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Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Balancing Impeachment Trial With Her Campaign09:44
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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Despite her commitment to the competitive 2020 campaign, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota says she can’t think of anything more important than participating in the impeachment trial of President Trump.

She believes Americans understand her constitutional duty as an impeachment juror means stepping away from attending every town hall or campaign event in the lead up to the Iowa caucuses.

The trial may be prolonged if witnesses are allowed to testify. She hopes witnesses will be brought in, considering the signs of “cracks” she’s seen within some Republican senators’ stance on the issue.

Klobuchar says her husband and daughter are filling her void in Iowa while she’s in Washington. Momentum for her campaign is growing as the Iowa caucuses quickly approach, she says.

She denies the reports of having a “caucus alliance” with Joe Biden’s campaign.

“I have no intention of making deals with other campaigns,” she says, “and it’s always nice when people ask, but I am not going to be part of that.”

Finding success in preliminary elections isn’t about being a celebrity politician, she says. It all comes down to the candidate’s grassroots organizing.

“It's whether or not you're going to be able to bring people with you,” she says. “We want to win back the Senate. We want to send Mitch McConnell packing.”

Interview Highlights

On splitting time between campaigning and the impeachment trial

“You know, I have a constitutional duty to be part of this trial, and I can’t think of anything more important to be doing right now. I’m a competitive person. Do I wish I was back, going to every town hall meeting I could? Sure, I have those moments. But the fact that we’re able, when we’re out a little bit early, [to] get back — I told everyone I’d turn into a pumpkin by midnight — and I got back to the trial. That’s what I’m going to have to do. We’ve done three tele-town halls. I have the most endorsements of legislators and former legislators in the state of Iowa than anyone else in the race. I have surrogates out there all the time, including my own daughter and husband, and we’re pretty excited about the momentum we’re seeing. We just got an Emerson [College] poll this week that showed we were in third place, so I’m surging at this moment. And I just have to hope that this grassroots process is going to work, and that people understand that because of my constitutional duty to be at this impeachment hearing, I am not going to be able to be there every moment of the day. And I think people out there, Americans, get that.”

On her struggles to garner support from black voters

“I’ve always had that enthusiastic support in my own state, and it’s on me to get people to get to know me better. My name ID is significantly different then somebody like Vice President Biden, or Bernie Sanders, who’s run for president before, and I know that, so I know it’s on me to have people get to know me. I’d start in Iowa where they have gotten to know me, and two of four of the African American legislators have endorsed me — Ruth Ann Gaines and just last week Ross Wilburn, who had previously been with my friend Kamala Harris.

"So I built support with that community and they have supported me. Why? Because they know I have a strong plan on economic opportunity, that they know I’ve been a leader on voting rights in the U.S. Senate, including my plans to register every kid when they turn 18 automatically to vote and stop [gerrymandering] with an independent commission in every state, stop these voting purges. A bill I lead with Sherrod Brown, which would get at the problem that Stacey Abrams has been talking about for the entire year. Without it, she may have been governor of Georgia right now. They also know that I have been a leader from the beginning on sentencing reform, on things like the First Step Act. And you know, it’s on me to have people get to know me better and that is my plan as I go state by state. I don’t have the money of some of my opponents to run an ad during the Superbowl and those kinds of things, so I’m just going to have to do it the old fashioned way — state-by-state."

On whether Bernie Sanders could win the state of Minnesota in the general election

“Well, first of all, in Minnesota, when you look at the numbers, there was a poll about a month or so ago that showed I beat Donald Trump by 17%. I beat him with men. I beat him in bigger numbers than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. That's a state that knows me best. And it just shows what I can bring in when people get to know me in terms of a fired-up Democratic base, as well as independents and moderate Republicans. That's why I think I would be the better candidate to lead this ticket than my friend Sen. Sanders. It's simply, you do the math. You look at what I've been able to do — win in the reddest of red districts and still keeping a fired up urban Democratic base. I do that being straight with people, by being the one on that debate stage that's passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat, and the one that showed that I'm able to unify our party and our country.”

On whether Sanders would be able to beat Trump in the general election

“I would hope so, but my argument is a little different. My argument is that I would not just win, but I would win big. … This is why I have the endorsement of all those legislators. I have the track record of winning and taking over and switching House seats. I literally have won back the Minnesota House every single time that I have led the ticket. And so when you look at the landscape nationally, we have to win in these Senate races in states like Colorado and states like Arizona. And when you look at who won in governor's races, they were people more like me. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Laura Kelly in Kansas. They won in states that not everyone thought we could win. It's not always being a celebrity ...

“We have to win back with that kind of coalition, which is exactly what was pointed out when The New York Times endorsed me, when the [New Hampshire] Union Leader endorsed me in New Hampshire, the Keene newspaper, Quad-City Times. So I'm not just making it up. I actually have the proof points here.”

On witnesses in the impeachment trial, and whether she can get back to campaigning if the trial continues

“I'm gonna be doing whatever I have to do. And I sure hope there will be witnesses. There are signs of some cracks on the other side: Sen. [Mitt] Romney has long said he wanted to see witnesses and a number of the other senators seem interested. And I just keep looking over at them, my desk is right in the middle of the floor with Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey and Chris Coons, and I keep looking over at my colleagues and thinking, ‘Why did you run for this office? Was it just to buy your chair at the end of your term, which they let you do, and have it in your office at home? Was it to have a trophy on the wall or a title for life?’ No. You came here to Washington to represent the people of this country and to follow the Constitution. And no matter how you vote on impeachment, at least you have to get on the truth. And I think these stunning revelations about John Bolton's book show what I have been saying all along. I literally have been saying, not knowing the title of his book, that we need to hear from the men that were in the room where it happened. That is becoming very stark. Because as I listen to the president's lawyers sit there and nitpick about this email and this fact, I'm thinking, ‘What are you doing?’ We have the person that can answer the questions of what actually happened, that appears to be completely verifying what these career military and career diplomats, like Marie Yovanovitch, have testified to under oath.

"So let's just bring them in, ask the questions, and one of my favorite suggestions, we said, ‘Why don't we just let John Roberts, the conservative justice, decide what's relevant?’ We know that John Bolton's testimony is relevant and we have to hear from him. So that is my hope, that after we're done with these two days of questions, today and tomorrow, where we submit written questions, that the next day, that they will agree to have witnesses and who knows how long it will take, but I will be here as long as it takes.”


Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson will broadcast out of Iowa on Jan. 30 and 31. Follow along on hereandnow.org and Twitter


Alex Ashlock and Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtSerena McMahon adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on January 29, 2020.

Related:

Jeremy Hobson Twitter 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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