Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., on Thursday explained his decision to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Prior to Thursday, Welch was reserved when it came to the topic, wanting to see the results of the Mueller Report and other investigations.
“On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump took his oath of office, pledged to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and in the 30 months since, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s violated his oath, that he’s unfit for office and that he should be impeached,” Welch said during a conference call with several reporters.
Welch’s statements come a day after the House voted overwhelmingly against furthering a resolution offered by Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat, to impeach the president, according to the Associated Press. Democrats voted 137 to 95 on furthering the resolution. The total House vote was 332 to 95.
According to The Hill, Welch voted in favor of moving the resolution forward.
Welch said Thursday his vote was a procedural one to advance the discussion and not so much a reflection on what he thinks of the resolution itself. He said articles of impeachment would have to come from the House Committee on Judiciary.
“The conduct of the president is putting himself above the law when he’s completely objecting and refusing to cooperate with any Congressional investigations,” Welch said.
He said he’s been reluctant to call for impeachment, given how serious a measure that is, and has wanted to see the results of various investigations into the president’s conduct, “But it’s become apparent that the president is going to refuse to allow Congress to do that job. And under Article 1, Congress has oversight responsibility in the conduct of the president.”
He said the Trump administration has done little but stonewall when it comes to lawful requests from Congress.
“That’s an approach to Congress where the president is putting himself above the law and beyond accountability,” said Welch. “And the Constitution makes it clear that no person, even the president of the United States, is above the law.”
Welch said two things changed his mind with regards to impeaching the president. One was his conclusion that Trump won’t change his “stonewalling” tactics. The other is Trump’s recent comments directed at House Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, suggesting they return to their countries of origin. According to the Associated Press, all were born in the United States except Omar, who fled Somalia as a child.
“It’s very clear that his attacks on American citizens on the basis of their ethnic origin, their religion and their race are intensifying,” Welch said. “And my alarm is, this is extremely dangerous to our democracy. And it’s clear that the president has embraced this approach of being brutally divisive.”
He said the president needs to be someone who unifies people to solve problems.
Welch said it’s not clear how the will of the House will shift with regards to impeachment, but he felt Vermonters need to know where he stands. He said he did not confer with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, before speaking out beyond sending her a text message saying that he was doing so. She thanked him for the message, he said, but had no further comment. Welch said he likewise didn’t confer with Vermont’s senators Patrick Leahy and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Welch acknowledged that Trump might welcome impeachment proceedings, saying the president wants the 2020 election to be about race and impeachment.
“That’s really unfortunate,” Welch said. “I have been one who has been very cautious about this because I did not want this to become seen as a political decision on the part of Congress and certainly on my part.”