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“We Don’t Want a Monarchy”: Rep. Al Green Says Democrats Have No Choice But to Impeach Trump

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A growing number of House Democrats are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Pelosi has called for a closed-door special caucus meeting this morning to discuss the impeachment question, which has deeply divided House Democrats. The House speaker has long opposed opening an impeachment inquiry, arguing that focusing on impeachment could hurt the chances of Democrats winning in the 2020 election. But she is facing growing pushback from other members of the House as President Trump continues to block congressional oversight efforts by refusing to hand over documents and by barring officials from testifying. On Tuesday, former White House counsel Don McGahn defied a congressional subpoena and skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing at the request of the White House. Earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr also skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing. We go to Capitol Hill to speak with Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Texas. In 2017, he became the first member of Congress to call for President Trump’s impeachment.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of House Democrats are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. The speaker has called for a closed-door special caucus meeting this morning to discuss the impeachment question, which has deeply divided House Democrats. Pelosi has long opposed opening an impeachment inquiry, arguing that focusing on impeachment could hurt the chances of Democrats winning in the 2020 election. But she is facing growing pushback from other members of the House as President Trump continues to block congressional oversight efforts by refusing to hand over documents and by barring officials from testifying.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday [sic], former White House counsel Don McGahn defied a congressional subpoena—this was Tuesday—and skipped a House Judiciary Committee [hearing] at the request of the White House. Earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr also skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

And at least one Republican supports impeachment. On Saturday, Michigan Congressmember Justin Amash broke with his party to become the first Republican lawmaker to publicly say President Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct.”

We’re going to Capitol Hill right now to speak with Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Texas. In 2017, he became the first member of Congress to call for President Trump’s impeachment.

So, the stakes are very high, Congressmember Green. Right after you talk to us, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is holding a meeting with the Democrats, as you push for her to open an inquiry into impeachment. Why are you calling for this? And why have you done this for the last two years?

REP. AL GREEN: Thank you for having me, Ms. Goodman and Mr. González. I’m here because I love my country. And I have called for impeachment because I love my country. You see, we are now at a point wherein the House has to demonstrate its will. The Framers of the Constitution have shown us the way; we have to demonstrate our will. We indicated that if you would just wait for the Mueller report, this would then give us reason to either move forward or not move forward. We have not moved forward, as we should, with impeachment. We have the Mueller report. And we’re at a point now, Ms. Goodman, where the House itself is on trial in the court of public opinion.

The question is: Will we allow the time-honored system of checks and balances to be destroyed by this president? Your news report has indicated that he has resisted. In fact, he’s stonewalling. He doesn’t allow subpoenas. He doesn’t allow witnesses to testify. And the question is: Will he then amass this enormous amount of power that the Framers never intended him to have? This is the equivalent of becoming a monarch. We don’t want a monarchy; we want democracy. And impeachment is the means by which we maintain the check on the president so as to keep the balance of power.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Representative Green, how do you respond to Speaker Pelosi’s viewpoint that, first of all, that an impeachment proceeding, even if it were to move forward, would never be approved by the Senate in terms of removing the president, and that, effectively, the best way to move forward is toward the 2020 election, to unseat President Trump?

REP. AL GREEN: Well, let’s not bring Speaker Pelosi into this, because it’s not about her. It’s about democracy, not about Democrats, not about Republicans. It’s about the republic.

So let me as to your question this way. Nowhere in Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution does it say that the House must have a Senate that will agree with it. What it says is, if the president commits impeachable acts, then we must move forward. That’s what it gives us the prerogative to do. It does not require that Republicans agree with us. It does not require that the public agree with us. What it requires is that we act on principle, not politics, that we put the people above our political party. It requires that we decide that we will not allow the moral imperative to be trumped by political expediency. This is really not about people in the House of Representatives. It’s about the people in this country and whether we are going to allow this president, who has demonstrated that he’s ruthless, lawless and reckless—whether we are going to allow him to destroy the system of checks and balances.

We really don’t have any other choice. We waited on the Mueller report. Now I hear that we may have a call for another investigation by the Judiciary Committee. We are destroying the power of the Judiciary Committee, the most powerful committee when it comes to this issue of impeachment. We are destroying it, because we are requiring it to do more than is necessary. It is an awesome committee with awesome power. If we do this, we’re setting a precedent, by requiring the Judiciary Committee to get a vote from Congress before it can act on something that is clearly a part of its purview of power.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you consider to be the key impeachable offenses that the president has committed?

REP. AL GREEN: The impeachable offenses are many. The Mueller report gives us a good deal of obstruction of justice that has been committed by the president. We can act on the obstruction of justice.

But I also have contended, and still contend, that the president has infused his bigotry into policy. I think this is impeachable, as well. I have indelibly imprinted in my brain that baby standing at the border crying while she is being separated from parents. This is not what a great country does. We cannot allow a president to talk about African country as “s—hole countries” and then engage in the process of developing an immigration plan. We can’t have a president who is going to say that there are very fine people among the bigots, the racists, the xenophobes, the homophobes, who were in Charlottesville, where a woman lost her life protesting against bigotry, and do nothing about it. His bigotry is worthy of his being impeached.

But his obstruction of justice is what I think a good many people will focus on. That obstruction of justice is something we cannot allow to go unchecked. Eight hundred-plus former prosecutors, federal prosecutors, have indicated that this president has obstructed justice, and were he anyone else, he would be impeached. He would be prosecuted, if he were anyone else. In this country, if you run a stop sign and the police are aware of it, then you’re going to pay a price. If you speed, you’re going to pay a price. If you’re a welfare mother and you defraud the welfare state of its money, which is the government of United States of America, in the sense of welfare, then you’re going to have to pay for that. We all pay for our crimes. No one is above the law. If the Congress doesn’t act, what we are saying is the president is above the law and it’s OK to interfere with an investigation, which is critical to our investigative process to make sure people understand that you cannot do.

AMY GOODMAN: MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski recently questioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about Michigan Congressmember Justin Amash breaking with the Republican Party to support impeachment proceedings.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Doesn’t it put more pressure on you that a conservative Republican says the threshold for impeachment has been met?

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: No.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: No?

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: No.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Why?

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Well, we have to—we are not—this isn’t about politics. It’s not about passion. It’s not about prejudice. It’s not about politics. It’s about patriotism, and it’s about the presentation of the facts, so that the American people can see why we’re going down a certain path.

AMY GOODMAN: During that same interview, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Democrats find common ground with Trump.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: The American people elected him president—not by the popular vote, but by the college, the Electoral College. So, I respect the office that he holds.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: And I think I respect the office that the president holds more than he respects the office that he holds. And I do believe that we must hold him accountable for a—to a high ethical standard, which he has not met, to integrity—a level of integrity that he has not met, and, actually, a respect for governance, science and other—

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Basics.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: —imperatives that we have. So, this is—we have a moment. But the fact is, is that, at the same time, we have to try to find common ground to work with him.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finding common ground, not impeaching. Your response, Congressmember Green, as you go in to meet with Nancy Pelosi right after this broadcast? Congressmember Green?

REP. AL GREEN: Yes, I’m here.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, I’m saying—

REP. AL GREEN: Oh, I’m sorry. I got the impression you were saying, after we do something more, then I would respond.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, no, no, no. So, if you can respond to what Congressmember—what House Speaker Pelosi said?

REP. AL GREEN: I’m honored to give you a response to the question of should we work with common ground with the president. I’ll answer that question. Then this is not a response to Ms. Pelosi.

Here is my response. I met with the president in Houston, Texas. The president and I shook hands, and the president said to me, “You’re going to like me.” And then he shook my hand again. And my retort, within the confines of my mind, was this: “I’m going to like you, I’m going to love you, because my religion requires that I love you. I love everybody. But I’m still going to impeach you.”

We can work with the president and still fulfill our constitutional responsibility. We must do so. Now, working with the president is not easy. He will give you an answer today, and then he will negate the answer tomorrow or later today or perhaps in the same sentence that he gives you the answer. So, I am all for working with the president, but I’m not for allowing the constitutional mandate that has been accorded the House of Representatives to be obliterated because we want to try to appease a president, who clearly has demonstrated that he’s not in the business of making reconciliation with us in any way. He doesn’t want to negotiate; he wants to dictate. He will tell you, “Here’s the deal. You can take it or leave it.” I’m not a take-it-or-leave-it guy. I believe we can negotiate, but I will not be dictated to.

Finally, this. This is about the moral authority of the House to move forward. This is about the moral imperative. We hear people saying, “You can lose the soul of the country if you don’t handle this appropriately.” Well, before we lose the soul of the country, the members of the House will have lost the soul of the House of Representatives. This is about us, 435 members of the House, who have been given this special place in history. This is about the Framers of the Constitution who designed Article 2, Section 4 for a time such as this and a president such as Trump.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Congressman, I want to turn to a resurfaced clip of a President Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham. In 1999, then-Congressman Graham argued for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for seeking to hide evidence of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This is what he said.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. … Because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Lindsey Graham back in 1999. Your reaction?

REP. AL GREEN: Well, he was eminently correct then, and his words are as sound and as eminently powerful now as they were then. It is not about committing a crime. No president has to commit a crime to be impeached. If you read Federalist 65—not many people have, but if you do read it—you will find that Hamilton, Jay and Madison concluded that a president who does harm to society can be impeached. And they also went so far as to say that don’t expect there to be harmony between the parties, that Democrats and Republicans are probably going to square off against each other. This is not going to be something that’s a walk in the park, but it’s a duty that we have taken on when we swore to uphold the Constitution. When we took that oath of office, this was one of the things that we said we would do when we have a ruthless, reckless president.

So, it’s about us now. It’s really about us. It’s always about the president and about his behavior, but it’s about us in terms of what we will do. This is our moment. Either we will honor ourselves in history or a good many reputations are going to be tarnished, when people who do these things by way of recording history, when they look through the vista of time and they see how we engaged in what Dr. King called the “paralysis of analysis,” how we did one thing after another to delay, so that we could eventually get to an Election Day wherein we would then defeat him as opposed to impeach him. This is really not about defeating the president next year; it’s about impeaching the president who has done the harm this year. And we cannot delay.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Green, it seems like Trump welcomes an inquiry into impeachment to begin. And I’m wondering if you can talk about his point of view, thinking that it could serve him. Of course, the Senate is run by Republicans, where the trial would be. And just like with the Mueller report, that you’re holding as you speak to us, ultimately, it found him—it exonerated him of collusion, not corruption, which is a whole other issue, which are some of the questions that are being raised in the House right now through all of this questioning, but the idea that it would once again make President Trump look like the victim. If you could respond to perhaps you’re playing right into his hands and then not moving forward with an agenda of getting the Green New Deal passed, getting Medicare for all, getting what so many new congressmembers have been pushing for and saying they want a whole new, you know, set, a whole new deal, in every way, foreign and domestic.

REP. AL GREEN: Well, thank you very much. And I really appreciate this question. I’m the kind of guy who wants the tough questions. I want to deal forthrightly with the issues. And you’ve put me in a position where I can do it.

First point, the president doesn’t want to be impeached. This is called reverse psychology. This is the kind of psychology that says, “Oh, go ahead and do that. That’s really what I want,” when he’s bluffing. He does not want this on his record. Bigots, people who want to be autocrats, would-be dictators want to be loved. This is why he has his Cabinet members, to praise him at Cabinet meetings and talk about how great he is. Thank god for the defense secretary, Mattis, who refused to do it. He talked about the troops, not about the greatness of the president.

With reference to those who would say, “Listen, we’ve got to work with him and love him and make sure that we can get our agenda over”—so that he can veto it? Please. The president is not going to sign a Green New Deal. The Senate is not going to support a Green New Deal. People who would say, “Let’s send a new deal over to the Senate”—and, by the way, I think the people are practical, and they are not thinking that the president is going to sign it, and they are not thinking that the Senate is going to approve it. I don’t think they believe that. I think they are as I am. They understand that we do our job. I think this makes the case for impeachment, because we will do our job when it comes to passing legislation that we know the president is not going to support and the Senate won’t sign off on, but we’ll send it to them and say, “Do your job.” This is what we have to do: give the senators an opportunity to act.

With reference to the trial in the Senate, the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides. He makes rulings, and he does them in a transparent fashion before the world. We will have an opportunity to see the request for subpoenas and the ruling of John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has no role in this process. It is an inferior court to the Senate when it comes to impeachment. All of the courts are inferior. This is where impeachment takes place, the trial of impeachment takes place. The impeachment itself takes place in the House, but the trial takes place in the Senate. And this is where you’ll see the witnesses testify. The president himself can be called as a witness before the Senate to give his testimony. This is not just another trial wherein Mr. McConnell will have his way and the Senate can dominate. This is presided over by the chief justice of the United States of America, and the American people are in a position to see.

Finally, this. If this Senate decides they are not going to impeach—if they decide that they’re not going to, excuse me, convict, they’re not going to find that the president has committed the impeachable acts alleged, if the Senate concludes this, then we will know which senators we ought to review. And we will know what to do. And that will energize people to say, “You know what? Maybe we need some new senators over there in the Senate.”

And if we don’t impeach, here’s what the president will say. He will say that the Democrats had the House by overwhelming numbers. He will say that they did not impeach me. He will say, “By their inaction, I have been vindicated, I have been exonerated.” Mr. Mueller did not exonerate him. Why would the House of Representatives exonerate him? And he will say, “By virtue of this, you ought to elect me”—meaning him, President Trump—”president again.” And let me share this with you. He will make a powerful argument that we were complicit, in a sense, in his actions by not having our action in the House of Representatives.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Al Green, we want to thank you for being with us.

REP. AL GREEN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Texas Democrat from Houston. In 2017, he became the first congressmember to call for President Trump’s impeachment from the floor of the House of Representatives. He goes from here to his meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She’s meeting with the Democratic Caucus around the issue of impeachment, as a group of scores of Democrats attempt to convince her to open an inquiry around impeachment.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, immigrants in solitary detention. And then we will look at this explosive exposé in The New York Times around how taxi drivers were fleeced of hundreds of thousands of dollars and why so many have taken their own lives. Stay with us.

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