U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt remains opposed to President Donald Trump’s impeachment, as the Senate trial continues into its second week.
The U.S. House has “clearly failed” to make a case that Trump should be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son’s activities, the Republican said in an interview Tuesday.
Missouri’s senior senator said the fact that the Democrats are pushing to call witnesses during the Senate trial implies that they don’t think their case is strong enough without more information being introduced into the process.
“They have repeatedly said they have clear and convincing evidence, but then they say they need more evidence,” Blunt said.
Democrats renewed their call over the weekend for the Senate to hear witnesses after Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton alleged in a forthcoming book that the president pressured Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.
At least a few Republican Senators have also said they are interested in hearing from witnesses, specifically Bolton, as well. As a result, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday night that he‘s not sure he has enough votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to block the calling of witnesses like Bolton.
Blunt is not among the small group of Republicans pushing to hear from witnesses.
"It’s unlikely that John Bolton would say anything that would change the result. So my view would be that we need to go ahead and get to the end of the impeachment process,” Blunt said.
Blunt said Bolton’s potential testimony probably would be tied up in the courts for weeks or possibly months — as the Trump administration would likely challenge whether Bolton could testify at all. Blunt does not think impeachment proceedings should stretch on for much longer just to hear from Bolton.
“If the only reason to hear from John Bolton is just because you are interested in hearing what he has to say, there are more realistic and reasonable ways for the Congress to do that than to wait for three or four weeks more on impeachment,” he said.
Blunt has a special role to fill during the impeachment proceedings. As the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Blunt oversees security for the chamber. That means he ends up getting to work earlier and leaving work later than most of his colleagues, he said.
“If there’s a restaurant problem, it’s my problem that day. If there’s a security problem, it’s my problem that day,” Blunt said.
As rules chairman, Blunt has restricted media access during the impeachment trial. He said that is partially a result of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts being in the building. Roberts’ presence requires extra caution, he said. The congressional press corps complained about the restrictions earlier this month, according to the Kansas City Star, but Blunt said not much has changed.
“I think the access that the press has is very similar to what it usually has,” he said.
Blunt also expressed more overarching concerns about presidential impeachment, those that don’t necessarily relate to Trump. He said he felt as if politics was beginning to influence the impeachment process too much.
Only one president was impeached during the first 180 years of the United States' existence, but two presidents have been impeached over the last 25 years. Blunt believes impeachment should only be pursued in extreme cases — where there is bipartisan support behind it.
“Impeachment is looking like a political process rather than a rarity,” he said.
Easing banking restrictions for medical marijuana businesses
Blunt said he is supportive of legislation working its way through Congress that would make it easier for legal marijuana companies to use traditional banks.
Many Missouri banks are reluctant to do business with the state’s new medical marijuana industry because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and banks are federally insured.
“My view of that is there are some reasons to have some real concerns about marijuana, medical or otherwise. Because of those concerns, you have even more problems if you make it a cash-only business, if you keep people in this now-legal business from using the legal banking system,” Blunt said.
The House has passed the bill, called the SAFE banking act, but the legislation is held up in the Senate banking committee. The chairman of the committee, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, is opposed to the legalization of any marijuana.
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