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Chellie Pingree Says Impeachment Vote 'Very Likely'

Ed Morin
Maine Public
Chellie Pingree in Portland in Jan. 2017.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District was the first member of Maine’s congressional delegation to call for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Pingree spoke with Maine Public Radio’s Mal Leary about the impeachment process and what effect it might have on all the other work that’s before Congress.

Leary: Long before many folks were saying they supported an inquiry or an investigation — whichever word you want to use — you were advocating for an investigation.

Pingree: Well, I thought, based on the Mueller report, we had a lot of material to investigate. There have been so many questions raised about this particular president. But right now, it is so concrete and easy for the American public to understand that he was contacting a foreign government to assist him in taking down an opponent in his own presidential campaign. I think this is completely clear. I think the inquiry, the investigation, that’s going on needs to move forward. And then if there’s enough concrete evidence there, it has to come before the House.

Do you think they should look beyond just Ukraine and China comments, to go back to the Mueller report, which, of course, is when you first called for an impeachment investigation?

I respect the wisdom of these committees to go where it leads them, but I think that what we’re seeing right now and the threads coming off of that are going to keep them quite busy, and just finding enough evidence to make sure that all of this is proven beyond any shred of a doubt is the most important mission they’re on right now.

Any doubt in your mind that there will be an impeachment vote here at some point, with articles of impeachment that are coming forth from these committees that have their investigations underway?

Given what we know now and, that the president himself turned over the report of the call, that we’ve had at least one whistleblower come forward with very credible information, according to many sources, it seems likely there will be an impeachment vote and there will be articles of impeachment. But I will not know until I see what the committees bring back, and they’re certainly working hard to try to get that information now.

Some folks say you’ve already made up your mind to support impeachment. Is that a fair assessment? Are you going to wait until you see all of the actual charges that come forth from the committees?

I feel pretty strongly based on what we’ve already learned from the president that there’s very likely going to be an impeachment vote, that these things are going to be corroborated and that I will vote for it.

What is that going to do to the ability of Congress to do its other work? Because if it goes to trial in the Senate, if you think you haven’t gotten any action to the Senate so far just based on the inquiry going on, are you could get anything done if they were in a trial in January?

Oh, no, it will be very discouraging, because it will distract the Senate even further. Look, if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary to move forward on this, for the for the good of the work of Congress I wouldn’t want to be doing this. I think many members of the House have been extremely reluctant to go down this road because we don’t want to be distracted by this. We want to keep doing our work. But let’s just say what we know of what the president has done is so egregious, it’s our responsibility to uphold the rule of law. And I think it’s what America expects out of us. So I don’t want to be in this position. I’m feeling very discouraged. And I think it’s extremely upsetting that a president would do this, but you can’t just let it go.

In talking with your counterpart from the Senate, Sen. Collins, she’s saying, if the timelines match the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying, a vote by Thanksgiving, that’s going to come right up against the 21st deadline for passing a budget. And she’s saying, ‘I don’t think it’s going to get done,’ because from her experience with the Clinton impeachment, it took all the wind out of anything else and was totally focused both the House and Senate on the question of impeachment.

Well, what’s interesting is the House has been conducting these committee hearings and investigations and doing our other work. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I passed a bill on ocean acidification through the House last week. We had our marijuana and banking bill. So we’ve had a lot of activity going on in the House. I mean, truthfully, this is all blocked in the Senate. We finished our appropriations bills, we’ve sent everything over to them. I think there’s something like 200 pieces of legislation that Leader Mitch McConnell won’t take up and that is really where the problem lies over there. I do agree these things can become a distraction. But the Senate seems to have been distracted and only focusing on judicial nominations since we started in January.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.