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LIVE: Trump impeachment brings uncertain crossroads for California resistance

Since the day he took office, the president has found himself in opposition to the heavily blue state, which has led the opposition to Trump on a variety of issues.

President Trump speaks Aug. 5 in Washington. Californians have a lot to say about impeachment proceedings against the president.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Since the day he took office, President Trump has found himself in opposition to California.

The heavily blue state has led the opposition to Trump on a variety of issues, including immigration, the environment, wildfires, labor relations and civil rights. California has filed more than 50 lawsuits against the federal government. Trump, in turn, has repeatedly trash-talked the state, sometimes using false claims, including on issues of forest management and gang violence.

The expected impeachment vote in the House of Representatives marks an unsettling climax in this war. The most high-profile champions of Trump’s impeachment are Californians: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank).

While impeachment of the president has strong support throughout California, the state is fairly evenly divided along party lines.

More than 8 in 10 self-identified Democrats in the state support removing Trump from office, while about 8 in 10 self-identified Republicans oppose doing so, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times and released in December.

Independents who don’t identify with either party split closely on impeachment, with 40% in favor and 36% opposed. That’s a relatively small group, however — only about 1 in 8 California voters — as most self-identified independents lean toward one party or the other.

Here is how the Golden State is marking this historic day.

‘Trump is against everyone. He’s un-American’

Gil Bustamante was rolling a trash can into the underground parking structure on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, where he works as a janitor.

Bustamante, who is strongly opposed to Trump, said he had just been talking to his co-workers about how President Clinton apologized when “they caught him with that lady” and impeached him.

“Trump is a coward. He won’t even admit what he did,” said Bustamante, 45.

“He is a coward,” he repeated, louder and more forcefully. “He’s against everybody. He did abuse the power of the president ... walking away from that meeting with the other nations. He’s done a lot of stuff no other president has done.”

Bustamante ticked off other charges against Trump that are not part of the impeachment process: seeking Russian interference in the election, courting publicity in magazines and movies, mistreating women, trade blunders.

“Trump is against everyone. He’s un-American. American is you stick to your beliefs and help others, not just turn your back on everyone,” said Bustamante, who lives downtown.

Not much to celebrate if the Senate won’t follow through

Chris Merchant, 32, was walking through Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, refreshing the news feed on his phone every few minutes, hoping to catch the moment that Congress voted to impeach President Trump.

But the freelance creative researcher for the film industry said the day “hasn’t felt very celebratory.”

“I’m for impeachment because it is the right thing to do. We need to set a precedent that that kind of behavior is not being tolerated.” But, he said, it seems like a futile quest as the Senate is likely to refuse to kick Trump out of office.

“I’m trying to relish it for a minute,” the downtown resident said ruefully.

“It’s going to create chaos for a while. Ultimately, 2020 is going to decide everything, and I worry about that every day. This is just going to put people into their corners further.“

Despite the strong anti-Trump sentiment in L.A., Merchant says you don’t have have to go far to find people who disagree.

“California is more divided than you think.”

Trump has made ‘a mockery of the presidency’

Sandee Chamberlain says the impeachment process has turned into a “circus” because of the Republicans’ refusal to consider the evidence.

“Of course he abuses his power. He’s made a mockery of the presidency,” the Whittier native and college art professor visiting from Atlanta for the holidays said of President Trump on Wednesday. “The country doesn’t feel stable. It’s a joke.

“If they don’t like it, they say it’s fake news. It’s like they have horse blinders on and it’s going to be difficult to change their minds.”

While inching forward in the line for the popular Egg Slut stand in downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market, Chamberlain showed off her matching wrist tattoos, reading “Hope” and “Love.” She said she had them inked 10 days after Trump’s election, to remind herself things wouldn’t always be bad.

Chamberlain said she takes hope from her students, many of whom have rejected their parents’ values and embraced progressive ideas that are the antithesis of Trumpian philosophy.

“There is hope,” she said.

Pelosi a ‘hero’ for leading the impeachment charge

New mom Sara Feinberg was tossing a Frisbee to her Ausiedoodle at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica while her 2-week-old son napped in his stroller Wednesday. Her in-laws had just flown in from Chapel Hill, N.C., and the three were anticipating the House vote on Trump’s impeachment with muted enthusiasm.

“It feels a little pro forma,” Feinberg, 39, said with a shrug.

“I feel like they had to do it,” her mother-in-law, Mary Ellen Sweeny, said. “I think there’s political risk, but the people who think [impeachment] is a travesty were never going to vote Democrat, and the people who see it as necessary were never going to vote for Trump.”

When it came to the House leadership who have championed the process, the trio were far less reserved.

“I think Nancy Pelosi’s been leading with the torch in her hand throughout the process,” Feinberg said.

“Oh, yes, I absolutely support Nancy Pelosi,” Sweeny agreed.

“Where we live, Nancy Pelosi is thought of as a hero because of how she stands up to this guy,” her father-in-law, Hoyt Taylor added.

Trump foes say impeachment is embarrassing and makes U.S. look bad on world stage

Neither Stevie Saysanith nor Arturo Gomez supports President Trump, but the La Puenta residents don’t think he should be impeached.

The embarrassment on the world stage is likely to have an adverse impact on the United States, they said.

“It looks bad on the nation,” said Gomez, 40, as he sipped his coffee at a Fullerton cafe, noting that he’d vote for any Democrat running against Trump.

Saysainth, 26, echoed that sentiment.

“Trump deserves to be punished” for asking a foreign nation to interfere in the presidential election, he said.

‘What Trump has done and said these few years has divided us’

Brian Mazariegos
(Kurtis Lee / Los Angeles Times)

Brian Mazariegos hasn’t had time to follow the ins and outs of the impeachment.

He puts in 40 hours a week as a waiter in Hollywood, saving up to enroll in community college, but still, he says, he knows everything he needs to know about Trump.

“That man has to go,” Mazariegos, seated at a computer inside the Cahuenga Branch Library in East Hollywood, said Wednesday. “Either with the election or this impeachment.”

Mazariegos says he doesn’t have a political affiliation but sees Trump as a harmful president.

“He’s a racist,” the 24-year-old said. “What Trump has done and said these few years has divided us.”

Sometimes, after a long shift, Mazariegos scrolls through headlines on his phone. Personal attacks on political rivals. The constant talk of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The alleged affair with a porn star.

“It’s crazy to think he was even elected,” Mazariegos said, shaking his head.

The state’s capital, like the nation, has mixed feelings about the impeachment

At Jimmy’s Barber Garage in Sacramento, all the chairs were occupied by customers, including Mark Dwyer, who was getting a trim and watching Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) on the television exhorting her colleagues to impeach.

Dwyer, a behavioral therapist, supports impeachment of the president “resoundingly” and said he has been glued to the hearings in recent weeks. He listened to the floor debate on NPR with great interest as he drove to the barber.

“It’s historic. It’s also unbearably depressing to listen to it,” Dwyer said of the debate on impeaching Trump. “It’s on its face clear that he did it. He solicited interference in an election.”

Others in the barbershop said they have not been paying close attention to the impeachment hearings and don’t fully understand the case that has been made.

“I would like it if I could see some facts about what happened with the whole phone call” between Trump and the Ukrainian president, Tim Benjamin said as he left the shop.

Benjamin said impeachment is popular among his circle of friends, whom he described as liberal. “Most people I know are for it,” he said, adding, “I don’t really like the president.”

Jonathan Patterson said his interest in the impeachment hearings has been “pretty low.”

“I’m leaning toward him being [voted] out because he’s a terrible person,” Patterson said.

Down the street, Mike Moniz was on the job as a pest control worker at a commercial building and said he and many people have grown tired of the spectacle in Washington. His advice to lawmakers? “Stop it.”

Moniz said he had no plans to watch the congressional debate because he was working and has heard enough in snippets on the radio. He remains opposed to impeachment, however, believing the Democrats have not proved their case.

“It just sounds like a big bag of tricks that people are going on with,” he said.

At the nearby Midtown Barbershop, the comedy show “The Office” was on the only television, and owner Jason Dunn had no plans to switch the channel.

“Politics are something you don’t get into in a barbershop,” he explained. “You don’t want to chase customers away. Opinions on the president are tearing families apart.”

Removing Trump from office won’t make a difference in California

Wearing a safety vest and hard hat, Andy Marin was rushing off with his buddy on their lunch break from a demolition site in downtown Los Angeles. They’re helping clear the area for one of several boutique hotels and luxury condominium projects that are rising along the Broadway and Spring Street corridors.

Marin, 22, wants Trump out of office but doesn’t feel his removal will help his personal economic situation.

“California has always been an independent state. Either waym the economy is going up,” said Marin, who lives in Historic South-Central L.A. “It’s just the hard work and dedication of the people here.”

Downtown L.A.’s prosperity has provided steady work, but Marin and others give Trump no credit for the state’s booming economy.

Sasha Sanders, 41, was hurrying to a court appointment but didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion of Trump.

“We want him out of here,” said Sanders, a Crenshaw resident who works as a nurse. “He’s trying to send everybody out of the country. Everybody has a right to be here if they can make their way. He wants to let them work, then as soon as they want citizenship, he wants to throw them out.”

Sanders, however, doesn’t think removing Trump will improve the economy or life in California, which she believes is “messed up.”

“Nothing is going to help us. We have to help ourselves.”

A California transplant tries to avoid the news from Washington

Jen Ruggirello sat in a sun-drenched corner of the Cahuenga Branch Library in East Hollywood on Wednesday morning checking emails while, a world away, the nation marched toward impeaching its 45th president.

“I’d love for Trump to be removed, but I’m not optimistic,” said Ruggirello, 26, who edits short films. “All of this is exhausting.“

Ruggirello, a Democrat who moved to Los Angeles from Illinois in 2014, says she tries to avoid news from Washington.

“It’s too depressing,” she said, adding that Trump’s time in office has made her consider becoming more politically active. Maybe in 2020, she said, she will finally volunteer to knock on doors and work phone banks, and ask friends about where they stand on issues.

“He no longer needs to be in office,” she said of Trump. “We all need to do our part.”

A DACA recipient is surprised it’s taken this long to impeach Trump

Ramses Hernandez and his boyfriend, Daniel Rivera, spoke about their distaste for Trump while grabbing breakfast in Santa Ana. Hernandez supports the Democrat’s move to impeach the president.

The 23-year-old who lives in Costa Mesa said he’s surprised it’s taken so long to impeach Trump, who, he argued, never should have been elected in the first place.

“I think Trump has a history of doing things for personal gain and using his office to his advantage,” he said.

Hernandez is a beneficiary of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program allows him to legally work in the U.S. and grants him protection from deportation.

But DACA is temporary and in jeopardy, the subject of a Supreme Court appeal after Trump rescinded the program in 2017. About 700,000 DACA recipients anxiously await the court’s decision — likely to come in the spring.

“Everything he stands for and everything the GOP stands for and just how blindly they are defending him, it’s something that [weighs] down on me so heavily,” Hernandez said.

Rivera, 23, who also lives in Costa Mesa, said he stopped paying attention to politics not long before Trump was elected in 2016.

“I don’t like to think about politics. I bums me out,” he said. “Everything is so more sinister now.”

Democrats are bringing GOP together: ‘The Republicans have never been this united’

Kari Kay is annoyed with the Democrats’ inquiry and their attempt to impeach Trump.

The 49-year-old Fullerton resident supports the president and thinks the allegations against him are baseless.

She says the House’s actions are wrong but she does think there are things worth investigating.

“Trump has every right to use U.S. intelligence to investigate the Bidens’ alleged misdeeds,” Kay said, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s actions in Ukraine.

She thinks the Democrats’ actions are hurting their chances of taking over the White House and a majority in the Senate in 2020 because, if anything, their efforts are coalescing the right.

“The Republicans have never been this united,” Kay said. “A lot of people who are moderate will want to vote for Trump next year.”

‘This entire thing is a joke’: A political independent says the parties should work together

Rina Sadiqui sipped an Abuelita Latte at Café Cultura in Santa Ana on Wednesday morning, in a downtown business district heavily favored by Latinos.

Sadiqui, a 29-year-old whose parents are refugees from Afghanistan, said the Democrats are justified in their reasoning to impeach Trump.

Still, she doesn’t think impeachment is the right move.

The hearings and impending vote will only further divide an already polarized country, said Sadiqui, a real estate agent who lives in Irvine.

She said she isn’t affiliated with either political party: She’s conservative on some issues — such as abortion — and liberal on others, believing in gay rights.

“I honestly think this entire thing is a joke,” she said of the vote.

She thinks a better alternative would be for both parties to work together, instead of pitting the American public against each other.

A house divided in Irvine: Father and daughter have different views on Trump

An ardent supporter of the president, Billy Hoang said he refuses to believe Trump did anything “that should be punished.”

“Look, this man is a businessman. He made decisions for the economic health of the country,” said the San Diego resident visiting Irvine to be with his children for the holidays.

Hoang is part of the older generation of Vietnamese Americans who are staunch Republicans, standing for GOP candidates and incumbents alike and who adamantly attack what he calls liberals and Democrats “too focused on separation politics to understand when a politician is not putting his own interests ahead of the nation.”

At 69, he skipped watching the impeachment hearings in favor of the History Channel because “this is not the type of action I want to see as part of history. Mr. Trump is who we will always support.”

His daughter, Lily Hoang, said that unlike her father, she prefers a progressive political platform that is “inclusive and fair. The president doesn’t understand or appreciate diversity. He only understands the bottom line and whatever can make a profit for him and his family. That’s why he has this job — for money.”

The younger Hoang, a real estate investor familiar with both the Northern and Southern California landscape, stood outside a Trader Joe’s near the UC Irvine campus Wednesday morning. She said she meets other thirtysomething Vietnamese and Asian immigrants who think like her: those who have a Western, democratic style of education and who have “analytical opinions” in contrast to their elders’ more “traditional opinions.”

“People — including my parents — believe in voting and following party lines. They don’t question whether someone earned his or her seat in office,” she said. “For me, I want to judge someone case by case, and in this case, Trump does not deserve to be in office. What has he done to be rewarded?”

‘I want it over and done with and him gone’

Dee Dee Goldberg, 79, was giddy over the impending House vote as she got ready for her Building Better Balance senior exercise class at the Roxbury Park Community Center in Beverly Hills on Wednesday.

“I follow every minute,” she said of the proceedings. “I want it over and done with and him gone. Not just impeached. Gone.”

Goldberg said she was proud of the leadership role California lawmakers have taken in the process, and of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) in particular.

In Santa Ana, a Trump supporter says the Democrats are ‘trying to find any little thing’

On 4th Street in downtown Santa Ana, where many businesses cater to Latinos, thoughts about Wednesday’s historic vote varied widely.

At Chevita’s Juice & Bagel, Jennifer Vanzie scrolled through her smartphone, waiting for her Ranchero Bagel. She said she hasn’t paid much attention to the impeachment hearings. Her children — 1 and 3 — take up much of her time.

The 28-year-old Corona resident said she doesn’t know enough about the issue to decide whether Trump should be impeached.

“Still, I just feel like they are trying to find any little thing” to make him look bad, Vanzie said about the Democrats.

Vanzie, whose parents are Honduran and Mexican, voted for Trump and describes herself as conservative. She said she supports some of the president’s platform, such as abortion restrictions.

She knows she’s a bit of an anomaly in a state like California.