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Rep. James Clyburn: Impeachment ‘a tool for protecting the integrity of our democracy’

Momentum is building on Capitol Hill for impeaching President Trump for the second time. House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss bipartisan calls for impeachment and the integrity of democracy.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With momentum building on Capitol Hill for impeaching President Trump for the second time, we're joined by Majority Whip James Clyburn. He is the third highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, where impeachment articles would be introduced.

    He's in his home state of South Carolina.

    Representative Clyburn, thank you very much for joining us.

    We know that Speaker Pelosi has said that, if Vice President Pence and the Cabinet don't move to invoke the 25th Amendment, then impeachment could take place. Do you believe it will happen next week?

  • Rep. James Clyburn:

    Well, I certainly hope so.

    We have been talking to members, and there's strong sentiment, and I might say bipartisan sentiment, for impeaching this president. The fact of the matter is, impeachment will give us a tool, not just for removal, but it will be a tool for protecting the integrity of our democracy. This president needs the scrutiny that impeachment will give him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The grounds we have seen on at least — in at least one of the articles that we have been reading from various members essentially cites — says the president is guilty of incitement to insurrection.

    Is that what you see the House moving forward on?

  • James Clyburn:

    Well, there are several members that have come up with various articles that they would like to see considered. And I suspect we will be taking a look at all of them. I expect there would be more than one, hopefully no more than three.

    But I think that what the president did prior to the election down in Georgia was really impeachable. And that certainly ought to be one of the considerations given.

    So, I think that what he did, trying to pressure a state official to in some way overturn the will of the voters, that, to me, is as impeachable as anything he may have said on the Mall or to those people gathering on the Mall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that phone — you're referring to that phone call to the Georgia secretary of state, where he asked him to find votes that would…

  • James Clyburn:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    … change the outcome.

    I want to ask you. The president's only in office about another 11 days. What does it accomplish? I hear you saying it would affect whether he could run again, serve again.

    But might you — might this end up encouraging the people who already support the president to be even more fiercely supportive if they think Democrats are trying to take him down?

  • James Clyburn:

    Well, Judy, I don't believe we ought to run the country that way.

    I think there are certain norms that we have to adhere to. I think there are certain laws that we have to obey. And we just cannot say, because it may have some political consequences, let's not do it.

    That is not the way to run the country. I think we ought to do what we think needs to be done in order to protect the integrity of this democracy. And one of those, I believe, right now is to impeach this president.

    Now, there's something interesting about impeachment. The more I read this stuff, the more things open up to me. One of them is this. When you are issuing pardons, I understand the president's got all kinds of authority to issue a pardon.

    But if you read down, it says, one of the exceptions he doesn't have is in cases of impeachment. Now he's talking about pardoning himself. So, if he's attempting to pardon himself, and he's impeached, that might answer the question for us as to whether or not he can pardon himself.

    So, there are a lot of things we need to take a look at in order to determine what we need to do to protect this — the integrity of this democracy. Already, Nancy Pelosi has been talking to the military leaders about what may or may not need to be done to keep us from getting enthralled in some kind of international conflict.

    This president has demonstrated time and time again had that he no respect for the dignity of that office. He will do anything he thinks is necessary in order to protect himself, including taking this country to war. That, to me, is worth us getting involved.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you believe it's worth going ahead with impeachment in the House, which would be a second time, even though the votes are not there in the Senate to convict?

  • James Clyburn:


    It didn't say, is he convicted of impeachment? It said, to be impeached. The House impeaches. The Senate convicts. So, if I just take the reading, it just says impeachment. And so I think it's worth doing.

    And, look, he's already said that he wants to be doing things that nobody else has much done before. This will help accommodate him. Nobody has — no president has ever been impeached for a second time before.

    So, in this instance, we will be helping him do at least one thing that he always said he wanted to do, and that's something nobody else has done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, Representative Clyburn, this has been a terrible week, with the assault on the United States Capitol and on the members who serve in the U.S. Congress.

    What is going to be your most enduring memory of this Wednesday?

  • James Clyburn:

    Well, my most enduring memory would be the conversations I saw taking place between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell when we were bunkered down.

    I saw how the government ought to work, Nancy and Mitch coming together and saying what we needed to do to get back to the Capitol and get back on the floor and continue doing what's necessary to have a peaceful transfer of power.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's an historic week for more than one reason. You're absolutely right about that.

    The majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman James Clyburn, thank you very much.

  • James Clyburn:

    Thank you.

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