But you bet Robert O’Rourke would spend two minutes avoiding that answer. The Democratic candidate for deep-red Texas had previously pledged to vote for impeachment in the House before his long-shot election against Ted Cruz, but had recently been quiet about the issue. In last night’s CNN town hall meeting, one audience member asked Beto a direct question about his support for impeachment, to which O’Rourke responded by talking about … McAllen, Abilene, earth orbit, the Paramount Theater, teachers, immigration, insurance, mental health, and jail.
Did he forget anything? Oh yeah:
Dana Bash had to remind him to answer the actual question:
BASH: Congressman, his question was about impeachment. And you said in July that you would, as a member of the House right now, vote to impeach. Have you changed your mind?
O’ROURKE: I haven’t. Let me put it this way. There may be an open question as to whether the president, then the candidate, sought to collude with the Russian government in 2016, but to quote George Will, very conservative columnist, when we saw him on that stage in Helsinki defending Vladimir Putin, the head of the country that attacked our democracy in 2016, instead of this country and its citizens and this amazing democracy, that was collusion in action.
You may have wondered when he fired James Comey, the principal investigator into what happened in that election, whether that was an attempt to obstruct justice. But when, by broad daylight on Twitter, he asked his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to end the Russia investigation, I would say that’s obstruction in action. Ultimately, however, Dana, this is a political question. A Republican colleague of mine in the House will have to come before an audience like this and explain to her constituents or his constituents how they just voted to impeach the president of their own party, how they put their country ahead of their career or their next election or the politics of the moment.
The best course to get there so that every member has all the facts and that they are compelling enough to do the right thing is to allow the full independence and integrity of the Bob Mueller investigation.
Bash drilled down even further, trying to pin Beto down on exactly what grounds he would have for impeachment:
BASH: But you’ve already said, even though that’s not done, that you would vote to impeach, and so according to the Constitution, that means that the president has committed the crime of treason, bribery, or a high crime and misdemeanor. Which one of those do you think the president has committed?
O’ROURKE: I would liken impeachment to an indictment. There is enough there to proceed with the trial for a full vetting of the facts and to make the best informed decision in the interests of this country and our future.
As you know, under the Constitution, as a member of the Senate, it’s a far different bar. That is a trial with my colleagues where we look at the facts. And I would not prejudge the outcome of that trial. All I am saying is that there is enough there. And I think I laid out the case in both the collusion with a foreign power and the effort to obstruct justice going forward.
I know that this is not politically easy or convenient to talk about, but 242 years into this experiment, which is the exception, not the rule in world history — there’s nothing that guarantees us a 243rd or a 244th. It’s up to all of us to stand up for that democracy. The best way to do that is to express it on the 22nd of October, the first day of early voting, and then Election Day on the 6th of November.
But yes, to answer your question, I do think there’s enough there for impeachment. And if asked, I would vote on it.
Now, I have not made this the mission of the campaign. I’ve never called for it at a rally, never sent a campaign e-mail out about this. I’m not on any articles of impeachment for all the reasons that I just gave you. I’m focused on the future. But, yes, I want to answer your question honestly, and I think there’s enough there to make sure that we move forward.
So he’d vote to impeach but he’s completely neutral on a vote to remove? It’s true that an impeachment is roughly analogous to an indictment, but even those who move an indictment believe it to be true. They work to convict the people they indict. You can’t both be a grand jury member and a trial jury member in this analogy, not with any intellectual honesty or consistency. O’Rourke wants to eat his cake and have it too, claiming that he can vote for impeachment while remaining neutral on removal. That’s absurd.
It’s almost as absurd as someone running in a deep red state telling voters he wants to impeach the president they support. But I suspect O’Rourke has stopped running for election, and started running for the media anyway — and for the money.
Aside: Kudos to Dana Bash for pinning down O’Rourke on this point.