Greg Steube says impeachment was bad for the country, but it may have been good for him

March 1, 2020
In The News

On the day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube took to the floor to denounce the “impeachment charade.”

Moments later, Steube, R-Sarasota, went on Fox News to blast impeachment and later did the same on Fox Business.

The media appearances were among roughly 69 national TV interviews that Steube has done over the last year, many of them touching on impeachment.

Steube argues that impeachment has been terrible for the nation, but it may have been good for his political career. The freshman lawmaker and ardent Trump supporter is emerging from the impeachment drama as a polished public defender of the president.

Like U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Steube’s friend and former colleague in the Florida House who has parlayed his media savvy into national fame, Steube has found there is plenty of appetite within the conservative media for an aggressive young lawmaker who is willing to battle with Trump’s critics.

While not approaching Gaetz’s level of notoriety, Steube has made regular appearances on conservative programs, including on lesser-known networks such as One America News and Newsmax TV, as he works to boost his profile. He is often on Fox Business, a channel the president is known to watch.

Heading into his second year in office, Steube is eager to have a voice in the national debate beyond his status as a first-term lawmaker in the minority party.

Steube’s dogged efforts to make himself better known, and his eagerness to defend Trump and push a highly-conservative agenda, should not surprise anyone who has followed his career.

Ambitious to the core, Steube jumped from the state House to the state Senate to Congress in the span of eight years, easily winning in conservative districts thanks to his relentless grassroots campaigning, profile as a military veteran with deep local roots and his record of promoting conservative priorities such as gun rights.

Early in his political career, Steube garnered attention for filing gun bills that drew extensive debate. But he has found a much bigger audience for his efforts to serve as Trump’s political bodyguard.

On the day that Trump was impeached, Steube made an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, the second highest-rated cable news program.

Steube’s attempts to stand out have been aided by his position on the House Judiciary Committee, which has held a number of high-profile hearings. The committee questioned Special Counsel Robert Mueller and held the first debate over the articles of impeachment.

After one hearing last July, Steube got a call from a number he didn’t recognize. He has kept the voicemail on his phone.

“Hey Greg it’s your favorite president, maybe favorite of all time,” Trump says in the message. “And I just wanted to say thank you. What you did on the committee was fantastic, one of the real stars, and I just wanted to thank you very much, you were really great. It’s a hoax, it’s a witch hunt, it’s disgraceful, but you were fantastic, so thank you very much, Greg, I appreciate it.”

While they won’t endear him to Democrats or others concerned that GOP leaders have covered for a president who many believe flagrantly abused his power to benefit himself politically, plaudits like that from Trump are worth more than gold in a party where the president’s approval rating is through the roof.

Steube says his defense of Trump is rooted in a deep conviction that the president’s actions in the Ukraine saga were not impeachable.

Some GOP senators have condemned Trump’s behavior, arguing the impeachment process produced compelling evidence that the president conditioned military aid to Ukraine on the country investigating his political rivals. Sen. Mitt Romney voted for impeachment, and other GOP senators said Trump’s actions were inappropriate but not impeachable.

Pressed on whether Trump did anything wrong, Steube repeated his belief that nothing the president did was impeachable.

“The constitution is abundantly clear,” Steube said. “It’s either treason, bribery, high crimes or misdemeanors, and as much as the Democrats tried to fit their version of the facts into one of those buckets, it didn’t fit into one of those buckets.”

Steube seems to have enjoyed his time in the spotlight during the impeachment process and is continuing to appear on national television programs now that it is over. Last Monday he made a five-minute appearance on Fox Business at 8 p.m. to discuss Bernie Sanders’ momentum in the Democratic presidential primary and how his comments about Cuba — Sanders condemned the authoritarian regime during a 60 Minutes interview last week but praised its literacy program — would play in Florida, a state with many Cuban exiles.

“I can tell you Floridians don’t like socialism,” Steube said.

The appearance involved Steube traveling to a small studio in an industrial park off of U.S. 301 in north Sarasota to connect remotely to the live program. Steube’s staff subsequently blasts clips of his TV segments out on Twitter and Facebook.

While some might view all the media appearances as self-serving efforts to promote himself, Steube said they are invaluable for communicating with his constituents and showing them he’s hard at work.

“Traveling in my district, people in my district are like: ‘We’re so happy you’re up there fighting for us,’” said the congressman, whose District 17 includes southern Sarasota County and extends out toward Lake Okeechobee across a large swath of the rural, interior portion of the state.

Steube also views the media appearances as part of a broader effort by the GOP to “help direct a vision and a purpose and a mission” for the country that is centered on conservative values.

That he wants to steer the country in a more conservative direction also is evident from Steube’s bills, which have contributed to his growing national exposure.

Steube has filed 23 pieces of legislation so far. His first bill — filed in February of last year — was a resolution commemorating the treaty with Spain that ceded Florida to the United States. His second was a resolution condemning Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar for alleged anti-Semitic comments.

Since then Steube has filed legislation to end so-called chain migration, which involves immigrants bringing their relatives into the country.

But the bill that has attracted the most attention is a measure that would prohibit schools that receive federal funding from allowing transgender individuals who biologically were born male to participate in female sports.

Steube went on Tucker Carlson’s show in January to discuss H.R. 5702, or the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2020.”

“It makes sense, it’s not a woman’s sport if men are competing, right?” Carlson said, adding later that: “None of this is an attack on anyone, on transgender people or anything like that. It’s merely saying that girls are hurt when we allow this to happen.”

But former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill accused Steube of employing a “sad scare tactic” when he tried to include the bill as an amendment to LQBTQ anti-discrimination legislation that passed the House last year.

“This is fear-mongering about trans women playing in sports,” said Hill, a California Democrat. “No person is trying to game the system to participate in women’s sports. That is a sad scare tactic.”

Steube said in an interview that he’s trying to protect women.

“Women’s sports should be women’s sports and men’s sports should be men’s sports,” Steube said, adding: “I just think that when it comes down to these type of issues that whatever your biological status was when you were born is the sport that you should be competing in.”

Other Steube bills have been less controversial. His legislation preventing military disability benefits from being counted as income in bankruptcy proceedings was approved by Congress and signed by Trump.

Another bill would allow military service members to retroactively apply their higher-education benefits to pay off student loans. That legislation has Democrats as co-sponsors.

And Steube has continued to show a libertarian streak, filing a bill that would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3 drug, which would allow federal research on the substance.

But it’s Steube’s eagerness to take on Trump’s detractors that has gained him the most attention. He approaches his TV appearances with the hard-charging attitude that has defined his political career, a lawyer prosecuting a case, a military veteran going to battle.

When a TV host recently elicited a smile out of Steube for telling him that Congress is sleazy and it must make him feel dirty to be a part of it, his wife commented that it was the first time she had seen him smile on TV.

These are serious times and Steube is a serious person. But he’s growing more relaxed on TV, more comfortable in his role as a public champion for the president and conservative causes.

“You just got to kind of be yourself,” he said.