Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
The Fix: Tell me about your vote.
Connie Morella: It was exceedingly difficult, of course, for me, then in a very Democratic area as a Republican who was considered sort of a moderate-independent kind of Republican.
And it's all because of my constituency, but it was my conscience and thinking about what was best for my country. So I would say country, constituents and conscience were my guidelines.
But quite frankly, I tried to stay out of the limelight at the time. I was not available for press comments. I did not want word to get out in advance, because then people would begin to home in on that, and you kind of lose your perspective and sense of why you made the decision.
And the decision was not made lightly, and it was not made well in advance. I spoke to some experts. I did a lot of reading. I followed everything that was happening. The bottom line, when I made my decision, was that what the president had done was perjurious, no doubt perjury was committed, but it did not imperil the nation. I think those were the words I even used. We should censure him but move on. We had much more that needed to be done. He disgraced himself. He put the country in turmoil and tumult, and I didn’t think the Senate was going to pass the impeachment. But the point is, as far as I was concerned, let’s censure him. He did commit perjury, but it did not imperil the nation, and we needed to move on.
The Fix: Was your decision difficult to make?
It was very difficult. People would try to find out what I was going to do and tell me what they wanted me to do. I had protests on both sides urging me one way or the other.
The Fix: Did you have pressure from your fellow Republicans to vote for impeachment?
There was a little bit, but not really, no. They understood the district, they understood me, and I’ve always been respectful of them. I think this is what is important, civility and respect for each other, and when that’s the case, you can disagree but then try to understand and move on. So, quite frankly, once the die had been cast and I had done that, no, my colleagues were quite polite about it. I did not have big repercussions from my Republican colleagues, to their credit.
The Fix: Did you worry about political repercussions in your district?
Since I had been moderate all the time, I had to put my vote in perspective. I would say: “Here’s how I look at this. Here’s how I feel about it on the basis of what I know. Here’s what I have heard, and here’s how I have come to my decision.” I would find that to be the case with other issues. When I disagree with my constituents and they would write letters about it, I would pick up the phone and talk to them, or have a letter that was lengthy in terms of explaining my position.
The Fix: Do you regret your vote?
No, I don’t. I think I did the right thing. Nope, not at all. I think we needed to move on. We didn’t see anything happen in the Senate. I think what he did was perjurious. I think it was wrong, for a lot of reasons. It was an arrogance of power, too. But I did think, when it came to something like impeachment, that we had to move on, that he had disgraced himself, he put the country in turmoil, and the Senate didn’t follow through on impeachment. And what would that have caused if they did? You have a new president in, and go through everything again, too.
When you look at it from a different perspective — because I am a feminist — you think about how the victim was victimized. But that was not the point of impeachment.
The Fix: Do you think this Congress should open impeachment proceedings into President Trump?
I think at this point, the speaker of the House [Nancy Pelosi] is traveling the right road. She is saying: “Let’s wait. We are not ready for anything like that.” It would be used as political motivation [for the other side], and we need to move on, people. We want to establish trust in members of Congress, and voters want to see some action, and they want to see some action that’s bipartisan.
You mention the word tribalism, and it seems to be like that, and I think what members have got to realize is Congress should come together on something, more than one thing.