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Democrats have fallen into Trump's impeachment trap, his supporters say

U.S. President Donald Trump's supporters say the impeachment inquiry will galvanize Republican voters ahead of next year's election. In Corona, Calif., Trump supporters say no evidence will convince them of his guilt.

Impeachment inquiry could cost the Democrats support of swing voters in 2020

In Corona, Calif., one of only seven Republican-held districts in the state, some voters think the Democrats are playing right into U.S. President Donald Trump's hands by launching an impeachment inquiry. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Corona, Calif., was once known as the lemon capital of the world. Even though it's no longer an agricultural community, it's still a deeply conservative one.

The city of 160,000 residents is only 80 kilometres inland from Los Angeles, but it's Donald Trump country — one of only seven Republican-held districts in the state.

Surrounded by Democratic districts, Trump supporters in Corona are tired of the attacks on their president.

"All they're doing is attacking, attacking Trump," said Jesse Suave. 

Jesse Suave says there's no evidence that could convince him that Trump did anything wrong. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Suave says he was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. when he was five years old. He's wearing a Trump T-shirt and his hat is emblazoned with a red 45 (Trump is the 45th American president).

His is a quiet outrage. But his anger at liberals, at Democrats, at their impeachment inquiry, is real.

"It's a joke. Everyone knows," Suave said. "How dumb do they think we are?"

'They're just dirt'

First Democrats tried to get rid of Trump with the Mueller inquiry into alleged ties between his 2016 election campaign and Russia. When that failed, he says, Democrats are now trying another way to undo the results of the 2016 election.

"The Democratic Party is very desperate to impeach Trump because they have no one for 2020, so their only option is to come after Trump for anything," Suave said.

"The Democratic Party has shown their true colours, how evil they are. And they're just dirt. They're no good."

Many Republicans are hoping impeachment could be a game-changer even in the relatively blue state of California. Several of the neighbouring electoral districts in Southern California were until quite recently held by Republicans.

Swing districts in Orange County — which all went to Democrats — and a few districts in the so-called Inland Empire could all potentially be flipped if enough voters like Suave are fired up over the perceived persecution of the president.

"Whether you're Republican, whether you're a Democrat or libertarian, I think a lot of people are waking up and are fed up with the Democratic Party," Suave said.

Is there any proof that could come out during the impeachment proceedings that could convince him Trump is guilty?

"Nope," Suave said. "Absolutely not."

Trump supporters say impeachment is just another attempt by liberals to undo the 2016 election. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

'Out to get Trump'

Not far away, Toby Nagle is sitting on a rocking chair. The truck outside his house bears a sticker: "Clear Choice for 2020: Trump vs. Socialism." 

Nagle says it's his brother's. Though they're both Trump supporters, Nagle says he's too scared of identifying himself as one for fear of being targeted when he travels outside of this Republican district.

"It's my only car, and I can't afford to lose it," he chuckled.

He says the current impeachment inquiry is nothing but an attempt by liberals to persecute the president.  

"To me, just your average Joe sitting on my front porch, I think 99 per cent of the U.S. government is out to get Trump," Nagle said.

Toby Nagle says the impeachment inquiry related to Trump's actions surrounding Ukraine is a waste of taxpayers' money. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

When asked the same question as Suave — is there any proof that could come out during the impeachment proceedings that could convince him Trump is guilty — he produces the same answer.

"No."

And like Suave, he calls impeachment a joke and "a waste of taxpayer dollars." But unlike Suave, he says bring it on: Impeachment actually could work in Trump's favour.

"I hope the House does impeach Trump. And then when it goes to the Senate, it goes to a trial and our great president will have a chance to defend himself."

Impeachment will just galvanize Republicans ahead of the next election, he says. The Democrats have fallen into Trump's trap.

Nagle says the impeachment inquiry will simply galvanize Republican voters ahead of the presidential election next year. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

That's because while a majority of Democrats have supported impeaching Trump, impeachment has generally been unpopular with most Americans, according to some polls.

Those polls, however, were taken before the Ukraine affair. Three recent polls have suggested an increase of between eight and 10 points in support of impeachment, bringing the proportion of Americans in favour up to nearly 50 per cent.

But that could shift if impeachment proceedings become a partisan, drawn-out circus that produces little in terms of clear proof of wrongdoing. 

'He was definitely doing something stupid'

That could tip the balance by alienating undecided voters like Craig Inman.

He sits at a table in a Corona mini-mall talking politics with his daughter, a history major. He's a Republican, but in these hyper-polarized times, he's a rare breed — a swing voter.

California resident Craig Inman is a rare breed: an undecided voter going into 2020. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

"I don't know who I'm voting for in 2020," Inman said.

He likes Trump's policies. If the "economy's doing well and we're not at war, heck, I'll vote for the guy again," he said. 

Even so, he says, the president is a "bully ... a reality star being president."

Based on what he's read so far, Inman doesn't think Trump was trying to manipulate next year's election by asking Ukraine's president to dig up dirt on possible election rival Democrat Joe Biden, "but he was definitely doing something stupid," he said.

"He's just not smart enough to realize, 'I shouldn't say that.'"

If the impeachment inquiry does produce evidence against Trump, Inman says he's willing to vote for a moderate Democrat in 2020. But it's equally possible that impeachment could push him to vote to re-elect Trump if the Democrats overreach.

"I just wish the Democrats would focus on other stuff that's more important to us than just getting pissed off that they lost the election and trying to reverse it," he said. "There's a lot of people that are starting to say, 'Enough.'"

Inman and his daughter start discussing the Bill Clinton impeachment. After House Republicans voted to impeach Clinton, the president was acquitted in the Senate and enjoyed improved approval ratings.

Inman feels it's possible the Democrats aren't studying history quite closely enough.

"We always tell you guys, 'Learn from history, that's why you take history class,'" he tells his daughter. "Yet we seem to kind of be repeating ourselves."

WATCH - From The National, how impeachment hearings are hitting home in a Trump stronghold:

The impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill have dominated headlines all week, but how is Trump’s stronghold of Orange County, Calif. taking the news? We asked voters. 2:00

About the Author

Kim Brunhuber

Los Angeles correspondent

Kim Brunhuber is a CBC News Senior Reporter based in Los Angeles. He has travelled the world from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan as a videojournalist, shooting and editing pieces for TV, radio and online. Originally from Montreal, he speaks French and Spanish, and is also a published novelist.

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