White House hopeful Beto O’Rourke said in an interview Friday that President Trump should face “criminal consequences” once his administration comes to an end.
Mr. O’Rourke, a former Democratic congressman for Texas, made the comment while speaking to comedian and radio host Dean Obeidallah as members of the House of Representative pursue recently initiated impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.
Asked whether he believes Mr. Trump will become the first president in the country’s history to be removed from office, Mr. O’Rourke replied: “I can’t avoid that conclusion.”
“These are the kinds of high crimes that the Founding Fathers first envisioned when they crafted impeachment as a consequence for this kind of abuse of power,” Mr. O’Rourke said.
“If we set the precedent that some people really are above the law and immune from the consequences of their actions, then we will have also decided that this democracy is no longer important and we will lose it,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “We just can’t allow that to happen.”
House Democrats initiated an impeachment inquiry last week after the Trump administration tried to block members of Congress from viewing a whistleblower complaint filed with the U.S. intelligence community’s internal watchdog. The White House subsequently released a rough transcript of a July phone call that triggered the complaint, and it showed Mr. Trump repeatedly asking his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
“My hope is that this impeachment process will help to bring this country, maybe counterintuitively, but it will bring this country together as we share the same facts and are on the same page — both about what the president has done and what the consequences of that must be,” Mr. O’Rourke said on SiriusXM’s The Dean Obeidallah Show.
“And maybe like what happened in 1974 after Watergate, we will see some Republicans even come forward, and maybe even some willing to sit down with the president and tell him the the writing is on the wall, and the best thing he can do for this country, and really perhaps even for himself, is to step down,” the former congressman continued. “But even if he were to do that, to answer your question, Dean, I don’t think he should be immune from the consequences. Either removal from office, or criminal consequences after he has held office. I think that’s incredibly important.”
Congress has only considered impeaching three other presidents in the past: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached in the House but later acquitted in the Senate, while Richard M. Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974 amid impeachment proceedings and was later granted a full and unconditional pardon by his successor, Gerald Ford.
Mr. O’Rourke, 47, was a member of the El Paso City Council prior to representing Texas’s 16th District in Congress for six years. He unsuccessfully campaigned in 2018 for the seat year by Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, and subsequently launched his 2020 presidential campaign earlier this year.
Recent nationwide polling has placed Mr. O’Rourke among the top 10 candidates favored by Democratic voters to run in 2020 against Mr. Trump, albeit well behind current front-runners such as Mr. Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernard Sanders. The results of polling released this week by Emerson College and Monmouth University placed his support among Democratic voters for 2% and 1%, respectively.
Americans are roughly split with respect to supporting the impeachment inquiry, meanwhile. The results of another poll released by Monmouth this week found that 44% of Americans want the president impeached and compelled to leave office, while 52% would prefer otherwise.