Listen to audio version of this article
ANDOVER – Among Democrats, Josh Gottheimer is a bit of an outlier.
He has so far not jumped on the impeach Donald Trump train. At the same time, he’s not a defender of the president either.
All this can be a tough balancing act, as was seen Tuesday afternoon at a local diner when Gottheimer had his 43rd “Cup of Joe with Josh town hall” event.
The pattern at these events is for Gottheimer to give brief remarks and then travel from table to table talking to whoever is there about anything they want. It’s usually a mixed crowd – politically speaking.
In his introductory remarks, Gottheimer got right to impeachment, saying any inquiry has to be “evidence-driven” and “fact-based.” He said it’s important not to prejudge without all the facts and to keep the country together.
Almost immediately, Dave Marain, who had traveled from Fair Lawn, a liberal part of the 5th District, to catch his congressman in Sussex County, noted that some administration officials have declined to testify before Congress.
His point was clear. How can one when consider “all” the facts when one side refuses to cooperate?
Gottheimer responded that it’s important for both sides to cooperate with any investigation.
The next question was whether Gottheimer would support a formal vote on establishing an impeachment inquiry.
He replied, “It would really depend on how it was written.”
His questioners from the left were not pleased.
A few minutes later, the congressman was in a corner booth alongside Greg Merlo of Sussex County. Merlo praised Gottheimer for expressing a desire to examine the facts.
But it was clear where Merlo stood. In a short conversation, he criticized Rep. Adam Schiff for alleged misleading comments on the transcript of Trump’s Ukraine call and then observed that Democrats have been on a mission to get the president since he was elected.
The congressman opted not to respond to the specific comments, saying only that Congress has a “solemn responsibility” to see the facts.
After Gottheimer moved on, Merlo just shrugged his shoulders.
To be sure, other issues were mentioned. The congressman also was quizzed about guns, Lyme disease, local infrastructure and biological warfare (really).
But impeachment clearly was the issue of the day and likely will remain as such.
This figures to be a bit challenging for a congressman who, as he often says, is the first Democrat to represent the district in decades.
And just to add more spice to the mix, Gottheimer faces a primary challenge next June from the left.