How John Katko Became First Republican to Support Impeachment

Representative John Katko, a former federal prosecutor from Syracuse, was the first Republican member of Congress to announce he would vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

It was, in many ways, an unexpected development. Katko is not a lawmaker with a reputation for clashing with the president or other members of his own party. He’s the kind of person who gets elected to Congress after a lifetime of public service with the goal of writing laws instead of enforcing them.

How John Katko Became First Republican to Support Impeachment

And the last time the House considered Trump’s impeachment, in 2019, he voted no.

Yet, if even a small number of Republicans join with Democrats to impeach Trump during Wednesday’s vote, he may have played a crucial role in helping lead the way for them to take a step that none did in December 2019.

Four other Republicans announced Tuesday they would back impeachment. Among them is Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who has at times clashed with Trump.

In a brief interview off the House floor Katko, 58, explained why he had decided it was time to vote for impeachment. He described visiting one of his former interns -- now a Capitol Police officer -- who had been severely beaten in last Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol by members of a mob who stormed the building after being egged on by the president.

“I met his mom this morning and I brought a care package down for him from her,” Katko said. “He’s from Syracuse and it’s profoundly affected me. We’ve got to support these guys going forward.”

Katko said he leaned on his experience prosecuting organized crime to come to his decision on impeachment, something that wasn’t difficult after he analyzed the facts, though he is bracing himself for the fallout.

“I was a federal organized crime prosecutor and I did incredibly difficult cases for several decades,” he said. “And in this case, when you get rid of all the politics and all the objections and everything else and just say, ‘Was there sufficient evidence for this to go to trial?’ There’s just no question my mind there was and that’s what we’re deciding tonight and tomorrow.”

If the House votes to impeach Trump, he would face trial in the Senate, likely after he leaves office on Jan. 20.

Katko, who is one of nine Republicans representing districts that Biden won in 2020, said he is bracing for the fallout.

“Obviously, I’m going against my party and I’m going against my president so I’m sure there’s going to be repercussions but you know what, you got to do the right thing,” Katko said. “I wish we didn’t have to do it. I wish we didn’t have to bring this vote up. But I’m duty bound to to do the right thing and that’s what I’m doing.

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