As Trump impeachment inquiry looms, voters react with joy, fury, ambivalence

Voters' mood
Top row, from left: Kim Dai, New York; Brooke Tobias, Los Angeles; Shelly Ferkovich, Woodland; and Barry Smith, Newnan, Ga. Middle row: Becky Hinkle, Glendale; Joe Perez, Los Angeles; Rebecca Reyes, El Paso; and Carma Moncure, Long Beach. Bottom row: Alex Kidd, Santa Monica; Ben Bernthal, Portland, Ore.; Tom Tran, Santa Ana; and Christina Choi, Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

It could have been any day, really, in the Donald Trump era, which is to say tumultuous and head-spinning. But it was also a rarity, as Americans absorbed the prospect of a president being impeached for just the third time in the nation’s history.

While discussing military aid to Ukraine, the president had asked the Eastern European nation’s leader for “a favor” in digging up dirt on rival Joe Biden — leading Democrats to launch a formal inquiry.

The response from voters on Wednesday was as varied as the country: joy, anger, enthusiasm, frustration. While, there was, understandably, no consensus view, there was also no lack of opinions.

‘It feels like there’s something in the air shifting. Or maybe it’s just that I moved to Portland.’

— Ben Bernthal, 31, Portland, Ore.

Street poet Ben Bernthal, 31, types a poem for a customer Tuesday on his Hermes Rocket typewriter in Portland, Ore., his latest hometown. 'It feels like there's something in the air shifting,' Bernthal said of the impeachment process starting. 'Or maybe it's just that I moved to Portland.'
(Richard Read/Los Angeles Times)

In Portland, Ore., street poet Ben Bernthal typed poems for paying customers Tuesday night on the lime green keys of a vintage 1960s Hermes Rocket typewriter. The 31-year-old Bernthal, a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, sells poems for an average of $10 apiece.

On his folding wooden chair outside Powell’s City of Books, the Butler University graduate was aware that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced an impeachment inquiry into the president, but he hadn’t caught up on details.

“It could chip away at some of his support to have more scrutiny over his actions in a serious way,” he said. “It would please me to see him removed from office whenever it’s possible. If he is actually removed from office, then we’ll have Mike Pence as president for hopefully a brief time. I don’t think he’s super likable. I say that as a Hoosier. If Pence ran for president, I don’t think he’d stand much of a chance.”

– Richard Read

I don’t think we can get him removed unless he resigns.

— Rebecca Reyes, 60, El Paso

(Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times)

Rebecca Reyes has seen the impact of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy separating migrant families in the border city of El Paso. And she’s watched the city suffer after a gunman killed 22 people at a local WalMart and police arrested a suspect who said he had targeted Latinos he saw as part of an “invasion” of Texas. Reyes said impeachment couldn’t come soon enough.

The attorney is skeptical Trump will be removed via impeachment before the November 2020 election, but still thinks the inquiry should continue.

“They should proceed on the impeachment procedure,” the Democrat said. “The actual removal doesn’t need to happen. I don’t think we can get him removed unless he resigns.”

– Molly Hennessy-Fiske

For many, the details of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine are irrelevant. It’s all about how they perceive the president.

Too many people are out to get him. I just feel that a lot of people just want him out of office and will seize on anything.

— Barry Smith, 39, Newnan, Ga.

(Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times)

As notifications about impeachment popped up on Barry Smith’s cellphone via Yahoo News, the landscaping equipment delivery driver from Newnan, Ga., mostly ignored them.

“I don’t see any point in impeachment,” the 39-year-old Republican said as he picked up lunch in McDonough, Ga., about 25 miles south of downtown Atlanta. “He’s doing a great job!” Smith voted for Trump in 2016 and said he’d probably do so again.

By Wednesday lunchtime, Smith had yet to read the memo describing Trump’s telephone conversation with Ukraine’s president. He said if Trump clearly operated outside of the law, then no doubt there would be some sort of hearing. “If he did something unconstitutional, it wouldn’t be a good thing,” he said. “If he’s found guilty of something illegal, well, impeachment would have to happen.”

– Jenny Jarvie

...Impeachment. I think that’s a really strong word.

— Becky Hinkle, 65, Glendale

(Seema Mehta/Los Angeles Times)

Becky Hinkle of Glendale argues that the impeachment inquiry is a Democratic ploy to tilt the 2020 election that will backfire.

“I don’t think there’s enough information for them to be able to open an impeachment. I think that’s a really strong word,” Hinkle said while meeting with friends at Phil Trani’s restaurant in Long Beach.

Hinkle, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again, said her life has dramatically improved since Trump took office. “Oh, yeah. My bank account’s a lot higher. My business is running really good. And my investments are all doing very well,” she said. “I think the stock market has been a big thing because of him, because he is business-minded.”

– Seema Mehta

I feel like if we could just have a good conversation about what we believe in, what we feel, and somehow come to some sort of common ground, then everything’s going to be OK.

— Carma Moncure, 51, Long Beach

(Seema Mehta/Los Angeles Times)

“I love engaging in politics and having discussions about politics,” said Carma Moncure, 51. “But I feel like you can’t really have a good conversation when the name Trump comes up. I feel there’s this disregard for him and the office of the presidency.”

The forensic specialist for the Long Beach Police Department said her parents are Samoan immigrants and very conservative — her dad’s a former missionary and her mom was a nurse — so she has been a Republican since youth. She voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him in 2020.

“I do think [impeachment is] pretty premature,” she said Tuesday night, adding that the inquiry is political.

She believes Trump being in office is “a revolution. It upset the order of things.” She said he just has a “different voice. And I don’t mind hearing that voice.”

– Seema Mehta

This is the one that just kind of put it over the top for me.

— Ronald Kelley, 71, Georgia

Ronald Kelley
(Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times)

A lifelong Republican, Ronald Kelley has long hoped that Trump would be impeached.

The 71-year-old, who retired from Delta Airlines and now works as a courier for a law firm, was so put off by Trump in 2016 that he did not vote — the first time he had not voted in a presidential election. “He feels like he doesn’t have to play by any rules,” Kelley said Wednesday morning in McDonough, Ga.

No matter what the inquiry finds, Kelley knows that many of his friends and neighbors in Henry County, a rural but fast-growing county about 25 miles southeast of Atlanta, will continue to support Trump. Kelley’s family has lived here since 1820, and he says he has never seen people’s views so polarized.

– Jenny Jarvie


— Roger Escobar, 25, Artesia

Roger Escobar
(Melissa Gomez/Los Angeles Times)

Roger Escobar was sitting outside the Cinemark theater at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall with his girlfriend on Tuesday night when he learned that House Democrats had begun an impeachment inquiry of Trump. “Finally!” the 25-year-old Artesia resident said.

“I don’t know why it didn’t come any sooner,” the IT technician said.

– Melissa Gomez

The whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s contacts with Ukraine that set off an impeachment inquiry is released.

They’ve been wanting to attack him since he came in.

— Tom Tran, 35, Santa Ana

(Anh Do/Los Angeles Times)

When it came to choosing political parties, Tom Tran refused cultural pressure to go Republican, he said, “because the elders can follow their own way and the younger Vietnamese generation can figure out where we want to land. We do our own research. We make up our own minds.”

Still, the 35-year-old Santa Ana resident, an independent who manages a boba store, said he isn’t surprised by the Democrats targeting Trump.

“They’ve been wanting to attack him since he came in,” said Tran, who is against removing Trump because the president “has tried to do steady work.”

– Anh Do

They would be mortified.

— Shelly Ferkovich, 64, Woodland

(Phil Willon/Los Angeles Times)

Shelly Ferkovich, who grew up in Montana, said her conservative Republican parents wouldn’t think much of Trump: “They would be mortified.”

The 64-year-old Ferkovich, of Woodland, a small city just outside of Sacramento, said it’s about time that Congress started impeachment proceedings. She views the memo of the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “smoking gun” that proves Trump was not worthy of being president.

“I thought that President Trump’s behavior has been despicable from the beginning,” said Ferkovich, a Democrat who owns the Sterling Riding Academy and a 25-acre horse farm.

– Phil Willon

The country’s not in favor of it so why go through with this process?

— Carl Wubben, 75, Dubuque, Iowa

Carl Wubben, retired John Deere engineer, Dubuque, Iowa.
(Tyrone Beason/Los Angeles Times)

Retired engineer Carl Wubben, 75, a Democrat who voted for Clinton, feels like the impeachment push was hasty. “I think it’s a waste of time.”

“I’m pretty optimistic that Trump is not going to be reelected,” the Iowan said.

“One thing that Trump has not done since he was elected is he’s never tried to expand his base,” Wubben said, noting that he used to be Republican but switched parties during the administration of President George W. Bush because of his pursuit of costly wars with no plan to pay for them.

– Tyrone Beason

The truth is still hidden.

— Thanh Nguyen, 69, Brea

Thanh Nguyen
(Anh Do/Los Angeles Times)

Sipping coffee inside Gypsy Cafe, Thanh Nguyen waited for his weekly reunion with soldier buddies. The 69-year-old retired computer technician from Brea was hardly shocked by the impeachment inquiry. He said the president “has been investigated since Day One.”

“Every party has its advantages and disadvantages, but there’s been too much talk about whether Mr. Trump is working for family or country — the truth is still hidden,” the registered Republican said.

A veteran of the South Vietnamese Army, Nguyen came to the U.S. in 1975, relocating to Nebraska after members of a Christian church sponsored him and fellow soldiers. He reads the news in two languages; as a naturalized citizen, he feels invested in the happenings of his adopted country. But in the last presidential race, he chose not to participate.

“No one was worthy. As refugees, we value this privilege, this chance to check off a ballot, so I take it seriously and spend time thinking about people running for office.”

– Anh Do

We’re trying to support him, but it’s like tossing a grain of sand in the sea. It gets lost.

— Anthony Tran, 64, Westminster

Anthony Tran
(Anh Do/Los Angeles Times)

Republican Anthony Tran supports Trump and the “necessary” border wall and is frustrated by the Democratic Party’s criticism of the president.

“Every minute, every five minutes, they’re trying to create trouble for the party in power,” said the 64-year-old accountant from Westminster. “I ask them: Why don’t you focus on your own work. Give me the evidence of what you’re doing every day for the good of society.

“Democrats complain about Mr. Trump and we’re trying to support him, but it’s like tossing a grain of sand in the sea. It gets lost.”

– Anh Do

They just cannot let it go that Trump was elected.

— John LuGrain, Dubuque, Iowa

John LuGrain
(Tyrone Beason / Los Angeles Times)

The state of the country’s politics concerns John LuGrain, a bar manager in Dubuque, Iowa, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to vote for him again in 2020. “We’re in chaos,” he said.

He’s convinced the impeachment inquiry is a “witch hunt” by Democrats: “They just cannot let it go that Trump was elected.”

– Tyrone Beason

Mr. President, she told him, ‘undo it.’ With those two words, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Trump one last chance to avoid becoming only the fourth president in office to face impeachment proceedings.

I don’t see how Republicans allow it.

— Alfred Jones, 48, Jonesboro, Ga.

Alfred Jones
(Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times)

Alfred Jones struggles to understand how any Republican could still back Trump.

“He shouldn’t be in a position of power in the United States. He tries to figure out how to fight the system, but he’s our president. I don’t see how Republicans allow it,” said the 49-year-old child support caseworker from Jonesboro, Ga.

“He wants to be like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He wants all the power,” said Jones, who voted for Clinton in 2016.

Jones wishes Democrats had opened an impeachment inquiry earlier, but he doesn’t want them to rush toward impeachment until they have gathered more facts. “I want to see the result of the inquiry,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see them go through all of that and then he gets away with it and is elected for four more years.”

– Jenny Jarvie

It’s a waste of effort.

— Bob Kaukaskie, 74, Dubuque, Iowa

Bob Kaukaskie
(Tyrone Beason/Los Angeles Times)

Bob Kaukaskie, 74, thinks politicians have better things to do than prosecute Trump.

“It’s a waste of effort for Congress to go after him,” said the retired John Deere engineer, a Republican, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to again.

As for Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Joe Biden and his son, the Dubuque, Iowa, resident said Democrats are politicizing the controversy. And he’s worried that this latest political crisis will further split Americans. “It’s extremely divided and I don’t see that coming together.”

– Tyrone Beason

I’d much rather see him pushed out in an election.

— Sarah Pelkey, 44, Cornwall, Vt

Sarah Pelkey
(Joe Mozingo/Los Angeles Times)

Sarah Pelkey voted for Clinton in 2016, but was hopeful Trump would rise to the dignity of the office. Now he’s created such a polarized environment, she doesn’t even talk to friends about him.

The 44-year-old urban planner from Cornwall, Vt., an independent, thinks Trump has made some positive moves. But the general negative tone Trump has set for the nation has drowned any good out of his presidency, as she sees it.

But she’s ambivalent about the impeachment inquiry. “I’d much rather see him pushed out in an election.”

– Joe Mozingo

The Democrats, all they want to do is cause trouble.

— Daniel Critelli, 63, Los Angeles

Daniel Critelli
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

“The Democrats, all they want to do is cause trouble,” said Daniel Critelli, 63, who lives in downtown Los Angeles.

The Republican, who is legally blind and on disability, supports Trump and says Nancy Pelosi “is an idiot.” It’s not clear to him that the president has done anything wrong in asking Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.

“Look, they’re not going to get Teflon Don. Teflon Don has too many supporters,” Critelli said.

Trump, he said, is making the country better; when Trump builds his border wall, “we’re going to see some changes.”

– Michael Finnegan

America’s a little broken.

— Brooke Tobias, 21, Los Angeles

Brooke Tobias
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Brooke Tobias was unfamiliar with the Ukraine issue roiling Washington, but she welcomed the news of an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

“I would definitely support him not being president anymore, no matter what,” said the 21-year-old Democrat who was picking up a latte at Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. on Wednesday morning.

The research assistant at a Los Angeles neuroscience lab voted for Clinton in 2016, is undecided on which Democrat to support in 2020 and loathes Trump, whom she sees as a racist and misogynist. “I definitely don’t think he’s fit to lead.”

– Michael Finnegan

It would be nice if he was removed.

— Kim Daio, 28, Queens, N.Y.

Kim Dai
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Kim Dai, a 28-year-old architectural lighting designer who lives in Queens, N.Y., sees no reason to wait until the 2020 election to toss Trump out of office.

“It would be nice if he was removed,” said Dai, a Chinese immigrant who became a U.S. citizen two years ago. “The economy’s doing really well. At the same time, there’s a lot of other things that are falling apart.”

Most importantly, she said during a visit Wednesday to downtown L.A., Trump has taken the country in the wrong direction on immigration and climate change.

She wishes Congress had moved sooner to impeach Trump.

– Michael Finnegan

The House of Representatives intends to vote to impeach President Trump for abusing his office and obstructing Congress, a condemnation that only two other U.S. presidents have faced in the nation’s 243-year history. Despite the historic nature of the vote on charging the president with committing high crimes and misdemeanors, Trump’s fate has been sealed for days, if not weeks in the Democratic-controlled House.

I don’t think he’s a good representation of who we are as Americans.

— Alex Worthy, 28, Laguna Hills

Alex Worthy
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Alex Worthy, 28, a Laguna Hills lawyer, was eating lunch in downtown L.A. when she was asked about the impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“It’s about time,” she said. The Democrat said Trump is “terrible president” and “is very offensive to the global community.”

Still, she added: “If it hinders getting a Democrat elected, maybe it’s not a good idea.”

Worthy voted for Clinton in 2016 and is leaning toward Biden in 2020 because she believes he has the best chance of beating Trump.

– Michael Finnegan

He does everything right.

— Tracy Wang, 67, Silver Spring, Md.

Tracy Wang's booth in Washington.
(Alexa Diaz/Los Angeles Times)

No matter what happens with the impeachment inquiry, Tracy Wang plans to vote again for Trump.

The Silver Spring, Md., woman who sells Trump-themed merchandise at a street vending booth in Washington, says the probe is just another attempt to knock down the president. The registered Republican came to the U.S. from Taiwan 35 years ago and favors Trump’s positions on immigration, trade and government spending.

“I’ve worked hard to get my money from my business. I’ve worked hard for every penny,” said Wang, 67, who adds that others don’t work as hard because of “government handouts. Trump is changing that.”

– Alexa Díaz

I worry about how it’s going to play out.

— Christina Choi, 33, Los Angeles

Christina Choi
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Christina Choi, 33, a podcast producer who lives in Koreatown, is disturbed by the constant turmoil of Trump’s presidency and wants him out of the job. But she frets over the risks of impeachment.

“I think it’s a good idea, but I worry about how it’s going to play out,” she said Wednesday. “I don’t know what’s going to come of it. It’s going to help the Democrats? I’m really not sure.”

Choi also wonders what would become of the country if Trump’s vice president took power. “I wish we could remove him, but then it’s Mike Pence,” she said. “I feel like he’s smarter and more nefarious.”

For now, she said, the U.S. is stuck on “a horrible track.” “You kind of get fatigued after a while,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ve hit rock bottom yet.”

– Michael Finnegan

As an average working person, he’s not doing any good for the country.

— Joe Perez, 45, North Hollywood

Joe Perez
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Joe Perez, 45, doesn’t pay close attention to politics. But the Democrat has never liked Trump. Removing him from office? “I think that would be a great idea. He’s a millionaire snob. I don’t agree with any of his politics.”

The North Hollywood resident, a special effects man working on a TV production in downtown L.A. on Wednesday, had stopped for lunch at Grand Central Market.

Perez said he’s annoyed that he lost some write-offs in the Trump tax overhaul, particularly on his family’s property taxes. “As an average working person,” Perez said, Trump is “not doing any good for the country.”

– Michael Finnegan

It’s just another witch hunt.

— Ramona Potts, 58, Bakersfield

Ramona Potts
(Melissa Gomez/Los Angeles Times)

Ramona Potts, 58, sat on a stool outside her Bakersfield hair salon and talked about the “witch hunt” against Trump.

Potts, owner of the Atomic Kitten Salon in downtown Bakersfield, had been a Democrat for most of her life until the 2016 election rolled around and her dislike for Clinton led her to register as a Republican. She “definitely” plans to vote again for Trump.

She said that voters should determine whether Trump gets a second term and that the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a waste of resources.

“They’re wasting time and money on something that’s not gonna work,” she said. “Why don’t they just find a formidable opponent and beat him?”

– Melissa Gomez

It’s too little, too late for the purposes they want.

— Alex Kidd, 36, Santa Monica

Alex Kidd
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Santa Monica attorney Alex Kidd, who was listening to the liberal Pod Save the World podcast on Wednesday, said lawmakers should have opened an impeachment probe months ago. “I don’t think they have the votes or the time to make it happen.”

Kidd voted for Clinton over Trump in 2016, and he can’t wait for the 2020 election. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democrat whose ideas most reflect his own views, but he wants someone electable to challenge Trump. He’s looking at Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “She’d be a formidable opponent to stand up to Trump in the debates, because those are going to be a bloodbath.”

Kidd faulted Trump for backing out of the Iran nuclear deal, imposing tariffs that are costing jobs and backing out of the Paris climate agreement. “It’s doing so much damage,” he said.

– Michael Finnegan

This story was reported by Times staff writers Mark Z. Barabak in San Francisco; Tyrone Beason in Dubuque, Iowa; Alexa Díaz in Washington; Anh Do in Westminster; Michael Finnegan in Los Angeles; Melissa Gomez in Bakersfield; Molly Hennessy-Fiske in El Paso; Jenny Jarvie in McDonough, Ga.; Seema Mehta in Long Beach; Joe Mozingo in Bennington, Vt.; Richard Read in Portland; Phil Willon in Woodland, Calif.