(WJHL)- As an impeachment trial gets underway in the United States Senate against former President Donald Trump, Northeast Tennessee’s newly elected Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) said she believes Trump is innocent of the charge against him, and he still has her support.
“Inciting a riot – anything of that nature? No. I didn’t see that.,” Harshbarger said.
Harshbarger won the election last November after a contentious Republican primary in which she made her support of the then-President Trump a key part of her campaign.
She was on the floor of the House of Representatives and was ushered into a secure location when rioters entered the U.S. Capitol.
“That was not a peaceful protest, and I’ve condemned it every day,” Harshbarger said in an interview with News Channel 11 Tuesday.
Harshbarger voted no on impeachment and said she questions the legality of an impeachment trial of a president that is out of office.
“I think its unconstitutional, and they’re going to have to do a lot to show it is constitutional,” she said.
“It’s a cost to the U.S. taxpayers,” she said of the Senate trial. “It’s time-consuming, and they should be using that time to work on different things with the COVID relief, work on things that matter like the opioid epidemic, work on things that matter. You know – anything that has to do with anything except the impeachment for goodness sake…There’s too many things that we could work on bipartisanly than, you know, impeaching somebody who’s already out of office.”
One of Harshbarger’s first votes in Congress came hours after the riot at the Capitol.
Before January 6, fellow Tennessee Republicans Senator Marsha Blackburn and Senator Bill Hagerty joined Harshbarger in vowing to challenge the certification of President Joe Biden’s election.
While Blackburn and Hagerty changed their minds and voted to certify after the riot, Harshbarger still voted no.
“The first thing I’m going to do is listen to the people in my district,” she said on Tuesday. “And I listened to those people, and they did not want me to certify those results.”
Harshbarger said her intent was not to overturn the election.
“No – that is, that’s what the media pushed forward, that they (GOP Congressman who voted not to certify) want to overturn the election results. That’s not the case,” Harshbarger said. “You can certify all day electoral results, but if they could be incorrect – even if you certify them – to me that’s unconstitutional.”
There’s been no evidence backing up claims of widespread election fraud that would have changed the result of the national vote. Court challenges were unsuccessful and states certified their results.
But Harshbarger said she still wanted a fuller investigation into fraud claims and into the integrity of elections in certain states where changes were made to voting rules.
“In order to get back election integrity, then let’s do the right thing,” she said. “Let’s make sure there were no improprieties and then we go forward.”
Harshbarger pushes back against claims her electoral vote objection fueled the Capitol riots.
“I don’t think me voting to object caused them go do that,” she said. “No. Just like I don’t think President Trump did that.”
As for the future of the former president, Harshbarger thinks Donald Trump will maintain a prominent role in the party. She said he expects him to campaign for Republican members of Congress who, like herself, will be running for re-election in less than two years.
“He’s still a major figure in this party,” she said.
“I still support him. Everyone has their own rhetoric in how they get things accomplished,” she said. “You don’t have to love the rhetoric from the person. But you have to love the policies that he’s trying to institute that are trying to make America great again.”