Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) didn’t always favor impeaching President Donald Trump.
And, he still isn’t sure which way he’ll vote when the president’s Senate impeachment trial ends.
“I was not one of the ones who early on advocated for impeachment, and I’ve still not made my final decision. I will be impartial. I want to hear this out,” Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NNPA Newswire.
The bombshell revelation by former national security adviser John Bolton that the president did engage with Ukraine on a quid pro quo to try and dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden could be a game-changer, Wagner said.
“When you saw what appears to be the president of the United States withholding aid from a country that’s an ally in a war with Russia, withholding White House meetings because he simply wants his own personal political meetings; if somebody had not cried foul on that, what kind of precedent does that set for any future president?” Wagner said.
“I don’t want to keep Democratic presidents taking these kinds of actions.”
Wagner said Bolton appears as someone who’d make a credible witness.
“I think John Bolton has not been somebody I’ve agreed with on most policy matters, but no one has kind of questioned his close to 40 years of solidly conservative Republican credentials. It’s been interesting to see the president’s supporters have started to attack him; he’s someone like Trump on many issues, and I kept wondering what was going to be in his book. I think it’s interesting that the president’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly said he thinks Bolton is right and should testify.”
It’s surprising that Trump still has members in his cabinet, like Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and aide Robert Blair, working for him despite the insight they have on Ukraine, Wagner said.
Each should testify at the impeachment trial, he said.
“If they came up and swore [under oath] and tried to clear the president that would be relevant too,” Wagner said. “I think any logical person would say maybe they don’t feel like they can come up under the threat of perjury. It’s a strange time.”
When asked what effect the impeachment trial would have on the 2020 election, particularly if Trump isn’t removed from office, Wagner said he wasn’t sure.
“If the impeachment vote does not go forward, I don’t know how you can claim complete vindication if you’ve got relevant people with relevant information who never had a chance to testify,” Wagner said.
“The one thing Americans know from firsthand experience or watching TV is that, in a trial, you present your witness and present documents. If people who were in the room are not given a chance to testify, not just Bolton but Mulvaney, if the president’s version of the facts is true, have Mulvaney testify,” he said.
Wagner also was asked whether Senate Republicans fear Trump more than they do Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
“I think they fear the president. Mitch McConnell is a very smart, practical, strategist. You don’t hear Mitch McConnell, even when he disagrees with one of his members, go out and publicly attack him,” Wagner said.
“One thing about Donald Trump, there’s no question he will attack anyone who disagrees with him.”
In echoing his Senate colleague, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Wagner said African Americans should pause before giving Trump the accolades the president craves from the Black community.
“I would acknowledge that the president, more so Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), took the first step on criminal justice reform, but it was only the first step,” Wagner said.
“There is low unemployment, but we’ve not seen a diminishing of the racial wealth gap. What we’ve not seen is that it took months literally after the money ran out for HBCUs to get their funds replaced. The First Choice Act, he didn’t’ make that a priority,” Wagner said.
“The president’s tone and comments about systemic racism in this country, I don’t think he acknowledged that. I don’t believe there’s been any plan laid up by this administration on how you address the racial wealth gap, how you promote more minority businesses, how you take the next step up in criminal justice reform.
“I think the African American community understands that, if anything, you then hear these disparaging comments about countries in Africa whether it’s attacking great leaders like John Lewis and Elijah Cummings. I think I can speak more to the African American community in Virginia where Black people come up to me all the time and say to me to stay on this. I don’t feel like the focus has been genuine.
“If anything, you have nothing from this administration on voting rights. The cutbacks on voting rights, and all of these claims about voter fraud, I believe, in many ways, is code to try to limit voting opportunities. Almost the majority of the Russian propaganda efforts were geared at Black America to try and discourage them from voting.
“Fake websites that were supposed to be about Black Lives Matter coming out of Russia, and you still have this president almost refuse to acknowledge the ongoing threat that Putin poses in 2020.”