U.S. House lawmakers have introduced one article of impeachment, charging that President Trump is guilty of “inciting an insurrection.” That vote may take place tomorrow, while discussion around encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment will begin in the House tonight. If the House votes to impeach the president for a second time, the Senate would then have to convict in order to force him from office.
Earlier today, NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who says she supports impeachment and removal, citing last week’s events at the U.S. Capitol, concerns around international relations, and the loss of benefits afforded to former presidents as reasons to go forward with the process.
Peter Biello: With the understanding that impeachment hasn't happened yet, do you feel there is sufficient evidence to convict the president on the one article introduced so far, inciting an insurrection?
Jeanne Shaheen: I do. All you have to do is show the video, both of his urging the demonstration in Washington to march on the Capitol and look at the video of the protesters storming the Capitol, trying to overthrow the duly elected government. But I voted for impeachment last year. I think this is the president who had already violated the law and his oath of office. And it's unfortunate that he didn't resign sooner.
PB: Efforts to use the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office seemed to have stalled. If that's true, barring some unforeseen circumstance, it's likely the president's going to finish his term on January 20th. Is there then value in pursuing a Senate trial even after he's impeached and leaves office?
JS: You know, Peter, one of the reasons we are where we are and we saw the insurrection on Wednesday is because we have had a consistent series of enablers of this president who have refused to tell the truth when he has lied to the American public. We've seen that time and again in the wake of the election on November the third even leading up to that. And it's unfortunate that Vice President Pence and the cabinet officials who should be taking action against this president have refused to do that. I do think it's important to hold him accountable in some way so that not just for our democracy and for the citizens of this country, but for history to see that you can't do what this president has done - try to stay in office, to lead an insurrection, and overturn the duly elected vote. And so that's why I think we've got to take some action.
PB: In which way would you prefer he be held accountable for what happened on Wednesday of last week.
JS: If there were support to impeach him? I certainly, as I said, I voted to do that already last year. I think he could be removed by the 25th Amendment. There are provisions within the 14th Amendment that are being looked at. I think, thinking about denying him the benefits that ex presidents are entitled to, for a pension and for operating an office and other things that, certainly, because he's violated his oath of office, I don't think he deserves.
PB: And how would you recommend holding accountable your fellow senators, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley?
JS: I think this is an issue that is going to be submitted to the Ethics Committee on which I sit. So I should not go further in terms of talking about what options there might be.
PB: I see. So we should check in again with you, is what you're saying, further down the road for possible consequences for those senators?
JS: If the issue comes before the Ethics Committee, then the committee will take some action or not. But as a member of that committee, once a complaint has been filed, I'm not able to speak to that.
PB: Is that to say that a complaint has been filed with your committee?
JS: I didn't say that. I said if a complaint has been filed.
PB: If one is - so, has one been?
JS: I can't even speak to that. I can't say that.
PB: Ok, so with respect to President Trump, what are you worried he will do in his last week in office that makes removing him within the next week so urgent?
JS: I think there are concerns that on the international front there is the potential to engage with some of our adversaries. He ordered B-52s to fly over Iran, and there is concern about what might happen with Iran. I think there are other concerns. We saw the the major hack by Russia of our some of our private sector companies, but specifically of government agencies. There has been no response to Russia for that action. And I mean, you can say he promoted an overthrow of the government. I mean, I don't know what more we need to see in order to remove this president.
PB: President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated at a public ceremony at the Capitol next week. Are you concerned about public safety at that event, given calls by right-wing extremists for more acts of violence?
JS: I'm going to get briefed this afternoon about what is being planned for the inauguration. So, I will be in a better position to answer that question after that. But I think there should be some critical lessons from what happened on Wednesday as we look at what needs to happen in preparation for the inauguration. Now, they're different. The inauguration is handled by the Secret Service. There are, there's a different chain of command there.
But the failures on Wednesday were very clear, because we saw the resignation of the Sergeants at Arms in the House and the Senate who were in charge of overseeing security for those bodies, and the head, the chief of the Capitol Police, all of whom clearly did not accurately assess the threat to the Capitol and what might happen. And I think there needs to be a nonpartisan investigation of what happened on Wednesday with respect to the security matters, because we need to we need to find out what really went wrong there. And so far, we don't have an accurate picture.
PB: You mentioned lessons to be learned from what happened on Wednesday. Are there any lessons you feel like we've already learned that should be put into place for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration?
JS: Well, clearly, to have more of a force capacity there is going to be very important. They've already put up significant barriers. And I think our broadening at the perimeter of what people are allowed into and of course, because of COVID, there was not going to be a crowd in the way that we are used to seeing at inaugurations because of concern about the coronavirus.
But I think one of the big lessons from Wednesday, Peter, is not, it's not just security. I mean, obviously, that's a lesson that we can address and we can move forward. But the other lesson is about the fragility of our democracy.
One of the reasons we saw that insurrection was because it was flamed by domestic terrorists and white supremacist groups. But there were also some innocent people who were there who came because the president asked them to come, who believed what Donald Trump said when he said that the election was stolen. The election was not stolen. And to the extent that leaders are not willing to tell the public the truth, it creates those kinds of circumstances. And our democracy depends on, you know, an open media and access to information. It depends on people telling the truth to the public, and it depends on citizens participating and getting information and acting in ways that we want our civil society to act.
PB: And Senator Shaheen, where will you be on the day of the inauguration?
JS: At the inauguration.
PB: You'll be at the inauguration with the other members of Congress?
JS: I've been to every inauguration since I've been elected. For Bill Clinton, for George W. Bush, for Barack Obama, for Donald Trump. And I intend to be there on the 20th for Joe Biden.