WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid calls for impeachment in the nation’s capital, Oswego County’s representatives in the House of Representatives are not opposed to investigating President Trump’s actions but neither support impeachment.
Over the past week, a July phone call between Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and a whistleblower’s complaint about related to that conversation came to light, causing Democrats to push for an impeachment inquiry. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, continue to oppose impeachment proceedings against President Trump and called the present state of Washington “troubling.”
“I think that’s really unprecedented in our nation’s history and I think it’s a major step in the wrong direction,” Katko said in an interview with The Palladium-Times Friday evening. “They put the cart before the horse here by voting to start the impeachment process without even knowing what the evidence is going to ultimately show.”
In the phone call in question, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in the Eastern European country. Seeking assistance in U.S. elections from a foreign government is illegal under federal law, but some lawmakers argue Trump’s actions don’t amount to that.
Democratic leadership, which had largely opposed impeachment, changed course and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday an impeachment inquiry would be launched.
Brindisi, one of a small number of House Democrats who does not support the exploration of an impeachment procedure, said after reading the White House memo and the whistleblower’s report he was left “very troubled.”
“I want to see more facts and I want to hear from the whistleblower, whomever they are,” the Utica Congressman told The Palladium-Times Friday.
Katko said it’s not clear where the facts would lead, but noted House committees are capable of handling such an investigation. He said it appears many House Democrats have concluded impeachment is an appropriate process without knowing all the facts.
The whistleblower’s report is “all second- and third-party accounts” and the transcript is “certainly not enough evidence in court to convict someone of any crime,” Katko said. He did, however, note the whistleblower report does provide a roadmap for congress to investigate.
“But instead of rolling up their sleeves and checking out the facts, they rushed to start the impeachment process,” Katko said, adding it appeared to be strictly to satisfy the political left. “It really puts this country on an unprecedented track and that’s very troubling.”
Katko, who served two decades as a federal prosecutor, said in that role you build a case before bringing charges, and Democrats have made the charge before building a case against the president.
“I’m not saying ‘don’t look into these things,’ but what I’m saying is starting the impeachment process before you know where the facts have taken you is a very unprecedented move in our country’s history,” Katko said. “Follow the facts — that’s the key — and they haven’t don’t that here.”
Asked about recent attacks by President Trump and others on the whistleblower’s credibility, Katko said at this point he has no reason to attack the whistleblower’s credibility or intent.
“If they do the investigation and find out this was all a partisan thing that would be a problem, but they don’t know that yet,” Katko said. “I don’t have any reason to attack that person. Just take a look at the facts.”
Brindisi said he and Katko, who have collaborated on legislation before and have touted having a relationship of constant communication and candor, spoke on the floor of the House Friday regarding new information provided by the whistleblower.
“We both want to see more facts,” Brindisi highlighted. “It varies for other parts of Congress, from some who are gleeful about the investigation to some who are circling the wagons to protect the president. Both of us, on both sides, want to see where the facts lead.”
When asked about potential concerns regarding upcoming electoral processes brought upon by content found in the memo, Brindisi said it “should be concerning to all of us.”
“It is the one thing from the Muller Report that is not getting enough attention,” he added. “I have voted for a number of bipartisan bills in the House on election security because the American people deserve to know that their vote is going to count and not be interfered with.”
Reflecting on the current political climate, Brindisi noted allegations of abuse of power for the president’s own gain are “serious matters” and added he believes it brings upon a “bad time for our country.”
“Nobody should be cheering about this investigation and nobody should be circling the wagons to protect the president,” Brindisi said. “We owe it to the american people to get this right and keep politics out of it. I'll continue to follow the facts that emerge from the investigation and see where they lead us.”
Katko said in the end the American people would suffer the most from the current political climate, as the impeachment inquiry would likely consume lawmakers time and attention, leaving little room to address issues such as prescription drug pricing, infrastructure and election security.
“Everything is going to grind to a halt because of it,” he said.