would require the same vote if this were a Democratic President. It is about protecting our democratic values, about right and wrong, and about upholding my oath to the Constitution and the rule of law."

All but one of the other four Minnesota Democrats in Congress also voted to impeach; Democrat Collin Peterson and Minnesota's three Republican representatives voted against. 

Rick Olson, a community volunteer, Republican and former Michigan legislator who announced he would run against Craig in September, said he agreed with Craig, though it might be more convenient for him to do otherwise.

Congressional Republicans en masse opposed impeachment, saying it's solely motivated by opposition to Trump, and the president has repeatedly insisted he did nothing wrong. He and other administration officials have said he asked Ukraine's president to investigate Biden and his son for corruption. 

But Trump provided no evidence to House investigators and often ordered administration officials not to cooperate, Olson said in a written statement Monday, and the on-record evidence supports impeachment. 

"This is not a hard decision, despite the anguish that Angie Craig tries to project. It is only hard if you are worried about how it will look politically," Olson said. "It is my hope that courage in one's convictions and honesty are still regarded as virtues in today's rancorous politics." 

Impeachment sends the question of whether to remove Trump from office to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The House began an impeachment inquiry in September after an anonymous whistleblower complaint claimed Trump had misused his power to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election, citing a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last summer.

A White House memo describing the president's call showed Trump asked Zelenskiy "to do us a favor" and investigate Trump's claims that Ukraine played a role in the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton's benefit and that Joe Biden as vice president stopped Ukraine's prosecution of the head of a gas company for which Biden’s son was a board member.

Trump’s administration also withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine shortly before his phone call, according to the Washington Post and several Republican senators.

Trump denied using the money as leverage to get his way. The aid was released a couple of days after the impeachment investigation began. 

Biden and other government officials and international observers said the Ukrainian prosecutor at the time was soft on corruption and should be ousted, which eventually happened, according to The Associated Press and other news outlets. Biden has said he was carrying out U.S. policy. 

Several current and former administration officials testified under oath to Congress that the military aid and a possible meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy at the White House were withheld deliberately to pressure Ukraine to start the investigations. 

“I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo?" said Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. "With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Former national security adviser Fiona Hill said supporting Ukraine has become politicized amid Russia's ongoing attempts to attack American elections.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did," she said.

"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

Trump and other Republicans throughout the inquiry have said their concerns over Biden and Ukraine are legitimate and called the Democrats' investigation a political sham. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina over the weekend said even what Democrats claim happened between Trump and Ukraine would be OK if true. 

Some Republicans around the country have said Trump mis-stepped, including Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at The George Washington University Law School who was called as a witness by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. 

"I have previously stated that a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven," Turley said, adding he thought the Democrats hadn't yet proved it. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week that he will be in "total coordination" with the White House during a Senate trial and sees "no chance" the president would be removed.

The Scott County GOP board this week declared the impeachment process was based on rumor, divides the country and wastes important time for other issues. 

"Therefore let it be known that the Scott County GOP Executive Board opposes impeachment in the strongest possible terms and demands Congress get back to work for the American people," members said in a statement. 

County GOP Chairman Joseph Ditto said the group doesn't weigh in on candidates such as Olson before the primary. 

Bryan Casey, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's local unit covering much of Prior Lake and other parts of the county, declined to comment. Ken Martin, chairman of the state party, called the impeachment tragic but necessary in a written statement Wednesday. 

“If any president is allowed to wield the power of the United States government to secure his own re-election, our nation will have taken its first major steps away from democracy and towards autocracy," Martin said.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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