Slotkin explains impeachment outlook on first stop of tour of Michigan's 8th District

Carol Thompson
Lansing State Journal

EAST LANSING — About a week after helping to kick off an impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin explained her concerns to a crowd that swelled beyond the capacity of the East Lansing eatery where she held her event.

"I did not make this decision lightly," Slotkin, D-Holly, said Wednesday. "I know it's going to be a controversial decision, and I don't hold a grudge against anyone who has a different opinion than me."

Slotkin was one of seven congressional Democrats who wrote a joint op-ed in The Washington Post in support of impeachment proceedings after a whistleblower alleged Trump tried to use his presidential power to get a foreign leader to investigate the son of political rival Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential contender.

According to the complaint, Trump withheld Congress-approved funding from Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelensky investigated Hunter Biden's business interests in the country.

"I was reticent to call for impeachment in earlier iterations, but for me what happened in the past week or week and a half was really something different," Slotkin said. "For me, the key and most important piece of information is that the president of the United States, the commander in chief, reached out to a foreign president and asked for dirt on an American, on a political opponent."

Slotkin cut her comments short at the Grand Traverse Pie Company after a staffer told her the crowd was beyond capacity for the restaurant and a fire marshal was on the way. The restaurant can legally hold 113 people.

About a dozen protesters also awaited her outside, holding signs supporting Trump and calling for Slotkin's impeachment instead.

Participants listen as U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, speaks during her Ingham County Coffee Hour event on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at the Grand Traverse Pie Company in East Lansing.

Charla Mitchell, of Leslie, contended most impeachment supporters haven't read the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. There was nothing untoward in their conversation, she contended.

"It's just a normal call between two presidents," she said. 

Mitchell accused Slotkin of touring the district to garner support for impeachment.

Slotkin is less likely to draw such a supportive crowd in the rest of the 8th Congressional District, which includes the more conservative Livingston and Oakland counties.

She acknowledged that some in the 8th District don't support her position.

"People forget that we have a very independently-minded district. That's one of the things that's great about it," she said. "I want people to feel like, even if they don't agree with me, they can come and tell me that, explain their reasoning and have themselves heard."

Slotkin is well-liked in Ingham County, where voters overwhelmingly supported her in 2018, giving her enough oomph to overcome losses to incumbent Republican Mike Bishop in Oakland and Livingston counties.

Since she flipped the district from red to blue, Slotkin has pitched herself as a pragmatist and moderate in Washington. She focused on what she considers bipartisan issues, such as reigning in health care costs and supporting national defense workers.

She touted those efforts to the crowd Wednesday after explaining her position on impeachment.

Some attendees — like Alice Florida, of Lansing, and Shelly Zavala and Sarah Jacobson, both of Haslett — said they were drawn to Slotkin's integrity and that she'd been fearless when making a controversial decision to support an impeachment inquiry.

"She might lose her job, but she's got principles," Jacobson said.

More:US Rep. Elissa Slotkin: If true, new allegations 'constitute an impeachable offense'

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Contact Carol Thompson at (517) 377-1018 or ckthompson@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @thompsoncarolk.