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Rep. Jeff Van Drew Discusses Rationale Of The House Democrats Opposed To Impeachment


One of the last things House Democrats did before skipping town and heading back home for six weeks was to file a lawsuit. The House Judiciary Committee did it Friday, saying it needs documents from the Trump administration as it considers questions of impeachment. Jeff Van Drew represents New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District. He's a Democrat, and he's serving his first term, and he joins us now. Thanks for being with us.

JEFF VAN DREW: It's a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as you know, there's a real spectrum of opinion, to say the least, in your caucus about impeachment. Some think it's a no-brainer and want the vote yesterday. Where are you?

VAN DREW: Well, you know, my concern is this - impeachment is a very, very serious action taken by the Congress. It's constitutional and it isn't because you just don't like a president or because they have some issues. Now, there's no question - you know, I've read the Mueller report from the first page to the last page, and there's certainly unpleasantries in there and there certainly are some issues and concerns. I don't think it rises to high crimes and misdemeanors, which is why this whole, you know, investigation has extended on for such a long period of time. And I guess that's my concern.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You used the word unpleasantries. You don't think that the president has committed impeachable offenses?

VAN DREW: I and many others, while we don't necessarily like what happened in there and think that there's inappropriate discussion and so forth that it actually is impeachable offenses at this point time, that is not clear at all. And it wasn't clear in the Mueller report. It wasn't clear in the investigations before. It wasn't clear in the Mueller testimony, which, if anything, made the whole issue less than it was before.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mueller laid out 10 avenues of obstruction of justice. Those would consider - many would consider those absolutely impeachable offenses. People who have - in your party who have not wanted to go that route it's simply because they believe that the Senate will convict or that the American public is divided on the issue and it could cost the Democrats in 2020. But you're saying that you don't actually even believe that the president has done anything wrong.

VAN DREW: No. I didn't say that at all. I didn't say that I didn't believe the president hadn't done anything wrong. What I said was it's not clear that they - it rises to high crimes and misdemeanors. And that is a point of debate that many individuals have. It doesn't mean you didn't do anything wrong.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what do you think is the way forward? What - how would you like to see this addressed if you do believe he's done something wrong but it might not rise to the level of impeachment?

VAN DREW: I think that we can keep monitoring this as we certainly are. But I think rather than it be the only issue that really is discussed, you know, as far as the Democratic Party, I think and hope that we don't go into an election - since you mentioned the election - saying that our biggest result here in our tenure in two years was that we had a failed impeachment process. I think we have to do it carefully because we don't want to split the entire nation apart literally almost, you know, to the point that people aren't speaking to each other, which is where we are now. I think we're going to have an election in a year and that certainly is going to make clear what the people of this country feel. I believe we should do all those things.

If there is new information that comes up that clearly shows these are impeachable offenses - and, by the way, my view is not the only view that is along this chord (ph). The leadership in the Democratic Party agrees. Nancy Pelosi agrees. She - while she certainly feels uncomfortable with many of the things the president says, there isn't clearly a path to impeachment here. And secondly, even if we start to do it, we also come to the point that we realize that nothing is going to happen in the Senate. So at the end of the day, it'll be a failed process. And what have we done about health care that was actually signed into law? What have we done about prescription drugs? What have we done really to try to compromise and work things out on the border and a host of other issues?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Representative Jeff Van Drew, Democrat of New Jersey, giving his view on impeachment. Thank you so much.

VAN DREW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.