Senators: Impeachment of Trump is likely, removal is not

U.S. Sens. Timothy Kaine (left) and Mark Warner (right) answer questions posed by journalist Julie Carey during a Senatorial Roundtable on Dec. 9, 2019, at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce's Tysons headquarters. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Virginia’s U.S. senators on Dec. 9 affirmed a common consensus – that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to impeach President Trump, but the Senate likely will not be able to muster a two-thirds vote to remove him from office.

But U.S. Sens. Timothy Kaine  (D) and Mark Warner (D), speaking at a Senatorial Roundtable at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Tysons headquarters, had harsh words for Trump and the circumstances that led to the ongoing impeachment proceedings.

The “die was cast” for impeachment because of the Trump administration’s behavior following the release in April of the redacted report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Kaine said. While Mueller did not find prosecutable evidence of obstruction of justice regarding alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, his report clearly warned against working with a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election, he said.

Kaine said Trump promptly did so with the Ukranian government and likened his behavior to a motorist who gets a warning for speeding, then immediately makes another violation.

“Most people then, and I know I’ve been there, would drive off very slowly,” Kaine said. “You don’t floor it and peel rubber right in front of the state trooper . . . The report was a very clear ‘Thou shalt not.’”

Warner said he would reserve judgment on Trump’s possible impeachment until later, but expressed worry about a situation where a president from either party might influence policy with a foreign government for his own personal gain. He also worried about what he said was “ongoing Russian interference in our democracy.”

Regardless of the impeachment hearings’ outcome, reconciliation will be needed, Kaine said.

“We’re going to have some stitching together to do as a country,” he said. “There will have to be some bridge building and repair work done.”

Event moderator Julie Carey, Northern Virginia bureau chief for NBC4, also probed the senators for their views on Democrats’ recent electoral successes and how they should proceed in governing.

The senators, both of whom previously served as Virginia’s governor, urged victorious Democrats to continue governing responsibly.

“The candidates who won didn’t come from either extreme,” Warner said, adding, “You’ve got to win people’s trust.”

Kaine attributed the Democrats’ wins – which in Virginia included wresting majorities from Republicans in both the state Senate and House of Delegates – to their running practical campaigns instead of ideological ones and to the state’s changing demographics, which Democrats actively recruited.

Kaine advised Democrats to avoid being procedurally outmaneuvered by Republicans.

“They’re a lot smarter than you are on Day 1 because they’ve been running things,” he said.

Kaine also urged Democratic leaders to focus on five things that need to happen first, then work on five more top priorities after accomplishing those goals.

“You could easily squander an opportunity by being too diffused,” he warned.

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