Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, one of the prosecutors in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, said Colorado's Republican senator is “not telling the truth” in his defense of President Donald Trump’s actions in Ukraine.
Sen. Cory Gardner voted to acquit Trump on both impeachment articles in Wednesday's historic vote. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet voted guilty on both articles. Before Gardner's floor speech, he told CPR News that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine based on concern about corruption, not the president’s own political gain.
“We have to be able as a country to determine how our money is being spent,” Gardner said. “And that is not an impeachable offense.”
Crow, the freshman lawmaker who represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, rejected that argument: “The trial showed unequivocally that that's just not true. Cory Gardner is not telling the truth there.’’
The Trump Impeachment Trial Vote
Instead, he thinks that the incumbent GOP senator is “doing what he feels is politically in his own best interest instead of doing what is right and upholding his oath. And it's very disappointing … There was no policy discussion going on with the administration. There was no debate. It's very clear that the president was withholding this aid to benefit his own reelection campaign and force an ally to help him in doing so.”
Crow served as one of seven House impeachment managers who prosecuted the impeachment case before the senate. In one of several speeches during the trial, he told the senators the Constitution’s framers chose them to serve as “the court of greatest impartiality” as impeachment jurors.
In the end, he said, a lot of senators “did not uphold their duty to be impartial jurors,” leaving this as the only impeachment trial at which witnesses and additional documents were not allowed. “The acquittal of President Trump will always have an asterisk at the end of it,” Crow said.
On watching the impeachment vote:
“Well, we were sitting at the House Manager table on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I was about 20 feet from Chief Justice Roberts, sitting in front of the Democratic side of the senators. And it was a very somber time as we went through. And senators either stood up and said guilty or not guilty. I think we were all surprised by (Utah Republican Sen.) Mitt Romney's vote of guilty, and in our view, it is truly a profile in courage.”
On whether, given the Republican Senate majority and the likelihood of acquittal, impeachment was worth it:
“I think it's always worth it to do your duty and to stand up for the Constitution and to defend the country. I think history will show that, and history will treat those well who stood up during this time to fight for our Constitution and our very valuable system. So I never regret doing that.”
On whether the president’s behavior will change as a result of the trial:
“I don't think his behavior is going to change. What needs to change is Congress's willingness to actually check his power and be the co-equal branch that we need to be.”
On House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech:
“I think what was not appropriate was President Trump coming into the House, coming into the Capitol and making this a campaign rally … the president came in and told a lot of mistruths and misleading statements and I think that the focus should be on what the president did and how people react to that. Obviously people react to it in different ways.”
Full Interview Transcript
Avery Lill: It took about a half-hour for the U.S. Senate to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. That ended an unexpected, high-profile role for freshman Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. He’s one of the Democratic representatives who prosecuted the impeachment case. Congressman, welcome back to the program.
Rep. Jason Crow: Hi Avery
AL: Where were you when the vote happened and what did you think as you watched it?
JC: Well, we were sitting at the House Manager table on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I was about 20 feet from Chief Justice Roberts, sitting in front of the Democratic side of the senators. And it was a very somber time as we went through. And senators either stood up and said guilty or not guilty. I think we were all surprised by (Utah Republican Sen.) Mitt Romney's vote of guilty, and in our view, it is truly a profile in courage.
AL: It seemed with the Republican majority in the Senate that this outcome, it was never really in doubt. President Trump's approval ratings in the Gallup poll are now the highest since he took office, perhaps a dangerous sign for Democrats like yourself. Was impeachment worth it?
JC: Well, I think it's always worth it to do your duty and to stand up for the Constitution and to defend the country. I think history will show that, and history will treat those well who stood up during this time to fight for our Constitution and our very valuable system. So, I never regret doing that.
AL: You spoke, the Washington Post somehow counted, 18,000 words during the Senate trial. Was there a moment that stood out for you, the words that you would want to go down in history?
JC: There were a lot of moments that stood out from me. I gave several speeches at the beginning of the trial. I spoke about my time and service and what it felt like to be a soldier and to not have the equipment that you needed when you needed it. And how the withholding of the military aid to Ukraine had an impact on the people that were fighting that war. And then I spoke later about my children, and why I was standing there and why I was doing what I was doing, and the kind of the legacy that we would all pass on to our children in trying to uphold the Constitution and show that certain things are worth fighting for.
AL: In your closing remarks you talked about a poster on your son's bedroom wall, actually, and it's a quote from a character in a Harry Potter series, a very wise professor.
JC: Audio Clip: The quote is from Professor Dumbledore, who said, ‘It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.’
This trial will soon be over, but there will be many choices for all of us in the days ahead. The most pressing of which is how each of us will decide to fulfill our oath. More than our words, our choices will show the world who we really are, what type of leaders we will be, and what type of nation we will be.
AL: So with impeachment over and the president acquitted, what does the result say about who we really are as a country, and what type of nation we will be?
JC: Well, I think this is really a story about people that showed a lot of courage. There were some Democratic senators from states that President Trump won who showed a lot of courage to do the right thing. Senator Romney did the same. There are people that are standing up and saying ‘This is not okay. We're not going to walk away and allow this to become the new normal,’ that we are better than this. And they're standing up across the country and saying that. So, for me, this is a story of the good in our country, the people who are willing to fight for right and that right matters at the end of the day.
AL: And in your closing argument at the trial, you said the Constitution's framers chose the Senate as the jury because they believed it would be, quoting you here, "the court of greatest impartiality." Did that hold true here?
JC: Well, I think there were a lot of people in the Senate who did not do what they were supposed to do and did not uphold their duty to be impartial jurors. This was ultimately the first Senate trial in American history, the first impeachment trial in American history that didn't have witnesses and documents. That's not right. That's not the way it was supposed to go. That's not what the Constitution and our founders envisioned. And the acquittal of President Trump will always have an asterisk at the end of it, because it didn't go through the full process and we didn't have the benefit of all the information and the entire picture of what President Trump did here.
JC: Now ultimately, the truth will come out. We will have that information. Ambassador Bolton's book will be published. People will write about this. Maybe some future administration will release the documents that we've been seeking. The truth will come out and people will have the full picture. Unfortunately, the Senate decided that it didn't want to hear it when it needed to hear it.
AL: When we talk about witnesses and evidence, should the House have pushed harder to get those into the Senate trial?
JC: Well, the House pushed really hard to get that information. Over the past, almost a year, the House committees that have been conducting the investigation and inquiry did subpoena witnesses. Ambassador Bolton made it really clear that he was going to fight that subpoena. And actually, to this day, we're still fighting to get the information from (former White House Counsel) Don McGahn who we subpoenaed last April. But what's really shocking to the president's argument that we should have pushed harder, we should have subpoenaed this information, is that on the very same day last week that the president's lawyers were making that argument in the impeachment trial, across town in Washington D.C. another set of President Trump's lawyers were actually sitting in court making the exact opposite argument, that the House does not have Constitutional authority to subpoena that information. So, they were making on the same day the exact opposite argument, so that duplicity I think is very telling.
JC: And I will never stop reminding folks that it is the Senate's job to hold the trial. This was not a court of appeals. The record was not set. Trials have documents and witnesses. Trials get to more evidence. That's the role of a trial. And for the Senate to say that the entire record had to be established in the House is just not true.
AL: Your Colorado colleague, Republican Senator Cory Gardner, voted to acquit. He said Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine, not for political gain, but to send that government a message about corruption. Gardner said that it was a policy decision, not an impeachable offense. Your thoughts?
JC: Well, the trial showed unequivocally, that that's just not true. Cory Gardner is not telling the truth there. He, I think is doing what he feels is politically in his own best interest instead of doing what is right and upholding his oath. And it's very disappointing. It's very disappointing for him to say something that the trial unequivocally showed not to be the case. There was no policy discussion going on with the administration. There was no debate. It's very clear that the president was withholding this aid to benefit his own reelection campaign and force an ally to help him in doing so. And that's what this trial was about.
AL: Now, taking a different tack, several Republican senators have said recently that they hope the president has learned his lesson, that he will be more cautious now. Do you think the president will behave differently?
JC: Well, I think history shows that the president doesn't change his behavior. He has shown us repeatedly who he is. And I think it's time that we believe him and we take that seriously. I don't think he's going to change. And as you just said, by many Republican senators’ own admission, we actually proved the facts contrary to what Senator Gardner said.
There were many Republican senators who actually said that it was inappropriate and it was abusive and what he did wasn't right, so by their own admission I think we showed our case. And I don't think the president has learned. And in fact, this week, shortly after the acquittal, he said as much, that he didn't think that he did anything wrong and his call was perfect. So, I don't think his behavior is going to change. What needs to change is Congress's willingness to actually check his power and be the co-equal branch that we need to be.
AL: Let's switch topics a bit and talk about what happened at the end of the president's State of the Union speech when Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up her copy of the speech in front of the cameras. Was that appropriate?
JC: Well, I think what was not appropriate was President Trump coming into the House, coming into the Capitol and making this a campaign rally. Starting off with members of the Congress chanting ‘four more years.’ Then going to presenting Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And doing a number of other things that broke with precedent and really important tradition in the House, where this is supposed to be an aspirational uniting speech, that Republicans and Democrats in the past have done. So, the president came in and told a lot of mistruths and misleading statements and I think that the focus should be on what the president did and how people react to that. Obviously, people react to it in different ways.
AL: And I want to ask just one more thing about that State of the Union. On the one hand, one of Democrats' strongest complaints about Trump is the tone that he set, his lack of civility. And I wonder if Pelosi's action was doing something along those same lines?
JC: Well, I think it's really important that we continue to take the high road and we show the country what we can and should be, and that's what we're going to continue to do. The president came in and said things that just were not true. He refused to shake the Speaker's hand. He did a lot of things that broke with precedent that he could have done differently if he wanted to try to unite the country and show that we could move forward in a better way.
AL: Representative Crow, thank you so much for joining me.
JC: Thank you.