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Rep. Andy Levin Discusses Growing House Support For Trump Impeachment Proceedings


There are about a hundred Democrats in the House of Representatives and one independent, a former Republican, who support starting impeachment proceedings against President Trump. One of the Democrats is Representative Andy Levin of Michigan's 9th District, who joins us now. Mr. Levin, thanks for being with us.

ANDY LEVIN: Hey. It's great to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: A hundred is not even a majority of the 235 House Democrats. So what do you tell fellow Democrats who may say, I - look; I just don't think we have the votes?

LEVIN: You know, I really think that all this sort of horse race tracking and vote counting misses the point. Most of my Democratic colleagues believe, as I do, that Donald Trump commits impeachable offenses every day he's in office. He violates the Emoluments Clause by taking money from foreign governments in many different ways to his properties. Imagine being invited as a new member of Congress to - by a foreign government to an event that they're paying for at the Trump Hotel (laughter). It's just astounding. He violates other basic norms by turning the presidency into a piggy bank, not just from foreign governments.

So things go far beyond the Mueller report. The question is how to proceed strategically and whether we can succeed with an impeachment proceeding.

SIMON: Well...

LEVIN: And, you know, a hundred of us say that the best way to proceed is to go ahead and start an inquiry because it will be more focused, more expeditious, and it will get the information to the American people in a way that they're used to getting it, through their streams and their televisions.

SIMON: But let me - of course, as you know, Mr. Levin, you are from a political family. You're the nephew of a former senator. Your father once held your 9th District seat. President Trump isn't winning any popularity polls at the moment, but neither's impeachment. In fact, we found a poll in The Detroit News that says 53% of voters in Michigan are opposed to impeachment hearings. So could calling for impeachment just wind up harming Democratic candidates, especially in swing districts in your own swing state?

LEVIN: Well, I don't think so. And in any event, there's a little problem. We took an oath of office that says we will uphold the Constitution. And I really don't think impeachment is a question for popularity contests. You know, the Congress - we have a job description from the Constitution. It says that we have to pass legislation and hold the administration to account. And saying we should legislate but not investigate - it's sort of like saying a teacher should instruct but not grade papers or a minister should preach but not marry or bury anyone in her flock. I mean, this is a constitutional obligation of ours, and we need to carry it out with seriousness.

And I - actually, if you want my thought about the wisdom of - the immense wisdom of the American public, I think they will not be happy with us if they feel like we're cynical or just doing things for political gain. So we've got to undertake our job, Scott, wherever it may lead.

SIMON: Well, let me put it this way, though. There's a lot of urgent news in the world, even this week. There's North Korea, Iran, Syria, immigration, what's going on at the Southern border. Doesn't impeachment take up months of time and attention and effort that Congress really should apply to getting a lot of other important things done?

LEVIN: Oh, Scott, if you all would only cover the other work we're doing like you're obsessed with impeachment. I - here's the thing.

SIMON: All right. That's fair. We did call you about this. But go ahead. Yeah.

LEVIN: Well, no. Seriously, I'm not - I'm a newbie here, right? I'm just a freshman. Just think of the body of work we've already built in the House of Representatives. We've passed legislation to protect people with preexisting conditions. We passed legislation to control out-of-control prescription drug prices. We've raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, which would give 33 million Americans a raise. We've just protected the pensions of millions of Americans.

SIMON: We've only got 20 seconds left for you to complete the list, yeah.

LEVIN: Well, so, you know, the point is that, you know, I could go on. And I wish the media would focus more on all the legislation we're passing to protect the American people and how the Senate should get in the game and work with us on it. We don't have a choice but to oversee the administration, and we just need to investigate the president in the most expeditious and effective way possible. And in the view of many of us, that's to go ahead and get going with an impeachment inquiry so it would get the information to the American people.

SIMON: Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, thanks so much.

LEVIN: Thanks, Scott. I appreciate your interest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.