Vermont’s representative to the U.S. House hopes the Senate will call witnesses and seek information the House wasn’t able to get during its impeachment hearings.
House Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., spoke to his constituents via conference call on Monday, days ahead of a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether or not to impeach President Donald Trump.
Roughly a score of people called in with questions during the hour-long session. Welch explained some aspects of the impeachment process, his thoughts on the two articles of impeachment the House will vote on, and what he hopes the Senate will do.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Welch, when asked by a caller what it would mean for the country if the Senate votes not to convict Trump. “I expect the House will vote, unfortunately, along partisan lines on the impeachment article against President Trump. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, he wants to have a so-called ‘very quick trial,’ and there’s not been any indication from my Republican counterparts in the Senate that they are open to hearing more evidence.”
He said he hopes the Senate will call witnesses to testify that the House wasn’t able to. He said the Senate is what sets the rules of the trial.
“My hope, in the Senate, where they can set the rules of the trial, is that in fact they will request information from the President, get documents from Vice President Mike Pence, get documents and testimony from Secretary Pompeo, from Mick Mulvaney, that we sought to have testify in the House and the President rejected our subpoenas and efforts. I would like to see the Republican senators make a request of the President to get the evidence, and if the President has exculpatory evidence, he’ll have an opportunity to present it,” said Welch.
He said if the Senate doesn’t vote to convict Trump, then “Ultimately it will be the American voters who have the final say about our future.”
A caller from Rutland named “Janet” wondered how Senators can say how they’ll vote ahead of a trial.
“How can they vote without hearing evidence? And if they do so, can they be held in contempt of court? And is this voting considered a court-sanctioned event?” she said.
Welch said it’s a good question, “but my answer may depress you.” He said the impeachment process isn’t like a court trial. The Senate is the jury, but it also sets the rules for the trial, which isn’t done in a criminal or civil court.
“I’ve been alarmed by some of the things I’ve seen happen over there,” Welch said. “Senator McConnell has said he’s coordinating actively with the White House, so how does a juror essentially coordinate with a defendant?”
He said it’s disturbing, but the Senate has that authority.
“It’s why I’m urging my colleagues in the Senate to get the evidence. That just seems fair and common sense,” said Welch. “We have not been able to get these people who have enormous information, like Pompeo, the Secretary of State, or Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff, or the Vice President. The Senate could ask them to come in, compel them to come in, or tell President Trump unless they come in they’re going to regard that as an admission.”
He said the House subpoenaed many witnesses, who were ordered by Trump not to respond. “And he did this while saying if he released all these things, it would exonerate him, and obviously that’s pretty bogus,” Welch said, adding that were the Senate to ask these things of Trump, its Republican majority would be harder for Trump ignore or resist.
“At the heart of this, I think a lot of people want to get as much evidence as possible so they can make a decision and come to their own conclusion. Essentially you have the Senate Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, hand-in-glove with the White House lawyer, and you obviously are not going to get an outcome that’s based on the evidence, so that’s the big issue.”
Welch has a portion of his web page devoted to the impeachment hearings, containing reports and information on the process. It can be found at https://welch.house.gov/impeachment.