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Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said several times since last August that he’d vote to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
But the El Paso U.S. House member trying to upset Republican Sen. Ted Cruz this November stresses that he’s not called for Trump’s impeachment.
That is, he’d personally vote as a House member to impeach Trump, O'Rourke says, but he’s not in favor of that happening at this time.
The Constitution gives the House the power to impeach the president, vice president and other civil federal officials for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors while it gives the Senate the power of trying impeachments. Convictions and consequent removals from office require the concurrence of two-thirds’ of senators in attendance. In recent history, President Bill Clinton was impeached; he wasn’t convicted or removed.
How O'Rourke talks about impeachment drew our attention as we investigated a July 17 claim by Cruz. In a press release, Cruz’s campaign called O’Rourke the nation’s only Senate candidate to call for impeaching Trump.
That’s not so, it turned out. We identified Democratic aspirants in California and Minnesota, each of whom has talked up Trump's impeachment, and rated Cruz’s claim False.
We heard about O’Rourke’s yes-and-no stance on Trump's impeachment after querying his campaign about Cruz's claim.
By email, O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans initially replied: "Beto has never called for the impeachment of President Trump."
Evans maintained that O’Rourke’s responses to reporters and voters about voting in favor of impeachment weren’t the same as the candidate calling for impeachment. Evans elaborated that O’Rourke hasn’t brought up impeachment "at town halls or rallies, has not sent fundraising or petition emails on it, has not posted social media advocating for it, and has not used his current position of public trust to do so through floor speeches, letters or resolutions."
Evans also pointed out an interview O’Rourke gave to Showtime’s "The Circus," which was posted online in May. At the time, O’Rourke replied that as a House member, he’d vote right then to impeach Trump. Asked if he’d vote as a senator to convict Trump, O’Rourke replied: "Until I'm in that position and am able to hear the case made by each side, all the facts laid out, I can't give you an answer on that--nor would you want me to."
Also posted today: A news story from ABC News quoting O’Rourke saying he’d vote to impeach Trump if such a measure advanced to the House floor.
But, the story says, O’Rourke added that he has "never called for (his) impeachment" directly. According to the story, O’Rourke also emphasized the difference between impeachment and conviction. "Impeachment is an indication that there is something there. I would liken it to an indictment," O’Rourke said. "A conviction is...something that members of the Senate would have to consider after having all of the facts."
UPDATE, 11:39 a.m., Aug. 1, 2018: Days after we posted this story, we learned from a news story in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that O’Rourke told its reporter, Matt Dotray, July 31, 2018 that it’s too early to say whether he’d vote to impeach Trump.
To our inquiry, Dotray emailed us his transcript of O’Rourke’s reply to a question about whether O’Rourke aligns with the argument that a vote for him is a vote for impeaching the president.
"On the issue of impeachment, I’ve never called for it, and you’ve seen us, I’ve never led a town hall with it. I’m not on the resolution calling for the president’s impeachment. What I think we need to do is allow the Bob Mueller investigation to follow its course, and allow him to find the facts wherever they lead, as high up as they go. There’s got to be justice, there were 12 indictments announced two weeks ago for Russian nationals who interfered in our elections. There’s got to be accountability, and we’ve got to safeguard one of the most sacred institutions we have in this country, and that’s the ballot box, and our ability to choose our own leaders. It’s pretty impressive we can still do that, and we shouldn’t allow anything to threaten it."
Truth-O-Meter article, "Is Beto O'Rourke the only Senate candidate to call for Donald Trump's impeachment?," PolitiFact Texas, July 25, 2018
Press release, "Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s Reckless Call to Impeach Pres. Trump," Ted Cruz campaign, July 17, 2018
Emails, Chris Evans, communications director, Beto O’Rourke campaign, July 24, 2018
News story, "Rep. O’Rourke on Powerhouse Politics: Abolish ICE is just a ‘slogan,'" ABC News, posted online 12:55 p.m. EDT, July 25, 2018
News story, "O’Rourke draws crowds in tour through Lubbock, West Texas," Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Aug. 31, 2018
Document, "Question to Beto O’Rourke from Matt Dotray, Reporter, Avalanche-Journal, and O’Rourke’s Answer," July 31, 2018 (information received from Dotray by email, Aug. 1, 2018)