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Clark: Impeachment Hearings 'Are Doing Exactly What I Hoped They'd Do'04:18
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Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, second from left, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, stand behind their chairs as they arrive to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday during a public impeachment hearing. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, second from left, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, stand behind their chairs as they arrive to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday during a public impeachment hearing. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The dramatic public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump have taken center stage on Capitol Hill these past two weeks.

But they're part of a carefully planned approach by Democratic House leadership, and Melrose's Katherine Clark, vice chair of the caucus, is at the center of that team.

Though when she was elected, she didn't expect impeachment to be part of the job.

“Coming to Congress I never saw this particular moment in history,” Clark told WBUR, speaking in a hideaway office in the basement the Capitol.

Clark said she knew Democrats would be tasked with being what she calls “a backstop” to Trump’s presidency. But she thought that work would revolve around policies like health care, education and gun control.

“Sometimes it's hard to take in the gravity of where we find ourselves,” Clark said, particularly as a member of the Democratic majority in the House. But she sees the impeachment process as her constitutional duty as a lawmaker.

"And it can keep me up at night, making sure that we are doing the right thing and that we are defending the Constitution and those core values to our democracy," Clark said.

Privately, some Democrats have expressed concern that the flood of information coming from the impeachment probe — and the frenzied counter-messaging from congressional Republicans and Trump’s White House — may be overwhelming. They worry it may leave the American people feeling more overloaded than informed.

Or, Democrats said, it could do more damage than good. They fear it could galvanize Trump’s supporters and boost his re-election efforts. Polls find that Americans are evenly split on impeaching and removing Trump from office. 

But Clark believes the live testimony of career diplomats, civil servants and other officials — who have said Trump sought to pressure Ukrainian leaders to announce an investigation of Joe Biden by holding up military aid — is delivering.

“I think the hearings are doing exactly what I hoped they’d do: put the facts out there for the American people to judge,” Clark said.

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., accompanied by Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., right, speaks at a news conference on July 10, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., accompanied by Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., right, speaks at a news conference on July 10, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Clark’s message is echoed by other members of leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"We said we wanted to see the facts, and want the American people to see the facts,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Whatever decision is made — and it has not been made yet — will be based on our honoring our oath of office, not on the resistance to the truth of the Republicans.”

Clark and other members of leadership have also stressed their ability to walk and chew gum, balancing the impeachment probe with other key legislative agenda items.

Largely along party lines, the House this week passed a stopgap spending measure to avert a government shutdown at week’s end. And Democratic caucus leaders began their weekly press conference not with the impeachment hearings that were taking place simultaneously, but with a call to Senate Republicans to take up a House-passed gun control bill.

And while bipartisanship seems hard to come by in Washington, Clark said she is able to work with her colleagues across the aisle to a certain extent — for instance, on appropriations.

But on impeachment, the divide is clear. And Clark has strong words for her Republican colleagues, who have almost in unison defended the president and blasted the impeachment process as unfair.

“The complicity with this president, choosing this president and loyalty to him over everything else, is not only disappointing, I feel it’s dangerous,” she said.

When Pelosi reclaimed the speaker’s gavel earlier this year, she agreed not to serve past 2022. Clark is coy about whether she aims to seek the speakership when Pelosi leaves.

“I have learned over my career to never say never about anything,” Clark said with a laugh.

Among the next steps for Clark and the Democratic leadership: determine what, if any, articles of impeachment to file.

This segment aired on November 22, 2019.

Earlier Coverage:

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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