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In The Rural West, Conservatives React Warily To Impeachment Trial


Now the view of President Trump's impeachment trial from far outside the Beltway. In Idaho and some other parts of the rural Northwest, many people believe the impeachment case will backfire on Democrats and build greater support for the president. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Idaho Falls sits on the snowy plains surrounded by farms just south of Yellowstone National Park. This area is heavily Mormon and conservative. Jeff Kelley is a real estate appraiser and attorney here. Initially, he says, he didn't like Trump or take the president too seriously.

JEFF KELLEY: I think he's a blowhard. I think his delivery is really crass and - but I think he's a person that get things done.

SIEGLER: Kelley says his support grew as he watched the economy here pick back up again. He likes the president's 2017 tax cuts and the loosening of regulations on business. He calls Trump a doer despite what he says have been relentless attacks by Democrats since day one.

KELLEY: What am I seeing in the impeachment? I see a political game being played by the House or Democrats. Politics aside or moral character judgments aside, if the allegation is true that the president withheld foreign aid for his own political gains, doesn't that set a dangerous precedent for the next president? Yeah, it would, and I agree. But I think in - you know, based on what was taken in the House by way of evidence, that doesn't exist.

SIEGLER: Kelley says the Democrats should have gone to the courts and gotten subpoenas if they wanted a more substantive and less partisan trial. You hear a lot of cynicism in conservative places like this about the timing of the trial, though it's also clear that a lot of people's minds here were already made up before all of this began.

PAM VOELKER: You can keep them on.

SIEGLER: In the nearby town of Shelley, Idaho, Pam and Paul Voelker recently moved here from California.

PAUL VOELKER: I've been watching this, and I watched the Clinton impeachment 20 years ago. The left has decided they don't like Donald Trump. They can't work with Donald Trump. So the only thing left over for them to do is just get rid of him.

SIEGLER: Idaho Falls is more than 2,100 miles west of the Beltway, and while people generally support Trump, traveling around, I've heard more talk about wolves or tariffs or the Super Bowl than I have about the impeachment. Jill Gill, professor at Boise State University, isn't surprised people are tuning out. She says this corner of the country is drifting further to the right.

JILL GILL: There's a sense that Donald Trump is being treated unfairly and, you know, that this is - it's sort of a political show from - and it's a foregone conclusion.

SIEGLER: Gill doubts the impeachment trial is going to change too many people's minds in rural places like this.

Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Idaho Falls.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.