ct-n video
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks to reporters at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Friday (ct-n video)

House Vote Sets Stage For Public Hearings

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — a move that sets the stage for public hearings in the weeks ahead — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said he believes there is strong evidence against Trump that will result in a trial in the U.S. Senate early next year.

“Eventually, I expect there will be a vote (in the House) on articles of impeachment,” he said at a Friday afternoon press conference. “I can’t predict now how it will come out, but clearly not only the president’s own words out of his own mouth, but also corroborating witnesses … all show that there was a quid pro quo and that critical aid was delayed and potentially denied to Ukraine, a partner of this country fighting for its life against Russia.”

Blumenthal said he believes recent congressional testimony from several individuals, including William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine; Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman; and former White House aide Tim Morrison, as well as the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Trump’s own admissions, illustrate the president’s violation of “the public trust, his oath of office, and the Constitution,” and warrant impeachment.

Blumenthal further said he believed the president’s actions had “jeopardized and compromised” U.S. national security — one of the main concerns at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“The president’s quid pro quo jeopardized and compromised our own national security because that aid had a military and national security purpose for the United States’ interests in stopping Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “I know because I helped to author the amendment in the Defense Authorization Act of last year that provided for that aid and urged in a letter with my colleagues that the aid be released in early September.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to the vote by suggesting the Democrats were operating with precedent.

“They have denied President Trump basic due process and are cutting his counsel out of the process in an unprecedented way. House Democrats’ new resolution does not change any of that,” McConnell said. “The draft resolution that has been released does nothing of the sort. It falls way short, way short.”

‘This vote in the Senate will be one for the history books’

Moving forward, Blumenthal said he hoped that senators would work together in a bipartisan fashion should a trial come to pass in the Senate next year.

“There has been a strong, bipartisan approach (in the past) to this question of utmost seriousness and solemnity,” he said. “In the Clinton trial, there was a lot of bipartisan cooperation and in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, it was ultimately the Republicans who persuaded him to resign before the trial. My hope is that this proceeding will be conducted in a way that reflects the best of the Senate as an institution, which is bipartisan in the moments of ultimate challenge to our nation.”

Asked if he thought there were enough votes in the Senate to convict the president, Blumenthal said it was too early to speculate, given that public hearings in the House alone have yet to begin.

“I think two events are going to happen: We are going to have public proceedings, which have the potential to seismically change public opinion — including the opinion that most affects my Republican colleagues, which are Republican voters,” he said. “The second point is that this vote in the Senate will be one for the history books. It will be a ‘War and Peace’ type of vote. It will haunt my Republican colleagues for their lifetimes and beyond. History will haunt them.”

Blumenthal acknowledged that the trial would be a full-time endeavor that would interfere with congressional business, but again voiced hope that Congress would work together to complete as much business as possible ahead of time.

Impeachment votes largely along party lines

Thursday’s 232-196 vote in the House to approve a resolution detailing procedures for a formal impeachment inquiry largely fell along party lines and came roughly five weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the opening of the inquiry. As many members previously indicated, Connecticut’s entire House delegation voted in favor of the resolution. Former Republican Congressman Justin Amash, I-MI, who became the only Republican in Congress to publicly voice his support for the impeachment of Trump earlier this year, also voted in favor of the resolution. Two Democrats — U.S. Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota — broke from party lines and voted against the resolution alongside Republicans.

Trump, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in his communications with Ukraine, lashed out on Twitter after the vote, calling the impeachment inquiry “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

The House is expected to begin public hearings in the inquiry in a few weeks.