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Rep. Peter Welch on Mueller's Testimony And The Case For Impeachment

Congressman Peter Welch prepares for a floor speech.
Eman Mohammed
"I've come to the conclusion that he's violated his oath, that he's unfit for office, and that he should be impeached," says Rep. Peter Welch.

After reviewing President Donald Trump's conduct in office over the past few months, Congressman Peter Welch says he's concluded Trump is unfit for office, and Welch says he now advocates for his impeachment. We talked to Welch about the case for impeachment, this week's testimony from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other issues facing the U.S. House.

Here's Rep. Welch asking Robert Mueller if foreign interference in U.S. elections is the "new normal."

On Impeachment

On July 18, Rep. Welch called for President Trump’s impeachment. This was a reversal of his previous caution about House Democrats pursuing impeachment proceedings.

“My view on impeachment that I came to slowly — because I think we have to give enormous deference to the outcome of an election, whether we like the outcome or we don’t — is fundamentally that the president has violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," he said.

Welch told Vermont Edition he changed his mind for two main reasons:

1. “He’s acting in a way where he’s above the law and beyond accountability. First, he’s totally stonewalling Congress when it comes to Congress exercising its oversight responsibility that applies to any chief executive. And our whole system of checks and balances is based on the proposition that, to be accountable, you have to answer questions, provide documents, otherwise you’re beyond the rule of law.”
2. “Also every citizen is entitled to the full protection of the law. What the president is doing, in attacking people based on their faith, on the basis of their ethnic origin, is attacking people who are entitled to the full protection of the law — not because of what they believe or because they are a political opponent, but because of who they are. And all of us are created equal. That’s respected under the Constitution.”

Welch said he still has concerns about impeachment proceedings energizing the Republican base as well as taking away from the discussion of issues during the 2020 presidential campaign. But he also said he felt he had to speak up regardless of politics. 

“I just couldn’t stand by where I had come to the conclusion that the president was putting himself above the law and was violating his oath of office," he said. "So the politics of this, there’s a lot of back and forth on it, those concerns are concerns I’ve had. But for me, this was a call of conscience. All of the institutions of democracy are under assault, the fake news, attacks on the press, attacks on judges because they’re Mexican judges. The list goes on and on and on.”

The Mueller Report

During Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Welch asked whether Russian interference in U.S. elections is now “the new normal,” to which Mueller responded he feared it was. 

Welch told Vermont Edition that he wants to make it make it illegal for candidates running for federal office to look the other way when it comes to foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

“One of the things I’m proposing, and I hope we get Republican support on this, is to impose on any of us who are candidates for federal office, that we have a duty to report to the FBI when we are approached by a foreign power that wants to interfere in our election," he said. "Shockingly, there’s no duty that any of us have to report.”

"Guardrails Of Democracy"

While Welch told Vermont Edition he knows he and other elected officials must address the daily concerns of voters to maintain credibility, he also said he’s focused on keeping up the “guardrails of democracy.”

“When a person has enormous power like a president does, one of the qualities we need in our leaders is restraint," he said. "They can’t do things just ‘cause they can. They have to have the restraint that has been part of our constitutional system of checks and balances, where there’s respect that others have a different point of view and that you do have to work through a process where Congress gets to deliberate, and then our courts have an opportunity to say whether the law we passed is right or wrong. And I see the president as just disregarding that.”

For more details regarding election security bills in Congress and the issues Welch prioritizes, listen to the full interview above between VPR's Bob Kinzel and Rep. Peter Welch.

Broadcast live on Friday, July 26, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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