Virginia Rep. Don Beyer On Impeachment
SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:
Is the tide turning towards impeachment for President Trump? Speaker Nancy Pelosi still says she's not ready to go there.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
NANCY PELOSI: I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country.
DAVIS: The cracks in party unity are beginning to show. Virginia Democrat Don Beyer broke with party leaders and is calling for impeachment proceedings to begin now. He joins us live from Virginia.
Congressman, welcome to the program.
DON BEYER: Thank you, Susan.
DAVIS: You are the first member of Congress from Virginia to call for impeachment. What made you change your mind?
BEYER: Yeah. It's - we were content to wait till the Mueller report came out and even content to let the process play. You know, our - the leaders of the four committees that are investigating this are all doing a lot of very constructive things. But in the last two weeks, number one, Mnuchin refused to turn over the president's tax returns, despite the fact that the law is incredibly simple and clear. And then Barr refused to testify before the House and was cited by the committee for contempt. And then Justin Amash, the first Republican, actually came out with a long, really detailed piece of why he did. I've always felt impeachment shouldn't be partisan. We need to have Republicans and Democrats. And so, in a way, Justin really opened the door for this to be bipartisan in the first.
DAVIS: What do you believe opening impeachment proceedings will provide Democrats that you can't get through the regular oversight, investigative subpoena authority channels?
BEYER: Susan - great question. And, really, what I've called for is that Jamie Raskin, who's our only - who's our constitutional scholar in the House.
DAVIS: He's a congressional Democrat from Maryland.
BEYER: Yeah, thank you. He's a - the impeachment inquiry - and the notion is that the inquiry will give us tools - investigative tools, subpoena tools - that we don't have in the regular committees. The committees are largely limited to things that affect our legislative function, whereas an impeachment inquiry actually says, did the president actually obstruct justice? You know, Mueller cited 10 instances where the president probably did - may have obstructed justice. And, of course, he decided not to indict because he felt the Justice Department told him he couldn't. But he left it to us to make that investigation and make that determination.
DAVIS: Don't you think that the speaker, however, has a point when she says, this country is so divided that an impeachment proceeding could be just incredibly corrosive to the country?
BEYER: I totally agree. It's one of the reasons I have waited so long because I really do not want to do anything that's more divisive than we already are. And one of the tragedies of the Trump presidency is, as I can recall, he's the first president in my lifetime, maybe the history, who's taken divisiveness as his driving political strategy. But the comeback to the notion that, why would we make the country ever more divided? - is if we don't impeach this president, when would we ever impeach a president? We should just take impeachment out of the books. And we do have - while we have a responsibility to heal the country and bring it together, which all of us take seriously, we also have a responsibility to defend the Constitution. And this president - well, just over the weekend, the notion of selling arms sales - huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia against the will of the Democrats and the Republicans in both Houses passed.
DAVIS: You represent a reliably Democratic congressional district. You don't have to worry too much about reelection in a general election. But what do you say to your colleagues in swing seats who helped win this Democratic majority who look at impeachment and just see a total political loser that could cost you your majority in the House?
BEYER: Well, I'm incredibly sympathetic to that. But I think rule number one is we shouldn't be making the decision on impeachment based on the political consequences. That's just too cynical and too profane. We should be making this on the basis of, what's the right thing to do? What's the legal thing to do? - the constitutional thing. And I also - I don't know that this is true. But I hope that those - my wonderful colleagues in swing seats, even seats that Trump won in 2016, will be bolstered by the fact that we are trying to do the right thing for the country. They shouldn't have to apologize for a president who's - documented - lied 10,000 times already to the American people.
DAVIS: In the few seconds we have left, do you think more House Democrats are going to take your side in this in the coming weeks?
BEYER: Yeah, and I also hope more House Republicans. I know many of them told me privately they wish they could be there, and maybe they'll be there soon.
DAVIS: Virginia Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, thank you for speaking with us.
BEYER: Thank you, Susan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.