Former Sen. Jeff Flake On The Trump Impeachment Inquiry

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Former Sen. Jeff Flake talks to Here & Now about the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former Sen. Jeff Flake talks to Here & Now about the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Following a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between President Trump and his counterpart in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she supports an impeachment inquiry.

Former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said on Thursday at least 35 Republican senators might support such a move. Flake says he made his comments after Republican political consultant Mike Murphy told MSNBC that if it were a secret vote, at least 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.

“I said, 'No. That's probably low balling. It could be 35.' Anybody who has sat through two years, as I have, of Republican luncheons realizes that there's not a lot of love for the president,” Flake says. “There's a lot of fear of what it means to go against the president, but most Republican senators would not like to be dealing with this for another year or another five years. So yeah, a private vote would go a lot differently, but that doesn't matter because that's just a hypothetical.”

While he hopes the president isn’t impeached, Flake says Democrats were right to launch an inquiry into President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president.

“That was a pretty damning transcript. That was not anything you want your president to be doing,” he says. “So I think we need to wait for the investigation to conclude and wait for likely testimony from the whistleblower him or herself before drawing conclusions. But it seems the House is already moving ahead.”

Interview Highlights 

On if the Democrats were right to launch an impeachment inquiry

“Whether it's an inquiry or hearings or whatever they're doing, that's not a constitutional question. It's just a decision they make. But I think that whatever it is in terms of an investigation, it ought to go forward. And so I'm glad to see it. I was glad to see the Intel Committee have the hearing yesterday. And what form it takes, it's going to be difficult with six committees having jurisdiction in the House dealing with this issue that we believe that the Democrats are saying they're going to narrow the focus on. And we'll have to see how that plays out. My sense is it makes it a much more difficult proposition for Republicans in the Senate if it is narrowly focused on this issue. If it's more broadly focused on the Mueller report and everything else, then it's an easy or ‘no’ vote for Republicans in the Senate.”

On why Republicans are afraid going against the president could impact their re-election chances

“Oh, they'll face re-election at some point. Almost everybody is up within the next couple of years. You're never more than six years out in the Senate and that takes into account the rest of the Trump presidency if he were to be reelected. So right now, this is the president's party without a doubt. And to win a Republican primary in just about every state, you've got to be with the president. And there's a lot of fear that if you aren't, you'll get primaried.”

On if he sees any cracks in the Republican Party right now

“Impeachment is not completely defined. You know, high crimes and misdemeanors, what does that mean? It is kind of a political decision in the end. But boy if it remains narrow, it's a far tougher vote. And I believe that you're more likely to see Republican defections.”

On why he doesn’t want to see an impeachment of the president

“My position is I don't want to see impeachment. I'm not a fan of the president. I hope that he's not re-elected next year. But I worry that this, in a very divided country, will divide it even further. So I'd rather defeat the president the old fashioned way at the ballot box. So I don't want to see it going here, and I think it very well could go the other direction. That's what Nancy Pelosi has been concerned about. I think rightly so. I think that some Democrats are obviously concerned about filling their constitutional role regardless of the politics. And I can appreciate that, but I hope, personally, that it doesn't come to impeachment. I hope that we can get through this.”

On if he would vote for Biden if he wins the Democratic nomination

“I'm on record saying that I would obviously rather vote for another Republican, one who's more conservative than the Democratic field. But I have not ruled out at any point voting for a Democrat, and I may do so. I hope that the Democrats nominate somebody who has a broad appeal, and there are a number in that field who do.”

Jill Ryan produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on September 27, 2019.


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Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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