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Politics & Government

Rep. Joaquin Castro Talks Trump's Impeachment

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

So we're going to turn now to the other big story coming up this week, and that is the impending impeachment trial in the Senate of the former President Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named nine House members to present the case for impeachment to the Senate when former President Trump's trial starts in two weeks. Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro is one of them, and he joins us now. Good morning.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Good morning. Great to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the article you're presenting makes specific reference - right? - to Trump's January 6 speech that preceded the sacking of the Capitol. And it also talks about Trump's discussion with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change that state's results. What is not mentioned is anything like this weekend's New York Times reporting that alleges Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to push the lie about election fraud or the Wall Street Journal story about him trying to get the Supreme Court to intervene. So will the case you'll be presenting be too narrow?

CASTRO: No. I think what you see is that for months and then very intensely for weeks, Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of the election. He tried to pressure elected officials. And in the last few weeks of his term, he was calling on his supporters, telling them that the election had been stolen from him and from them. And as you could imagine, these are people that strongly support former President Trump. And the idea that the election was stolen from them obviously incited very harsh feelings.

And the morning of January 6, he asked those folks who were so amped up to march down to the Capitol. And you see the final result was that there's a deadly insurrection where five American lives were lost. And even as all of that was going on, President Trump, knowing that there was an insurrection, a riot at the Capitol, refused to take action for a long time that day. And so we're going to present all the evidence. We're trying to convince 100 senators, Republicans and Democrats, that they should hold Donald Trump accountable and convict him in the Senate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let me ask you this. What do you make of statements from some GOP senators that the chances of a conviction are slim to none? Do you have a sense of where things stand?

CASTRO: Yeah, I would hope that, first of all, they keep their powder dry, that they listen to all the evidence and wait for the case to be presented. But most of all, at the end of the day, what we need is for people to put country over person, in other words, over Donald Trump and also country over party, Republican or Democrat.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to quote Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who tweeted yesterday, "if it is a good idea to impeach and try former presidents, what about former Democratic presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022? Think about it and let's do what's best for the country." That is his call for putting the country ahead of partisanship. What is your response to that?

CASTRO: Well, yes, one of my colleagues, I think Dean Phillips, responded to Senator Cornyn. Any president, Republican or Democrat who incites an insurrection to overturn an election should be impeached and should be convicted.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: After the assault on the Capitol, there was some Republican remorse, some limited condemnation of former President Trump, but it does feel like that is dissipating. Are you concerned the pause between the House vote and the Senate trial is making your job harder?

CASTRO: We're just focused on getting our case together, as you can imagine. There are nine impeachment managers - and dividing up the responsibilities. And I also believe that as the days go on, more and more evidence comes out about the president's involvement in the incitement of this insurrection, the incitement of this riot, and also his dereliction of duty once it was going on. So I'm confident that we've got a strong case and that we can convince those senators.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But is it convincing the senators, or is it actually convincing the people that the senators represent? Because we have not seen any movement from the Republican base on these issues. They do not, by and large, feel that President Trump should be impeached.

CASTRO: Well, you're right. I mean, ultimately, it's the senators that get a vote, but you also want to win over the American people and make the case to them. And, you know, I think they will also find it compelling and believe that the president should be held responsible.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, having the trial hang in the air for two more weeks makes some of President Biden's priorities - pandemic relief, immigration reform - harder to advance. I mean, ultimately, impeachments are divisive affairs.

CASTRO: No, I think what you see going on right now is that the president's nominees are being confirmed and being scheduled for confirmations. And the legislative packages are also going through and moving forward. And so I'm confident that we can do all of those things right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas. Thank you very much.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.