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New Mexico delegation responds to impeachment inquiry

From the left, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, stands with U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres, D-NM, during a campaign stop in October 2018 at Stellar Coffee in Roswell. The two were among the lawmakers who reacted Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of a formal inquiry against President Donald Trump. (File Photo)

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Tuesday’s announcement by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump was met with a range of responses from the five members of New Mexico’s all-Democratic congressional delegation and some Republicans looking to challenge them in 2020.

Pelosi’s announcement came in the wake of recent allegations of a July phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 — and Biden’s son, Hunter, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

The allegations surfaced following a complaint by an anonymous whistleblower, according to the Associated Press.

Trump has publicly admitted to asking Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens, and said it was appropriate for him to do so.

At a news conference in New York, Trump called the impeachment “a hoax” and the “single greatest witch hunt in American history.”

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New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall broke his silence Tuesday and came out in support of impeachment, a decision he said that he did not arrive at lightly.

“As a co-equal branch of government, Congress must be empowered to gather all of the facts into the highly disturbing and dangerous allegations of presidential misconduct, New Mexicans expect their Congress to work for them and they expect accountability from their elected officials. Our democracy is being tested, and this process is the only path left for the House to uphold its constitutional obligations,” he said.

The White House Wednesday released a rough transcript of the call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich — a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the transcript shows Trump enlisted the help of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Attorney General William Barr to coordinate with a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 elections. Heinrich said this is  “a direct assault on American democracy.”

“This threat is unfolding before our eyes and directly exposes President Trump’s disregard for our country and the office of the presidency. Moving forward with impeachment proceedings is not only the right thing to do, but it is our constitutional duty,” Heinrich said.

Some members of New Mexico’s delegation had expressed support for impeaching the president months before the Ukrainian phone call came to light.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, reaffirmed her support for impeachment Tuesday. In a press release, Haaland said allegations involving Trump and Ukraine risk the integrity of U.S. elections and national security.

“No one is above the law, and I fully support moving forward with a formal impeachment inquiry,” Haaland said.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Sen. Tom Udall, on Tuesday called the latest allegations about Trump and Ukraine “unprecedented and wrong,” and reiterated his previous calls for impeachment.

“The recent allegations and today’s announcement that we are moving forward with the impeachment process shows the urgency of the moment,” Lujan said.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State, and Lujan’s opponent in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, also weighed in on impeachment.

“I don’t let my kids off the hook when they break the rules, I’m certainly not willing to let Trump’s actions slide either, certainly when they compromise our national security. #ImpeachTrump #Impeachnow,” said Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State and Lujan’s Democratic challenger in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.

A total of 215 Democrats have come out in support of impeachment as of Wednesday, according to CNN. However, U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, remained noncommittal on the question of impeachment.

Torres Small, narrowly elected in 2018 to represent the traditionally Republican district that spans from south of Albuquerque down to the U.S. southern border, did not issue a statement about impeachment.

When asked for a response to Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday, a spokesperson issued a statement in which Torres Small called for the release of the full whistleblower complaint and that any testimony by the whistleblower or other officials be allowed to occur without interference from the White House.

“Through the coming weeks and months, I will act to support and defend our Constitution by insisting on a transparent political process that fully informs the American people and restores trust and faith in our system,” Torres Small said in the release.

When pressed Wednesday whether Torres Small would support an impeachment inquiry, a spokeswoman for Torres Small would not comment.

“Rep. Torres Small remains focused on Congress’ ability to immediately obtain the whistleblower complaint as well as hear a full and honest testimony from DNI (Joseph) Maguire,” said Paloma Perez on Wednesday. Perez is the communications director for Torres Small.

Two Republicans vying to challenge Torres Small each released Facebook posts Tuesday before the transcript was released, blasting the impeachment inquiry as politically motivated.

Former state Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, accused Pelosi and “her radical socialist allies” of impeaching Trump because they cannot beat him at the ballot box.

“I will continue to stand in strong support of our president as I have always done, and I know that everyday, hardworking New Mexicans will see through this stunt for the political charade it is,” Herrell said.

“First, it was the Mueller witch hunt, which proved no collusion. Now the Democrats are talking about impeaching President Trump: They’ll never stop trying to find ways to attack President Trump and anyone else who is trying to fight for our country,” Claire Chase said in a post on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Steve Pearce, chair of the New Mexico Republican Party, accused Democrats of having “a singular focus on impeaching the president.”

“Once again, Democrats in our state and across the country are not working for the American people and instead are focusing their energy on an impeachment fishing expedition, which the majority of our nation is against,” he said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.  

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