House Majority Whip James Clyburn Weighs In On Calls For Impeachment
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to turn now to James Clyburn. He's a Democrat from South Carolina and part of the Democratic House leadership. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
JAMES CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
CORNISH: We just heard from White House correspondent Tamara Keith. The president has said nothing is going to happen on infrastructure and likely anything else until these congressional investigations stop. So I want to put it to you. Are the Democrats going to ease up on investigating the president?
CLYBURN: I don't think so. I think we have an obligation to the American people. We have an obligation under the Constitution to do oversight. And if the president cannot recognize that, I think he's in the wrong office.
CORNISH: Now, I want to move to the question that the day began with, then, which is that - whether Democrats can stay unified on the question of whether or not to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. The president seemed to suggest this morning that they will.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to make this a big deal. Whether or not they carry the big I-word out - I can't imagine that, but they probably would.
CORNISH: The big I-word referring to impeachment. But it seems like in recent days, the party is fracturing on this. What did members tell the speaker this morning?
CLYBURN: Well, I always caution people not to confuse unity with unanimous. The caucus is not unanimous, but the caucus is unified. There are people in the caucus who prefer impeachment now. But the fact of the matter is, as I've said and I'll say again - if it were put to a vote, public or private, impeachment would not prevail.
CORNISH: As the Democrats' majority whip, you count the votes. And it sounds like what you're saying - as much as we're hearing in the news - the votes aren't there.
CLYBURN: No - oh, you know - mean for impeachment. No, the votes are not there for impeachment because I think the vast majority of the caucus at this point in time think that what we're doing is the proper way to do it. You know, I've counted maybe two dozen people, not quite three dozen, that would like to see us do something on impeachment. Three dozen is 36. We've got 236 members. That means 200 people ain't there yet.
CORNISH: What we're hearing from your caucus is that now is not the time to try to impeach the president. And yet, here was House Speaker Pelosi today, talking about whether she believes the President committed crimes.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
NANCY PELOSI: The fact is, in plain sight, in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice, and he's engaged in a cover-up.
CORNISH: Are you all trying to have it both ways, speaking in this manner, but then not going all the way and pushing for impeachment proceedings?
CLYBURN: No, we're not trying to have it both ways. We are in pursuit of the facts that would get us to a position of prevailing on this question. I'll remind people we did not have any kind of a break in the Nixon case, which never got to impeachment, but we were headed there. We did not get a break until a court decision saying those tapes had to be released.
CORNISH: So it sounds like you're saying that you and the leaders want to continue to pursue this in the courts. Is that enough to mollify members of the caucus who think that you should go further?
CLYBURN: Well, it may not be enough to mollify everybody, but I think we are doing what we think is necessary to lay the foundation for being successful in court. And just because we - our emotions tell us and even the facts that we see tell us that the end result is what we think it will be, we still have to go through the process. We still have to lay a foundation. We can't overlook that and just rush to the impeachment.
CORNISH: Congressman Clyburn, do you believe that the president committed a crime or high crimes and misdemeanors? And if so, what's the line at which you decide that the Democrats should pursue this?
CLYBURN: Well, I think that we are pursuing it. That's what these investigations are.
CORNISH: But do you believe he committed a crime?
CLYBURN: I've said a long time ago I think the Mueller report makes it very clear in the about nine or 10 different instances that they believe that a crime was committed, whether the special counsel did not want to pursue that since he would have to pursue an indictment, which he didn't think he could do. I think that all of this is coming out the way the American people would like to see it - that is, getting to the bottom of what this president has been doing.
CORNISH: That's Congressman James Clyburn, Democrats' majority whip. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.