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House Should Begin Impeachment Process Against Trump, Rep. Moulton Says


Well, Democrats seem torn. The party can't decide whether to impeach President Trump or invest all its energy into beating him in the 2020 election. Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are trying to tap the brakes on any impeachment proceedings. The Democrats running in 2020, well, some of them are coming off the fence.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: I think he's made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment.


AMY KLOBUCHAR: There is very disturbing things that would lead you to believe there's obstruction of justice.


BERNIE SANDERS: What is most important to me is to see that Donald Trump is not re-elected president.


KAMALA HARRIS: His administration engaged in obstruction of justice. I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.


ELIZABETH WARREN: If there are people in the House or the Senate who want to say that's what a president can do, then they should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives.

GREENE: The voices there are South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren all speaking in a series of CNN town halls. And on the line this morning, we have the latest Democrat to declare that he is joining and running, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton. Congressman, good morning, and - I guess - welcome to 2020.

SETH MOULTON: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

GREENE: So your party controls the House. You serve there. You could draft articles of impeachment tomorrow if you wanted to. Do you support that?

MOULTON: I voted to move forward with discussing and debating impeachment last year because I think it was clear last year that the president had clearly committed crimes that deserve this debate. He's obstructed justice. He has campaign finance violations. He's profited off the office, which means that he's violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

We should be having this debate. Congress does two things. We debate things, and then we vote on them. We should be having this debate. And, frankly, we should have been having it last year. It may not be time to vote on impeachment - we don't have all the facts yet, we don't even have the full Mueller report - but we absolutely should be having this debate.

GREENE: What does debate mean? I mean, do you think articles should be drafted, like, in committee, and then you formally debate? Or does debate mean just, like, talking about it?

MOULTON: No, I think formal debate is actually appropriate here. I mean, this is...

GREENE: OK, so draft articles, do that and then hold formal debate over the articles.

MOULTON: That's correct. That's correct.


MOULTON: That's correct. This is what happens...

GREENE: So you want to begin the formal process of impeachment.

MOULTON: Begin the formal process, just like what happened with Nixon. It takes time. You have a debate, but we should be having this discussion. I mean, look, the president has 30 close associates - over 30 close associates who have been indicted as a result of the Mueller investigation. His own campaign chairman - his own campaign chairman is in prison right now. So don't tell me there's not enough to debate impeaching the president. He is subject to the same laws the rest of us are, and that's why we should move forward with this debate.

GREENE: So what about the argument some Democrats are making, that there is no chance the Senate would convict this president, which makes it sort of pointless to go forward besides the politics of it - keeping impeachment, you know, in the news. What is the value - what is the point of doing it if you know the Senate would never convict the president?

MOULTON: The point of doing it is that we have a constitutional responsibility in the House to do what we believe is right according to the law and according to the Constitution. And so the politics of the Senate may be different, but we ought to uphold the Constitution. And it's very clear in the Constitution, when the president has violated laws, we should have this discussion and debate. And so, really, this is not playing politics. To move forward with this debate, to move forward with drafting articles is consistent with the law. It's consistent with our constitutional duty to provide a check on the executive.

GREENE: A new poll out yesterday from Morning Consult and Politico finds 34 percent of voters supporting impeaching the president, and support among registered Democrats has actually been dropping. Are you worried about the politics if you were to go forward and formally start this process?

MOULTON: Look, I think the politics can be a concern. That's fine. But we should always do what's right. We should always do what's right according to the law and the Constitution, and that's why we should be having this debate and discussion. And frankly, having this debate, putting it in public before the American people, before the Congress is what can change those polls.

GREENE: This is a crowded field. I don't have to tell you that. What makes you stand out?

MOULTON: (Laughter) It is a crowded field. I think I'm No. 19 now. I'm talking about different things. I'm talking about national security at a time when it's - the unmistakable conclusion of the Mueller report is that Russia interfered in our election. And let's be clear, they are trying to interfere in this upcoming election as well, in a time when we have a reckless commander in chief, the most divisive president in American history, but also someone who's putting us in danger around the globe. We need to take him on as Democrats on these issues, on these security issues. And I don't think people are talking about it at all, so I'm going to add that to this debate.

I'm going to rely on my background on the Armed Services Committee and my four tours of combat in the Marines, where the toughest job I've ever had in my life was bringing a - an incredibly diverse set of Americans from different religious backgrounds, different political beliefs, all together united behind a common mission to serve our country. I think that's the kind of leadership we need from the next president of the United States and the next commander in chief.

GREENE: Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. Thanks for your time this morning.

MOULTON: Thank you.

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who's with us. Mara, what do you make of what he's talking about with impeachment? I mean, he seems to say, start the formal process - get it going.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, some Democrats agree with him. The Democrats are having a debate because they're weighing all sorts of different equities. There are Democrats who are running for president who don't have the same pressure on them as someone like Nancy Pelosi, which is - who is very focused on keeping the House and helping Democrats defeat Donald Trump in 2020. So the question is, do you start impeachment right away, as you talked about with the congressman, file formal impeachment - articles of impeachment and go that way?

Or, as the House speaker has said, there are other ways of holding the president accountable, of showing that his behavior is not OK. And she's listed a bunch of them - trying to publicly release the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report. They're going to be hearing from Attorney General Barr and the special counsel. The Judiciary Committee, for instance, has issued a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn.

So the question is, how do you do this? You - some Democrats feel you lay out the evidence first and then see how much public support you have for actual impeachment since you're not going to be able to do the second part of impeachment, removing the president in the Senate, because Republicans there don't want to do that.

GREENE: How much could actually get done in the formal process before 2020? Like, what - I mean, is there an argument that just - let 2020...

LIASSON: Oh, you can have a lot of hearings. You can have a lot of hearings. You can lay out the evidence for the public. And, you know, Nancy Pelosi has said that her criteria is that there has to be bipartisan buy-in before you'd actually do impeachment. But you can do a lot. And then there are people who say, hey, we're getting closer and closer to Election Day. Let the voters decide whether Donald Trump should continue to be president or not.

GREENE: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.