U.S. Sen. James Lankford says he believes the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will impeach President Donald Trump before the end of the year, but suggested the Senate is unlikely to convict Trump and remove him from office because it appears Trump is being impeached simply over policy differences.
“I think the House is going to impeach the president,” said Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. “I think they’ve been looking for a way to impeach the president for years.”
Lankford spoke on the topic during an appearance at an Oklahoma City luncheon hosted by Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma.
Lankford noted the impeachment conversation is “not new. It didn’t begin last week. It began several years ago. And as we got to January of this year, there were about 100 of my Democratic colleagues on the south side of the building in the House that were focused on trying to find a way to do impeachment.”
Originally, Trump’s critics suggested allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in 2016 would lead to the president’s impeachment. But Lankford noted the Russian investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no conspiracy, no collusion, and no abuse of power.
“If you read the Mueller report, they could have gone for abuse of power through any one of the staff members,” Lankford said. “They made the statement, ‘The president is different while he’s in office. It’s a political solution dealing with the president.’ But only the president. His chief of staff, his campaign staff, anyone else in the administration—anyone else could have been brought for any kind of abuse of power, whatever it may be. They weren’t. Not a single one of them. Mueller’s team went through all of it, and they had plenty of opportunities to interview as many people as they could. They didn’t find anything on it.”
Now Democrats claim Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering foreign aid in exchange for Ukraine’s help in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.
That allegation is based on a filing made by a “whistleblower.” However, many claims made by the whistleblower were shown to be false when Trump released notes of his conversation with Zelensky.
“The president was not careful with his words in the phone call with Zelensky,” Lankford said. “There’s no shock, again, that the president is not careful with his words.”
Lankford encouraged Oklahomans to read the whistleblower’s statement about the phone call, and noted “it was not a direct account.”
“Most of the time, the whistleblower says, ‘I didn’t hear. I wasn’t there. Someone told me that’s reliable,’” Lankford said.
Lankford also noted the complaint included a “really bizarre section” where the whistleblower references stories from The Hill newspaper but says that he/she finds Bloomberg reporting more credible.
“Why are we talking about which media source you trust the most on this?” Lankford asked.
Oklahoma’s junior senator also noted that the New York Times has now reported the “whistleblower” communicated with U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who heads the House intelligence committee, and “at some level worked with Adam Schiff or his team before he even contacted the whistleblower.”
“So we don’t know if this is a former staff member from their committee that now works for the CIA,” Lankford said. “We don’t know anything about the relationship. We have no idea.”
The whistleblower complaint runs just nine pages, and the notes from President Trump’s phone call with Zelensky run just five pages, Lankford noted.
“I encourage you to read that,” he said.
Lankford suggested the actions of House Democrats have undermined claims that the proposed impeachment is driven by principle rather than politics. He noted the number of House Democrats supporting impeachment went from 100 to around 200 in a 72-hour period that preceded the release of any documents.
“They read the information after they announced they were doing the impeachment inquiry,” Lankford said. “If would have been much better for them to make their case if they would have at least would have read the information first and then said, ‘Oh, this is serious.’ Instead, they said, ‘This is serious, and tomorrow we’re going to find out why.’”
Lankford expects House Democrats to pursue impeachment “as fast as they can,” and expects the process to occur before Christmas.
At that point, a Senate trial will begin where lawmakers hear evidence, which Lankford noted is a “very different process” than what will occur in the House. Based on what has been unveiled so far, Lankford suggested he sees no grounds for the Senate to convict.
Lankford noted that during the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson in 1868, senators concluded, “Impeachment is never going to be about rewriting an election,” and said the same thing holds true today.
“We had an election in 2020,” Lankford said. “So if this is not a high crime or a misdemeanor, America will solve this in 2020 as they should.”
Lankford noted that some GOP activists used to appear at town hall meetings and call for the impeachment of then-President Barack Obama over policy issues, and noted he voiced opposition to that effort then.
“I’m still not joining into that at this time,” Lankford said. “I’ve seen nothing fact-based that I look at and go, ‘That’s a clear quid pro quo. That’s a clear violation of something.’ I’ve not seen anything.”