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Congressmen Thompson, Huffman say Trump’s actions warrant his removal

Rep. Mike Thompson, who voted along with 226 of his House Democratic colleagues Wednesday to forward the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, said there was no doubt in his mind the president had committed crimes justifying his removal from the nation’s highest office.

“Our founding fathers feared more than anything that a president could work with a foreign government to his benefit,” said Thompson, a St. Helena resident who has served for two decades in Congress. “This president tried to work with a foreign government to enhance his chances of being elected.”

“Our vote is sacred. American citizens are the ones who should determine who the president is going to be,” he said.

Thompson, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the case against Trump was initiated by a whistleblower and “confirmed by the president himself,” a reference to the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor.”

And the president, “caught red-handed,” Thompson said, then tried to obstruct the House impeachment inquiry.

But in spite of what he considers Trump’s clear guilt, Thompson said “it’s a very sad day. I didn’t go to Congress to impeach a president.”

The two most significant votes a House member can cast are to declare war and impeach the chief executive, said Thompson, a Vietnam war combat veteran.

Both Thompson and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, disputed the assumption that the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-member majority, will quickly acquit Trump in the trial scheduled to start Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who initially favored an abrupt trial, is getting “pushback from his own members” who favor calling witnesses “and rightfully so,” Thompson said.

Huffman, who has served in the House since 2013, predicted “growing pressure on senators to demonstrate fairness and seriousness in this trial” by including some witnesses and documents. Senate Democrats need only four Republican votes to change the trial rules or call for witnesses, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist. They need 20 ?GOP votes to convict the president by a two-thirds supermajority.

McCuan predicted the trial could last three weeks, carrying it past the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, which could serve Republican interests by bottling up three Democratic senators running for president.

McConnell has the power to “sequester the jury,” limiting the opportunity of all senators to comment during prime time, he said.

But ultimately, Trump will be acquitted, McCuan said. “Assuming there is no bombshell evidence or testimony, it is a foregone conclusion,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457.

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