Impeachment needed to bar Trump from running for federal office: Rep. Joaquin Castro

"I'm calling on my party to restore trust," GOP Rep. Peter Meijer said Sunday.

January 17, 2021, 1:31 PM

House impeachment managers are prepared to chase every single Senate vote in an attempt to convict President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

"We will make sure that every senator is standing up for this country, that every senator is considering the evidence against President Trump and the fact that he incited a deadly insurrection. And so we're optimistic that when we lay out our case -- we'll be able to convince folks that, in fact, President Trump is responsible for inciting this deadly insurrection and that the Senate should convict," Castro told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos asked Castro if a failed conviction attempt in the Senate would serve as a method of vindication for the president.

"Are you worried that if the Senate fails to convict a second time, there will be some kind of vindication for President Trump?" Stephanopoulos asked Castro, one of nine House members serving as impeachment managers.

"When you're dealing with impeachment, there's a high bar. You need 67 votes, but our plan is to -- is to go after every single vote," Castro replied.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declined to say when she will send the impeachment article to the Senate, but the Senate trial would begin the day after the article is sent. ​The Senate returns to session on Tuesday, and there is a possibility that the Senate could begin Trump's impeachment trial on Biden's Inauguration Day.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos on when the House plans to deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate, Castro did not provide a clear answer.

"All of us on the impeachment manager team are ready to go," Castro said. "We're ready to lay out the evidence ... and so there is, of course, conversations going on between Speaker Pelosi and the Senate, but we'll be ready to go when it starts."

Castro did not give any additional details on where the impeachment managers fall on witnesses. ABC News reported Saturday night that Trump was considering testifying in the Senate trial and was still very much considering pardoning himself, an unprecedented action never taken by any president.

"If that's something he wants to do, then he's probably going to be able to do that because he's part of the trial because it involves him," Castro said of Trump testifying, adding that the House managers are still discussing how they will handle calling witnesses in the trial.

PHOTO: Rep. Joacquin Castro and Rep. Peter Meijer are shown in a composite file image.
Rep. Joacquin Castro and Rep. Peter Meijer are shown in a composite file image.
Getty Images, FILE

Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., who was one of only 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach, said in a separate interview on "This Week" Sunday, that the past few days were "absolutely gut-wrenching."

"This was not as easy as just saying what is in our best political interest, but frankly looking at the evidence, looking at the facts of the case," Meijer said. "I think this is a time for reflection, but it's also a time for accountability."

"I'm calling on my party to restore trust, to restore the trust of the voting public and to ensure that ... we never allow that outburst of political violence to occur in our name again," Meijer added.

Stephanopoulos asked Meijer if he was worried his vote to impeach could have ended his career, something Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller insinuated on Twitter.

"Oh, I may very well have, but I think it's also important that we have elected leaders who are not thinking solely about what's in their individual self-interest. Not what is going to be politically expedient, but what we actually need for our country," Meijer said.

Stephanopoulos challenged Meijer as to why so few of his colleagues voted the same way he did.

"How do you explain why so few of your Republican colleagues agreed with you on impeachment, why so many joined those objections the elections had propagated about those false allegations of voter fraud?" he asked.

Meijer said he felt they all arrived at their decisions in an "honest and forthright way."

Stephanopoulos also challenged Castro on questions about the constitutionality of convicting a president who has already left office. Some Members of Congress, like Sen. Tom Cotton, and other legal scholars and experts have raised that concern.

"Are you concerned that they may be able to find that this is not constitutional, this trial?" Stephanopoulos asked Castro.

"I don't believe so. In fact, one of the other purposes of impeachment in this case is to make sure that the -- that President Trump is not able to run for federal office again, that he's not able to seek the presidency," Castro said. "The reason for that is that somebody who incited a riot, an attempted coup of the United States government should not be president again. So it's not just about making sure that there are consequences to his behavior."

Some Republicans are also arguing that to impeach the president on such grounds would be a violation of the First Amendment and free speech. Stephanopoulos pressed Castro on the argument, but Castro told him the president's incitement of violence superseded any arguments of free-speech violations.

"I think this is quite separate from the First Amendment," Castro said. "This is a president who, knowing that he was in a very combustible, emotionally-charged situation, continued to work up his supporters, not once or twice, but repeatedly over and over, telling a big lie about a stolen election."

Both members also called for accountability for their colleagues in light of recent allegations that some could have "aided and abetted" those who violently stormed the Capitol by providing them with tours or information.

Castro said he is focused on impeachment, but there will be a separate process in investigating those who may have "participated and helped" in that riot. Meijer said he feels it is important that no one jumps to conclusions, but that "anyone who was responsible or participated, they should be held to the fullest extent of the law."

Meijer said the events of Jan. 6 cast a dark shadow over what he feels was a successful four years of a Trump presidency.

"I think it's time that we acknowledge that what happened on Jan. 6 was a betrayal of what had been accomplished over the last four years," Meijer said. "The president brought some necessary energy. ... The challenge was he didn't know when to stop, and he didn't draw a line, and to me, political violence is the line that we must draw."