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Republican Rep. Steve Chabot Discusses Trump Impeachment

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As we've been reporting tonight, President Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The House of Representatives found that he abused his power and obstructed Congress. The vote was largely along party lines. In another part of the program, we are speaking with a Democratic lawmaker. We are joined now by Republican Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio.

Thank you for joining us.

STEVE CHABOT: Happy to do it, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This is, if I'm not mistaken, your third impeachment vote. You supported impeachment of President Nixon, and you were an impeachment manager who presented the case against President Clinton to the Senate. Today you voted no. And I first just want to ask you the same question I asked the Democratic lawmaker, which is, what is on your mind right now having cast this historic vote?

CHABOT: Well, just to clarify it, I actually watched it on television in college with Nixon.

SHAPIRO: OK.

CHABOT: But I did...

SHAPIRO: My apologies.

CHABOT: No problem at all. I'm old but not quite that old.

SHAPIRO: OK (laughter).

CHABOT: And, yes, I was one of the House managers in the Clinton impeachment, so right in the heart of that.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. So you supported that impeachment. You opposed this one.

CHABOT: Yes.

SHAPIRO: What does it feel like to be in this moment, having just left the House floor?

CHABOT: Well, I hate to see the country go through this. Relative to Bill Clinton, I felt very strongly that he had put his hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then lied. So he had committed perjury, which is an actual crime. In this particular instance, I do not think that what President Trump was accused of is a high crime or misdemeanor. You know, obstruction of Congress, for example - that's something that we kind of do all the time in Washington. We've got the branches of government. We call it checks and balances, where if you don't - if, for example, the legislative branch of the Congress doesn't think the executive branch is doing what they should do, they ought to go to the third branch, the judicial branch, and get a ruling. So that was my thinking.

SHAPIRO: Do you think the president did anything wrong regarding Ukraine? Or do you agree with him that it was, in his words, a perfect call?

CHABOT: No, I wouldn't say it's a perfect call. And I wouldn't necessarily recommend that the part of the discussion at least that was had on that line was appropriate, but I don't think it was impeachable. The president did have some responsibility to make sure that corruption was not going on when American tax dollars were involved, so I think that was legitimate. But either way, whether you argue it was appropriate or not, I don't think it comes anywhere close to what our founders had in mind for removal of a president from office.

SHAPIRO: As one of the managers of the Clinton impeachment, what advice do you have for your Democratic colleagues who are going to take on that role in a Senate trial of President Trump that we're expecting in the new year?

CHABOT: Well, I would advise them to do kind of the common-sense things. Get ready for it, you know? Do your homework. Prepare. Work with your colleagues. Do your best. You know, I - my thinking was - and this was 20 years ago, but don't screw it up.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CHABOT: You know you got the eyes of the country and the world on you, so you want to do your best.

SHAPIRO: And what strategy would you advise the president's legal team to take as they move into this new phase?

CHABOT: Well, I don't know whether they're going to want witnesses or not. That's still up in the air. I think that's one of the deficiencies that we saw in the House is that the president and Republicans really were not allowed to call fact witnesses, so we had people that offered their opinions. We had, you know, college professors come in and advise about what the status of the law was. And - but we didn't really have fact witnesses. And I would note that one of those professors, John Turley, who acknowledged that he did not vote for President Trump - he said that the evidence against him for impeachment was wafer-thin.

SHAPIRO: I think Democrats would reply that while the judiciary committee did not have fact witnesses, the intelligence committee had many of them. Finally, I just want to ask, given how much talk there was on the House floor today about history, how do you think history will view this vote?

CHABOT: I think we're going to see these all too common from now on, and so I don't think they're going to be that unusual. I think the Democrats have lowered the bar so much on impeachment that these are going to be much more routine. We had one impeachment in about 200 years of our history. Now this is the third one in less than 50 years, and so I think that's unfortunate, really does - it's very divisive for the country. And we shouldn't go through it unless we absolutely have to.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio, thank you for joining us tonight.

CHABOT: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: December 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous headline and Web summary incorrectly said Rep. Steve Chabot represents Louisiana. He represents Ohio.