Congress Needs To ‘Use Every Tool In Our Power’ To Remove Trump, Says Rep. Diana DeGette

January 12, 2021
Congress Electoral CollegeCongress Electoral CollegeHouse Television via AP
In this image from video, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

President Donald Trump is an “imminent threat” to the country and should be impeached even if his ouster overshadows the first days of President-elect Joe Biden’s term, said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette the week after the U.S. Capitol was breached in an insurrection.

“What we're trying to do is use every tool in our power to get this very dangerous man (Trump) removed,” the Denver Democrat told Colorado Matters.

“Don't forget he's got his finger on the nuclear codes. I mean, he could do a lot of damage between now and next week.”

The plan in the Democrat-controlled House is to first vote on a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. If Pence doesn’t act, an impeachment vote is scheduled to follow the next day. That’s likely to pass, moving the case to the Senate, where any action is unlikely until after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Biden has said the rioters who staged an insurrection at the Capitol should be prosecuted. But he also made it clear he’s worried a Senate trial will delay action on his cabinet appointments and on a proposed stimulus package to bolster the nation’s sagging economy in the face of the pandemic.

For her part, DeGette isn’t worried about legislative schedules.

“What the Senate does in terms of the trial, they'll have to work that out.”

Even if Trump is convicted after he leaves office, she said, the Senate could bar him from ever holding public office again.

Republicans, including Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, have argued that impeachment will fuel partisanship and make it harder for Biden to get his agenda passed. DeGette rejected that argument.

 “I find it to be a little rich that people like Ken Buck are now saying that this is causing a division,” she said. “What people like Congressman Buck and others should do if they're really worried about the division in this country, then they should work with Vice President Pence and the cabinet to remove this dangerous man. And they should work with us to try to come together, to put together an agenda.”

Interview Highlights:

On her test for COVID-19 after the insurrection:

“We were evacuated to this safe room and there were several hundred people in there. I was in this room for six hours and the whole time I was sitting there, I had my mask on, of course, but the whole time I was sitting there I was thinking this is going to be a super spreader event because there was this group of Republicans who absolutely refused to put masks on. … I had a test yesterday, mercifully the test has come back negative but I'm going to have another test before I come back home at the end of the week.”

On Biden’s plan to speed vaccine distribution:

“What he needs to do is something the Trump administration just failed to do, which is to take control of a national strategy for distribution of the vaccines, especially as we move into vaccinating the general public. So the president needs to work with, obviously, the state governments, but we need to have a federal response  — either stadiums or large venue  where we can have a robust, organized, coordinated effort to vaccinate millions of Americans this spring.

On her legislative agenda for the new Congress:

“I'm … working on legislation on climate change. The Biden administration has said that's one of their top priorities and it's an urgency that needs to be addressed and so I've got legislation on climate change. I'll be reintroducing my wilderness bill and with (West Virginia Democratic Sen.) Joe Manchin now the chair of the appropriate committee in the Senate I have a great deal of hope of passing that bill early in the session because he supports the legislation.”

On efforts to oust Rep. Lauren Boebert for her support of Trump’s false election claims:

“It’s not just Rep. Boebert, there’s others …  who seemed to take a heightened role in the inflaming of emotions. But I need to do the research about all of these numbers to see exactly what they did say. Were they just exercising their First Amendment right or were they actually inciting sedition? So that's what we're working on right now.”

Read The Transcript

Avery Lill: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Avery Lill. The U.S. House is moving toward a vote to impeach President Donald Trump. 

Congress is expected to vote later today on a resolution demanding that Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to oust President Trump. If Pence doesn't do that, the impeachment vote will be tomorrow. This comes after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and some questions about impeachment from President-Elect Joe Biden. 

I'm joined by the dean of Colorado's congressional delegation, Democratic Representative DG: of Denver. 

Congresswoman, welcome to the program.

Diana DeGette: Thank you. Great being with you.

AL: President-Elect Joe Biden said yesterday the rioters should be prosecuted and he knows there will be an impeachment trial, but he's asked Senate leaders if there's a way they can hold a trial and work on his priorities, approving a cabinet and a stimulus package, at the same time. Is it worth taking all this attention away from a new president and his goals at a crucial time for the country?

DD: Well, I've got to say we've got a much more imminent threat and that imminent threat is Donald J. Trump. I think Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi would have hoped that he would resign. Today, as you said, we'll have a vote on the 25th Amendment, urging Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to remove the president. We would hope that would put pressure on the president to resign as well as the imminent impeachment vote tomorrow.

But remember, the House has its duty. In this case, the article of impeachment is really like the charging document saying, "Donald Trump, you encouraged sedition and those actions are actions that would cause you to be removed." What the Senate does in terms of the trial, they'll have to work that out. But what we're trying to do is use every tool in our power to get this very dangerous man removed. Don't forget, he's got his finger on the nuclear codes. He could do a lot of damage between now and next week.

AL: You used the word imminent quite a bit, but what would the real impact of impeachment be given that the trial would likely be after President Trump leaves office?

DD: Well, as I said, we continue to hope that in the next few days, every day what we're saying is he continues to be a risk, and we believe that Vice President Pence and the Cabinet should remove him immediately or he should resign. So we're putting all the pressure we can.

Now, if he doesn't do that and we impeach him, well, a Senate conviction could have a number of important results. Number one, he would never be allowed to hold federal office again. Number two, he would lose things like his pension and his annual salary. -- other ways to say this is just not appropriate. I got to say, I've never seen anything like this in my life. I was in Congress for September 11th. I was cowering in the House gallery along with Jason Crow, listening to gunshots in the Speaker's lobby. All of these people were instigated by the President of the United States.

AL: We should say for clarity that if the Senate were to convict, they would have to hold a separate vote on whether he could hold office again, correct?

DD: I believe that's right.

AL: Now, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck has written President-Elect Biden, asking him to stop the impeachment. Buck wrote that the impeachment is, quoting here, "As unnecessary as it is inflammatory." What is your response to Republicans who say that this is a very partisan action?

DD: Well, I would say, give me a break. Here's a man who incited thousands of people to walk from the White House up the Mall to the Capitol to stop the proceedings certifying his replacement, Joe Biden. So I find it to be a little rich that people like Ken Buck are now saying that this is causing a division.

What people like Congressman Buck and others should do if they're really worried about the division in this country, then they should work with Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to remove this dangerous man. And they should work with us to try to come together to put together an agenda.

And by the way, I've heard from a lot of my Republican colleagues in the last few days, they haven't been as vocal, but they understand how dangerous Donald Trump is. I would suspect we will have Republican votes on this impeachment.

AL: When the House impeached President Trump in late 2019, you presided over some of the sessions. Will you have a role this time? And if so, what will it be?

DD: I was honored that Nancy Pelosi asked me to preside over the impeachment of President Trump. She asked me to do that because I have a reputation of being fair by both sides of the aisle. I wanted to make sure that we had a fair proceeding and that we limited some of the rancor and hostility that can go on on the floor. I have told the Speaker that I'm willing to help out again in any way that she needs. That's one reason why last Friday, I was scheduled to come home to Colorado like I do every weekend, but I canceled my flight, and I've stayed here in DC since then. This morning, I opened up the House for the pro forma session. So I'll help the Speaker in any way she needs me.

AL: Going back to January 6th, two Colorado Republicans voted to object to certification of the electoral college votes from certain states. That's Representative Lauren Boebert of Silt, Colorado, and Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs. On Monday, a resolution was introduced calling for lawmakers who objected to be expelled from Congress. Do you agree with that position?

DD: First of all, as I said on the House floor last Wednesday when we finally completed the debate, I said, "On Sunday, on the 3rd of January, we all took an oath to uphold the Constitution." Then these members voted for these efforts to overturn legally certified results by the states. I don't think that that's upholding the Constitution, but I think we'll have to figure out later what we do with the 139 Republicans who voted for either one or both of those resolutions. I do think it was an abrogation of their constitutional oath.

AL: Do you support expelling them from Congress?

DD: I think we'll have to look at it. I frankly haven't had a lot of time to do the research because I've been busy trying to make sure that we can remove the imminent threat and the imminent threat is Donald Trump.

AL: Representative Boebert in particular has been quite outspoken in this regard. On the day of the insurrection, she tweeted, "Today is 1776." There is now an organized push for her to resign. Do you think she should? 

DD: Well, again, I've asked my staff to compile... It's not just Representative Boebert. There's others, Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and others, who seemed to take a heightened role in the inflaming of emotions. But I need to do the research about all of these numbers to see exactly what they did say. Were they just exercising their First Amendment right or were they actually inciting sedition? So that's what we're working on right now.

AL: Democratic Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) has been very critical of Boebert. They've sparred quite a bit on Twitter. Do you think that this will make it more difficult for them to work together?

DD: Well, Congresswoman Boebert is a brand-new member of Congress. She just got here. Her maiden speech was on the floor in the effort to overturn the legally certified results. I'm not really sure how much she intends to try to work in a bipartisan way on legislation. I haven't seen any evidence of that yet.

AL: Now, President-Elect Biden has said he wants to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations and pass a stimulus package. What do you think his next priority should be? And what are your legislative priorities going forward?

DD: So, thank you for asking that question because I think and I actually believe that after the inauguration next week we're going to have a real opportunity for some bipartisan legislation. The first thing, as you said, is speeding up the COVID response, both the vaccinations and also efforts to help state and local government, small businesses, and individuals get their feet back. So that'll be the first effort.

The second effort will be to make sure that we shore up the economy. I'm working as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee on those issues, but I'm also working on legislation on climate change. The Biden administration has said that's one of their top priorities and it's an urgency that needs to be addressed. So, I've got legislation on climate change. I'll be reintroducing my wilderness bill. And with Joe Manchin (D-West Va.), now the chair of the appropriate committee in the Senate I have a great deal of hope of passing that bill early in the session because he supports the legislation. And, of course, I have bipartisan support for that bill. There's going to be a lot of really good opportunities as we move into the spring and summer.

AL: Now, President-Elect Biden is scheduled to announce a new plan for vaccines later this week. In your view, what is the first step he should take there?

DD: Well, what he needs to do is something the Trump administration just failed to do, which is to take control of the national strategy for distribution of the vaccines, especially as we move into vaccinating the general public. So, the president needs to work with obviously the state governments, but we need to have a federal response, either stadiums or large venues, where we can have a robust, organized, coordinated effort to vaccinate millions of Americans this spring.

AL: Related to the virus, after the rioters breached the Capitol last Wednesday, you went with many of your colleagues to a secure location. Some people didn't have masks on and declined when they were offered. At least one person in the room has since tested positive for COVID-19. Have you been tested?

DD: Yeah, so I was one of the people who was stuck in the gallery. I was right next to Jason Crow actually. So, we were stuck there, and then eventually we were evacuated to this safe room, and there were several hundred people in the safe room. I was in this room for six hours. The whole time I was sitting there, I had my mask on, of course. But the whole time I was sitting there, I was thinking, "This is going to be a super spreader of that," because there was this group of Republicans who absolutely refused to put masks on. I saw my colleague, Lisa Blunt Rochester, try to get them to put masks on. They just scoffed at her.

Well, as you said, now Bonnie Watson Coleman, age 75, has been diagnosed with coronavirus. And now just last night, my colleague Pramila Jayapal who was there with me, was diagnosed. So it's two people so far. I had a test yesterday, mercifully the test has come back negative, but I'm going to have another test before I come back home at the end of the week.

AL: I'm glad to hear that you're negative for now.

DD: Can you imagine? It's just terrible. First, you're the victim of this incursion of the Capitol. Then now, the safe area becomes a super spreader event.

AL: Rep. DeGette, thank you so much for your time.

DD: I'm so glad to be with you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

AL: Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette represents Denver and is among the sponsors of an article of impeachment against President Trump. This is Colorado Matters from CPR News.

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