At age 71, California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is the only House Judiciary Committee member to have seen the inner workings of three impeachments. And now as the committee debates the specifics of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, she sees herself as a moderate force who tries — against all odds — to reach across the aisle in these divisive, partisan times.
Lofgren represents California's 19th district, which includes most of San Jose as well as Morgan Hill. The district was formerly the 16th and included her hometown of Palo Alto, and it was in the 1960s as an undergraduate at Stanford that she first began interning for her former congressman, Democrat Don Edwards, who also served on the Judiciary Committee.
While she was in law school in the summer of 1974, she went back to work as an intern just as the impeachment of Richard Nixon was working its way through the House. As the New York Times reports this week, Lofgren was then tasked with drafting an article of impeachment no one else wanted to write regarding his concealing the bombing of Cambodia and usurping the wartime powers of Congress. The committee ultimately rejected it.
In 1998, Lofgren was four years into her tenure in the House of Representatives, serving on the Judiciary Committee and having succeeded Edwards in the seat. She voted against the impeachment of Clinton then, in a party-line vote.
And of the impeachment articles brought against President Trump, Lofgren says, "I think they are well crafted,” adding in an interview with the Times, "and, unfortunately, supported by the evidence."
Her colleagues say that she has been a steadying force through the process of deciding how to approach this third impeachment in modern American history. Representative Val B. Demings, Democrat of Florida, tells the Times that Lofgren, "did her part in terms of making sure that we move forward with the most solid evidence."
And Lofgren says, referring to Rep. Charles E. Wiggins — a Republican who spent time fiercely defending Nixon on the Judiciary Committee only to change his mind following the release of the White House tapes — "I’ve been waiting for Republican members here to have their Chuck Wiggins moment," however that is seeming less and less likely.
On her website, Lofgren has posted a pamphlet published by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 regarding the "Constitutional Grounds for Impeachment."
Back in June, Lofgren told the Los Angeles Times that she was not at all eager to go through a third impeachment. And Lofgren went on the Vox Media podcast "Impeachment, Explained" last month, in order to provide a "no-BS guide" to the House impeachment process. And she didn't spare any words in comparing the generally more civil process that took place in the House of 45 years ago.
Thinking back to the Nixon impeachment, there were certainly very serious divisions. The Republicans didn’t think Nixon should be impeached; most of the Democrats had become convinced that he should be. But as the proceedings went forward and a lot of time was spent not just in depositions but listening to the tapes, it really did change people’s minds.
The difference is that Republicans weren’t in favor of impeachment, but there was a level of dignity that was present. We’ve had some very outrageous behavior [recently] from some members that you never saw in the ’70s. It’s sort of a clown show type of thing, and that’s very destructive. This is serious.