Putting Al Green’s comments on impeachment in context

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, has been a vocal supporter of impeachment since President Donald Trump was first elected. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, has been a vocal supporter of impeachment since President Donald Trump was first elected. (Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
In his first Cabinet meeting since the U.S. House launched its impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump cast the effort as politically motivated and suggested that Democrats are only pursuing impeachment because they can’t beat him in 2020.
 
Specifically, he referenced comments from U.S. Rep. Al Green, a Democrat from Houston who has been a vocal supporter of impeaching Trump since well before the current inquiry.
 
"I see this guy, Congressman Al Green, say, ‘We have to impeach him, otherwise he’s going to win the election’," Trump said. "What’s that all about? But that’s exactly what they’re saying. ‘We have to impeach him because otherwise he’s going to win.' I'm going to win the election."
 
This isn’t the first time Trump has spoken about Green’s remarks. His statement stems from an interview Green gave in May — months before the whistleblower complaint behind the ongoing inquiry was filed.
 
In earlier descriptions of Green’s comments, Trump has mischaracterized what the congressman said. His statement at the Cabinet meeting was the most closely in line with what Green actually said, but still lacks context.
 
So what did Green actually say? Let’s take a look.
 
May interview with Green about impeachment
 
Green has made multiple attempts to impeach Trump since the Republican president took office.
 
In his efforts, Green has cited possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election. He also raised concerns that Trump obstructed the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian interference.
 
The origin of Trump’s claim is an interview Green gave to Phillip Mena on MSNBC in May.
 
The interview took place before the whistleblower complaint was filed and focused on Trump’s admission that month that he had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin but did not warn him not to meddle in the next U.S. election.
 
Mena first asked Green to share his thoughts on Trump’s remarks and then pivoted to Green’s impeachment efforts. Mena shared recent polling that showed there is a partisan divide among voters on whether they would support Congress impeaching Trump.
 
He then asked Green: "Congressman, are you concerned that impeachment talk may actually help the president’s reelection?"
 
In reply, Green first answered Mena’s question and then discussed why he supports impeachment.
 
Green spoke for more than two minutes and said: "I'm concerned that if we don't impeach this president, he will get reelected. If we don't impeach him, he will say he has been vindicated. He will say the Democrats had an overwhelming majority in the House and they didn't take up impeachment. He will say that we have a constitutional duty to do it if it was there and we didn’t. He will say that he has been vindicated.
 
"But here’s what I say. We are confronting a constitutional crisis as I speak to you. As I look the people of America in the eye, I’m telling you we have a constitutional crisis. When the chief executive officer, the president of the United States, refuses to comply with subpoenas and says he will order others to do so, this creates a constitutional crisis.
 
"But this isn’t the genesis of it. It started when the president said he would fire Mr. Comey for his failure, pardon me, as a result of his desire not to be investigated. And when he decided to do this — and he went on TV, on national TV at prime time — and indicated he was thinking about this Russia thing, that was the genesis of it.
 
"We have a constitutional crisis. I regret that I am the canary in the coal mine. I regret that I was the person who had to first say that there was some obstruction taking place here. I regret that it has to be me, but it has to be somebody. I take my duties seriously. I love my country Mr. Mena and I want you to know this — we must impeach this president. If we don’t, it’s not the soul of the nation that will be at risk only. It is the soul of the Congress that is at risk. Congress has a duty, a responsibility, an obligation, that only it can fulfill, no one else can. No other entity can. It is Congress that will have to act. If we put people above party, we’ll act properly. But if we allow a party to be above principle, we will not. If we allow political expediency to trump moral imperative, we will have created a shameful situation that this Congress will never live down. History won’t be kind to us. We must impeach him."
 
Green shared the clip in a tweet, and said: "Mr. President, YOU WILL FACE IMPEACHMENT for factual obstruction and/or actual bigotry in policy. You are not above the law. You have a date with destiny."
 
Other comments from Trump
 
After the interview, Trump shared a tweet citing reporting from the conservative One America News Network that inaccurately described Green’s comment.
 
"‘Democrat Texas Congressman Al Green says impeachment is the only thing that can prevent President Trump from re-election in 2020’," Trump said, quoting from One America News. "In other words, Dems can’t win the election fairly. You can’t impeach a president for creating the best economy in our country’s history."
 
"Also, there are "No High Crimes & Misdemeanors," No Collusion, No Conspiracy, No Obstruction. ALL THE CRIMES ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE, and that’s what the Dems should be looking at, but they won’t. Nevertheless, the tables are turning!"
 
In September, Trump shared another tweet about Green’s remarks, this time with an inaccurate quote from the interview.
 
"‘We can’t beat him, so lets impeach him!’ (said) Democrat Rep. Al Green," Trump said.
 
Green responded to Trump in a tweet of his own: "It’s no surprise that @realDonaldTrump, who promoted birther conspiracies about President Obama, who claimed there were nice people among the bigots and racists in Charlottesville, and who consistently engages in perfidy, would tweet another untruth. I never said that."
 
Trump isn’t the only person to zero in on Green’s comments on impeachment and reelection.
 
This month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy shared an edited clip from the interview that showed Green saying only: "I'm concerned that if we don't impeach this president, he will get re-elected."
 
In his tweet, which made no mention of the fact that Green’s interview was not in reference to the current impeachment inquiry, McCarthy wrote: "Here's what it looks like when Democrats are being honest."