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We asked a couple dozen Spokane residents about impeachment. They’re as divided as the rest of the country

Fox News coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump was tuned in at Dashco convenience store in Rathdrum on Friday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Fox News coverage of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump was tuned in at Dashco convenience store in Rathdrum on Friday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
From staff reports

If you believe the polls, Americans are divided on the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

But polls aren’t the only way to gauge opinions. There’s also a more old-fashioned method: heading out and asking people you meet what they think.

So that’s what The Spokesman-Review did on Friday: sent reporters to numerous locations around Spokane to gather the opinions of a wide variety of locals on impeachment.

Like much of the rest of the country, Spokane residents expressed strong opinions on the president and whether he should be removed from office. And like the rest of the country, their positions were divided.

Here are some of the takes we came across:

‘Not going to hear the whole story’

Sharing a tray of blue sprinkled donuts with their daughter and granddaughter, Judy and Warren Zumwalt are the last customers in Mike’s Old Fashioned Donuts in Spokane Valley, which was already sold out by 11:30 a.m.

The couple, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, has avidly watched the impeachment proceedings and has been frustrated with the results.

“I don’t think that it’s really going to end in a true impeachment,” Judy Zumwalt said. “The Senate Republicans are stomping on the Democrats, and we’re not going to hear the whole story.”

Judy Zumwalt is a retired clerical worker and her husband, Warren, had a career designing patterns for the Spokane Industries steel foundry. The couple has lived in Spokane Valley for almost 50 years.

Even if the trial doesn’t lead to Trump’s removal from office, both hope the Senate will allow witnesses to speak or new evidence to be presented because most of the public is still curious about what happened.

“We’d all be interested to see what that evidence is,” Warren Zumwalt said.

‘Trying to pull him down’

Jerry Mattson, a retired home builder who has lived in Spokane Valley for 30 years, doesn’t believe Trump will be removed from office.

Mattson, who was flipping through an old Seattle Times in the Argonne branch of the Spokane County Library on Friday, said he voted for Trump in 2016 and admires what he’s been able to accomplish under the cloud of impeachment.

“I think he’s struggling under all this pressure of all these people that are trying to pull him down,” Mattson said. “He’s trying to get trade negotiations done and all kinds of things that are really a benefit for the country. And I think it’s kind of sad that he has to go through all this at this particular time.”

He said the impeachment is also one of the many ways Trump’s opponents have tried to undermine him since he won in 2016.

Mattson said he doesn’t consider himself a Republican or a Democrat, but said he hadn’t voted for a Democrat since 1972. That election was between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota.

Divided crowd in Hillyard lounge

The crowd Friday at The Sportsman Cafe & Lounge in Hillyard drank coffee and ate the $7.85 special at the breakfast joint that boasted this message on its sign: “Voted best food in Spokane by a guy that likes our food.”

Denny Peterson, 77, of Spokane, said he’s been watching the House managers present the case against Trump. He’s not been impressed.

Trump “can’t do nothing wrong. He’s my man. I’ll vote for him again,” Peterson said. “He’s a movie star.”

Asked if he plans to watch Trump’s attorneys begin their argument on Saturday, Peterson said no: “I’ve got better things to watch. We’ve got basketball.”

Carroll McInroe, 70, a retired licensed psychotherapist from Spokane, finished helping a fellow veteran with paperwork Friday before he started ripping into Trump.

“He’s a draft-dodging lying (expletive),” McInroe said of Trump. “I grew up in Texas. If that (expletive’s) lips are moving, you know he is lying. Look at all the ambassadors who had their careers ruined because of Trump.”

McInroe, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War but did not get deployed there, said he has been impressed by the presentation by the House managers.

“I love Adam Schiff,” McInroe said. “He’s the most articulate lawyer I’ve ever seen. You don’t have a trial with no witnesses.”

Margaret McLeod, 59, of Spokane, patiently waited for McInroe to finish before offering her thoughts on the impeachment process.

“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money. I don’t think the Senate is going to impeach him,” McLeod said of Trump. “He’s lost the trust of almost every American, especially the voters.”

McLeod said she cried when Trump was elected, but she still doesn’t support the impeachment process, even after having watched hours of the process.

“I think it should go to election instead of wasting our taxpayers’ dollars and time that could be spent on other things,” she said. “They haven’t come up with enough valid reasons to impeach him. Shoving his power around isn’t actually considered a criminal offense.”

Jennea Tollefson, 32, of Spokane, didn’t agree with McLeod and said she’ll vote for the first time in the 2020 election and Trump will get her vote.

“I honestly think he’s been doing a good job,” Tollefson said. “I’m not a fan of Obamacare. I thought it was unconstitutional to be fined for not having medical insurance. I’m glad that’s gone.”

McLeod, who was sitting with Tollefsen, agreed with her that Trump has been effective on certain things.

“I’ll give him a thumbs-up for the things I think he’s done right,” McLeod said. “But every time I hear him talk, I cringe and want to turn off the TV. He’s self-centered and he lies. But I don’t think (Joe) Biden is any better.”

‘Wish it was more cut and dry’

Kelsey Martin is enjoying the snow this winter. The Tennessee transplant moved to Spokane to study to become a speech pathologist at Eastern Washington University. . So far, she’s enjoying it, she said studying in the health sciences building on the WSU Spokane Health Sciences campus Friday.

When asked about impeachment, Martin said she wants the president removed from office but she is not watching the impeachment trial. This is in part due to the fact that she doesn’t have or watch cable.

“I think they’re trying to get him for what they can,” Martin said of Democrats, and she believes witnesses should be called.

Even still, “I wish it was more cut and dry,” she said.

‘They have an oath’

Todd Selk, who lives in northwest Minnesota but is visiting his son this week in Spokane, said over lunch at Ferguson’s Cafe in the Garland District he’s watched some of the impeachment proceedings, “but not a lot.”

Selk said his concern with the impeachment trial was the process, rather than what’s playing out to the jurors. He criticized some of the lawmakers for not paying attention during testimony.

“They have an oath,” Selk said, munching on a hamburger as his son, Eian, downed a brunch of pancakes, eggs and bacon. “I would challenge if they are upholding that oath.”

Selk said if he had to pick a political affiliation, he’d probably skew Democrat. Even so, he said he wasn’t sure the president should be removed from office based on what has been presented, though he lamented that Senate Democrats hadn’t been able to receive all the evidence they wanted admitted at trial.

“It sure sounds like he tried to influence some things that would be an abuse of his office,” Selk said. “Is that enough to remove him from office? I’m not sure if that is or not.”

‘Basically a criminal’

In another booth at Ferguson’s, retired Spokane Ironworker Bill Belton was much more certain of what should happen to President Trump.

“This guy’s basically a criminal,” Belton said, pausing from his lunch.

Belton, who said he’s been watching CNN and MSNBC coverage of the impeachment trial nonstop along with his wife, said he believed Trump should be removed from office to prevent tampering in the 2020 election.

“The damage he can do between now and then is huge,” Belton said.

Belton said he’s sworn off Facebook since Trump’s election at his wife’s behest after infuriating some of his Republican friends. Those friends, he said, won’t listen to the facts presented by a House Democratic team that was “doing a great job” making the argument Trump should be impeached.

“You can talk facts, and they don’t hear a word,” Belton said of his friends who are Trump supporters.

Predetermined outcome

Over the sound of clinking poker chips during a low-stakes round of Texas Hold ’em, several people gathered at the Southside Senior Center on Friday expressed little interest in the impeachment proceedings.

Whether or not they supported the president, several felt the outcome was predetermined.

Caryl Heller said she was not optimistic any of the Senators would be willing to listen to all of the evidence and expressed doubt the process is fair.

“No one’s going to change their vote,” Heller said.

Between bets, Jim Berg was hopeful the Senate would allow a limited number of witnesses for each side – enough to present information, but not too many to bog down the process.

Though he hoped the process would be fair, Berg said it “isn’t worth the hoopla.”

“It’s so polarized. You don’t have 100 people wanting to listen to both sides and then determine their vote,” Berg said.

Justice for the powerful

Genesis Veronon, owner of luxury soap company Beauchamp and Chase, had set up shop inside Larry’s Barbershop. As a customer took in the aroma of a few different bars of soap, Veronon lamented to The Spokesman-Review that there’s “all this evidence, but nothing can stop him.”

Veronon said he’s not a Trump supporter or hater, but reflected on how “challenging it is for somebody on that level to actually receive justice.”

“It’s affecting national security. That’s what’s heavy,” Veronon said.

‘Trump will come out unscathed’

On his way out of the Central YMCA on Monroe Street, Chris Welp said he was “confident that Trump will come out unscathed.”

“I think there’s been right and wrong on both sides of the aisle, but I think more crimes have been committed on the Democrat side,” Welp, a Spokane Valley resident, said. “ I think in the next few months we’re going to start finding out some of that stuff on the news.”

He thinks many of the Democrats with leadership roles in the impeachment, namely Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have committed crimes.

Welp said he has no issues with how the impeachment has been conducted.

“I think an impeachment procedure is kind of fluid, it’s not set in stone,” Welp said. “I think they’re doing OK, they’re just following a procedure.”

Welp identifies as independent and voted for Trump in the 2016 election.

Worried about Trump’s foreign policy

Sitting inside Central Y’s lobby, John Ausum, who lives in the Audubon neighborhood, was seated with his walking stick leaning against his chair. He was waiting for Spokane Paratransit to pick him up.

“I think he should be impeached, and it’s like they’re changing the rules for this,” Ausum said.

Ausum said one thing he has noticed about the Trump Administration is that a lot of the top officials have been hired and fired or quit.

“It just seems to be that something is wrong,” he said.

He also expressed concerns the impeachment had been preventing lawmakers from getting their jobs done.

He said Trump has done positive things, such as creating jobs, but he was especially worried about his foreign policy record and his stance toward climate change.

Ausum identifies as a Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

A woman sitting across the way in a Bob Ross sweatshirt did not want to speak on record but said, “He should be impeached and locked up. That’s my two cents.”

‘How much could he mess up in a year?’

At Spokane Community College, 25-year-old Jake Reinoehl of Deer Park took a fatalistic approach to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Reinoehl said he believes impeachment should be “finalized,” but wonders whether it’s worth all the fuss as Trump has less than a year left in his current term.

“I mean, how much could he mess up in a year?” Reinoehl said as he stood outside the student commons with fellow students at a bus stop with other students.

Reinoehl, who said he “tends to lean a little more to the left than the right,” said he’s been following the proceedings on the news and on Facebook – “more by happenstance when I come upon it.”

Inside the student commons at SCC, 16-year-old Keira Nolan was pondering her future. For now, that doesn’t include politics.

“Right now it’s not affecting much in my life and I can’t vote on anything,” said Nolan, a Running Start student from Spokane Valley.

Referring to President Trump, Nolan added, “I’m glad he’s getting impeached, but it’s almost the end of his term.”

A moment later, Nolan began to see the relevance, as Trump plans to run for re-election.

“I feel like it will be important … since a President will be passing new laws and I will have to oblige those laws and pay taxes,” Nolan said.

‘More important stuff to do’

The North Spokane Library was bustling with activity Friday afternoon with people perusing and returning books, but one thing they weren’t doing was closely watching the impeachment trial.

North Spokane resident Norman Arai said he’s watching snippets of the impeachment trial, but is finding it difficult to remain interested.

The impeachment trial seems to be a waste of time, he said, because it’s likely President Trump would not be impeached.

Congress has “more important stuff to do,” he said, adding people will get to weigh in on the presidency via their votes this year.

North Spokane resident Michelle Boyd said she’s watching the impeachment trial “intermittently.”

“I just want to see how the hot mess plays out,” she said. “I’m a news person anyway, so I’m trying to stay informed.”

Stuck in a peach

After a grueling week of exams, Friday was a day to relax for Isabelle Barfield.

Friday morning, the Mead High School freshman and her friends, Danikah Johnson and Katelyn Denant, were putting on skates at the Numerica Skate Ribbon at Riverfront Park when she was asked about impeachment.

Impeachment has come up a bit at school, and she has overheard some of CNN’s coverage as her mother watches the news. But she doesn’t know the specifics.

“I’ve barely watched it because I’m more concerned with school,” she said.

Barfield aims to attend Stanford University to become a neurosurgeon. School was out Friday after the last exams on Thursday. She’d already gotten her grades as she put on her skates and pulled out her phone to show the list of As that totaled a 4.0 for the semester.

At school, impeachment came up briefly in an English class, but most impeachment talk has been joking. (For instance: “Why is Trump stuck in a peach?”)

Barfield said it’s hard for her classmates to take impeachment too seriously when they can’t even vote.

“I think that’s why we all joke about it because we can’t participate,” Barfield said.

She said she doesn’t know enough about the trial to have a strong opinion. But she does believe Trump is sexist and prone to making poor decisions.

“I’d be fine if he was not the president because I don’t really like him,” she said.

‘Clear as glass’

Jennifer Schmidt has caught glimpses of the impeachment trial, but she’s mostly avoided it.

“It’s just that nothing is getting done that needs to get done to run the country,” she said while taking a break from ice skating on her birthday at the skate ribbon.

As long as there’s a trial happening, Schmidt prefers the Senate to accept more testimony. But she also says it’s already abundantly clear Trump did what he is accused of doing in both of the impeachment counts approved by the U.S. House.

“Both of them are as clear as glass,” she said.

She’s not a fan of Trump. But not a fan of Democrats either. She’s a proud independent.

“I despise both parties,” she said. “I despise the whole party system.”

“On the one side, I’m thrilled,” Schmidt said. “On the other, I think it’s too disruptive and it’s better to let him be voted out.”

‘A complete grab for power’

When it came time for Gregg Marston to retire five years ago, he and his wife decided to leave Southern California.

Marston started four software companies in California, two of which went public. He believes in the American Dream but says Democrats made that harder to achieve in the state while they’ve been in full control.

The couple moved to Spokane after visiting twice and fell in love with the city.

Friday morning, they were at the skate ribbon showing off Spokane to friends from out of town.

Marston has watched some of the impeachment trial (“as much as I can stomach”).

“Let me start off by saying that Trump is one of the best things to happen to this country in a long time,” he said. “I view this thing as a complete grab for power.”

He readily lists promises Trump has kept. At the top of the list is a booming economy that has lowered unemployment. He credits Trump policies and actions, including signing the Republican tax cut and reduced regulations.

“The economy has been roaring like never before,” he said. “That didn’t happen by accident.”

‘Everything was normal before he came’

Tamara Pantsulaya was born in Ukraine before emigrating to the Republic of Georgia, but on Friday afternoon, she was on her way into Kiev Market on North Nevada Street.

Stopped and asked about the impeachment trial of Donald Trump playing out seemingly 24/7 on cable TV, Pantsulaya said she is as resigned as she is outraged.

“I’m just very tired to think about this,” she said Friday afternoon. “I just want it to be done fast.”

But what she believes will be done and what she wants to happen are two very different things.

As for the former, Pantsulaya said she’s sure the Senate will allow Trump to stay in office. Republican Senators, she argued, are simply “afraid they lose their job” if they vote to remove their party’s foremost politician.

As for the latter, she said she’s appalled by Trump’s actions and approach.

“It’s ridiculous we have this kind of president,” she said. “Everything was normal before he came.”

The “normal” state of affairs, according to Pantsulaya, is that the United States comes to the aid of former Soviet Republics when they are faced with Russian aggression.

“I remember (George W.) Bush was helping Georgia when Russia was starting war with us in 2008,” Pantsulaya said.

So the notion that Trump held up meetings and military aid to Ukraine because the country’s president wouldn’t commit to investigating a political rival’s son, as Democrats allege, upsets Pantsulaya, she said.

Life in Ukraine is difficult, according to Pantsulaya, with everyday people “struggling and suffering” while corrupt politicians profit.

“We need help,” she said.

As for the impeachment process, Pantsulaya said she’s been impressed with Rep. Adam Schiff, one of the House impeachment managers leading the Democrats prosecution of Trump. Schiff, she said, “explains everything simply and clearly.”

“He’s just genius,” Pantsulaya said.

Ultimately, though, she said, “The election is going to decide if he stays or not.”

Then she went inside to do her shopping.

Jim Allen reported from Spokane Community College. Jonathan Brunt reported from the Numerica Skate Ribbon at Riverfront Park. Thomas Clouse reported from The Sportsman Cafe & Lounge in Hillyard. Arielle Dreher reported from Washington State University Spokane. Amy Edelen reported from the North Spokane branch of the Spokane County Library District. Kip Hill reported from Ferguson’s Cafe. Ted McDermott reported from Kiev Market on Nevada Street in north Spokane. Megan Rowe reported from Spokane’s Central YMCA. Adam Shanks reported from Southside Senior Center and Larry’s Barbershop. Rebecca White reported from Mike’s Old Fashioned Donuts and the Argonne branch of the Spokane County Library District.

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