Wednesday, Dec. 18, will go down in history as Impeachment Day.
It was also Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko’s, D-Ariz., breakout day.
In 4 minutes on the U.S. House of Representatives floor, the congresswoman from District 8 went from unknown-freshman to trending-like-crazy. A few hours after her speech accusing Democrats of “tearing America apart” went viral, she told the West Valley View she prepared for her big moment by praying.
“I asked God to give me the right words and the right way to say it,” Lesko said.
“Madam Speaker, this is a sad day. I believe Democrats are tearing this country apart. They’re tearing families apart,” Lesko said on the House floor, in a speech televised by national outlets.
Her impassioned defense of President Donald Trump and attack on the Democrats leading an impeachment charge - had social media buzzing.
On Twitter, veteran performer Bette Midler gave Lesko the hook: “Now the gal, Debbie Lesko, R, Arizona, is grandstanding bigtime!! Blame the Dems, don’t blame the criminal in the WH…”
According to NBC News, “Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., gave an impassioned speech against impeachment on the floor wearing black.”
The liberal publication American Independent noted Lesko, “a staunch advocate of Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, accused Democrats of ‘tearing families apart’ during the House debate over articles of impeachment on Wednesday.”
She was also mentioned in the New York Times coverage: “Republicans aired Trump-style grievances about what Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko called a ‘rigged’ process.”
Breitbart.com also referenced Lesko in its impeachment coverage:
“Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Arizona, said Trump was being subjected to the most unfair, politically biased rigged process I have seen in my entire life.
“‘There is no proof, none, the president has committed an impeachable offense,” Lesko said. ‘This is the most partisan impeachment in the history of the United States.’”
While she receives fiery criticism from the left, Lesko is supported by commenters at breitbart.com and on Twitter @RepDLesko.
Prior to voting against the two articles of impeachment, Lesko said nothing was going to shake her belief Trump did nothing wrong. She said she had an insider’s view on the long impeachment process by being on the House Rules and House Judiciary committees gave her an insider’s view - though she expressed frustration over Democrat leaders not sharing key information.
When Lesko visited the White House a few nights before the impeachment vote, she said Trump knew who she was, and how she had been defending him.
“He said to me, ‘You’re really doing a good job. You’re smart. Thank you.’
“I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’”
Even before impeachment day, Lesko’s defense of Trump was under attack. She had a volatile interview with CNN, which led to a Washington Post story: “Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) led the way last week by arguing Trump hadn’t even asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival in their July 25 phone call.”
Such coverage gets Democrats and Republicans fired up, Lesko said.
“I hear from both sides,” she said. “We take calls from everyone … People who don’t like President Trump at all and don’t like me defending him, and people who think the whole impeachment thing is a sham and say, ‘Go, Debbie.’ The calls pick up when I go on TV.”
According to Heather Smith, Lesko’s press secretary, “Over the last 28 days on Twitter her tweets were viewed 12.2 million times, 273,000 people visited her profile, and she gained 20,338 followers.
“She got dozens of supportive messages on Instagram this week, and a handful of negative ones, but the positives far outweighed the negatives on Instagram. She got 1,292 new likes on Facebook this week.”
While the impeachment process is obviously the topic of debate, it is indisputable it consumed congressional hours, days and weeks.
“It is a waste of time,” Lesko said. “I’ve been on the Judiciary Committee since January, and almost the entire time we’ve been doing investigations. (Judiciary Chairman Jerry) Nadler would call them impeachment investigations even though (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi wouldn’t call them that.”
Being on the House Rules Committee afforded her 4 minutes to speak, during pre-impeachment vote debate.
She said she woke up at 6 a.m. Dec. 18, listened to Christmas and Christian music, then mentally prepared for the day as she walked from her $2,700 per month apartment to the U.S. Capitol.
“I decided not to write up a written statement, I was going to talk from the heart,” she said.
“We’ve been at this for quite some time, being on the Rules Committee, I know this stuff by heart. So I just started talking. I prayed and asked God to give me the right words and the right way to say it.”
She repeated a view almost becoming a mantra: “There has been no evidence the President committed any impeachable offense. None of the democrat witnesses, not one of them was able to establish the President committed treason, high crimes or misdemeanors required for impeachment.”
Though the impeachment process was a time burner, Lesko said she still was able to focus on issues relevant to the West Valley. She said research for her 2018 campaign made it clear to her what the West Valley wanted.
“In my district, illegal immigration and solving the immigration crisis polled at the very top - there wasn’t anything close. Even over education, even over the economy,” Lesko said.
Lesko also serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. “That’s the one committee that actually get bills through on a bipartisan basis,” Lesko said.
“Last year, I (sponsored) a bill signed into law by President Trump and this year I have two bipartisan bills that passed out of the House. I’ve been told one, the Helping Families Fly act will be voted out of Senate by the end of this year.”
She has a framed copy of the United States Ports of Entry Threat and Operational Review Act Trump signed into law Dec. 21, 2018. It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a threat and operational analysis of ports of entry.
Lesko co-sponsored H.R. 3971 Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act. “It eliminates federal income tax on Social Security,” she said. That bill has been in the House Committee on Ways and Means since July.
She said she also is backing a bill giving local communities more power in education spending. “There’s so much federal bureaucracy,” Lesko said. “All kinds of strings are attached and regulations with school districts.”
In the coming months, Lesko will start campaigning, as 2020 is an election year for her.
Before then, she planned to spend Christmas week at her Peoria home.
“I’m very busy here in D.C.,” she said. “I usually only get back to Arizona one week of every month.
“I miss my family. My husband comes here (to D.C.) usually two weeks of every month. He’s in cybersecurity, so he can work from anywhere. But I miss my kids. And we have four grandkids, I miss them.”
Lesko reflected on the irony of her first full year in Congress. (In April 2018, she won a special election to fill the seat vacated by Trent Franks, who resigned Lesko then won a general election for the District 8 seat in November 2018.)
“When I first got here, I asked to be on the Armed Services Committee, which Trent Franks was on and before him the late Bob Stump. That’s important because have Luke Air Force Base in our district. But then we (Republicans) lost the majority, and got reduced seats in Armed Services.”
So instead, Lesko ended up on the Rules and Judiciary committees. Her colleagues warned her both committees would be grinds, with late-night sessions hashing over legalities.
She could hardly foresee those committees would give her an insiders’ view of only the third impeachment in American history, as well as a forum to proclaim her views.
“Boy, this is the way God works,” Lesko said. “He puts you in the place and gives you things you’re not even asking for. We did the articles of impeachment, and I was right in the middle of history.”