Beto O'Rourke on impeachment: Voting in 2020 may be the "best way for us to resolve" Trump
"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King spoke with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke Thursday afternoon in his first national interview since he announced his White House bid.
King interviewed the former Texas congressman in Burlington, Iowa, after O'Rourke attended his third campaign event in Iowa on the first day of a three-day swing.
O'Rourke on impeaching Trump
During his 2018 Senate campaign to unseat Ted Cruz, O'Rourke said he believed President Trump should be impeached. King asked him today, "Do you still feel that way?"
"It's beyond a shadow of a doubt to me that, if there was not collusion, there was at least the effort to collude with a foreign power, beyond the shadow of a doubt that if there was not obstruction of justice, there certainly was the effort to obstruct justice," O'Rourke replied. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied colluding with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
O'Rourke said Mr. Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and his tweeting to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation were potential examples of obstruction of justice.
But he said the decision to impeach Mr. Trump was up to Congress, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this week that she opposes impeachment because it would be too divisive. O'Rourke now seems to believe there may be another way of removing the president.
"How Congress chooses to address those set of facts and the findings which I believe [we] are soon to see from the Mueller report is up to them," O'Rourke told King. "I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020, and perhaps that's the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions."
O'Rourke addressed concerns over his experience in his interview with King.
"People have said 'We had a candidate who didn't have vast political experience. And maybe now this time, we need somebody in the White House who has been around the block a few times, who has greater experience than yourself.' Clearly you're not deterred by that," King said.
"Right, I mean I guess it depends on what kind of experience you're looking for. I've got experience hiring people, creating jobs, developing the economy of the community in which I live. Serving in local government, with Amy helping to raise a family and finding ways to work across the aisle, to get legislation passed even when I'm in the minority party," O'Rourke said.
"Three-term Congressman, no real legislation in his own name, lack of experience. I think even the Texas Tribune said, you know, 'paper thin record.' Why shouldn't voters be concerned about voting for you with your lack of experience?" King asked.
"Well, I'm grateful that ultimately it's up to voters and they'll have a chance to meet with me, question me, listen to me. And I'll have a chance to listen to them," he said. "Lifelong El Pasoan with Amy raising these three amazing kids. Small business owner ... serving in local government, being in the minority party for every one of the six years I was in Congress and yet delivering for the people I serve, delivering for veterans, delivering for our border community ...These were all things that we did by working with and listening to other people. And I'm convinced that it holds the key to our ability to meet even greater challenges before us. The only way we do this is by renewing and fixing our democracy and bringing everyone in."
A recent poll of Iowa Democrats put O'Rourke in fifth place, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to join the race next month, and three senators.
While O'Rourke lost his Senate race against Ted Cruz last year, he only lost by 3 points in a deep red state. As CBS News' Ed O'Keefe reports, he won fans nationwide in the process, worrying other Democratic campaigns.
He traveled with a small team, never hired consultants and raised a record $80 million.
Why O'Rourke changed his mind on 2020 bid
Days before the Texas Senate race last year, O'Rourke insisted he would not run for president in 2020.
"I don't wanna do it. I will not do it," O'Rourke told "60 Minutes" correspondent Jon Wertheim. "Amy and I are raisin' an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old. And we spent the better part of the last two years not with each other, missing birthdays and anniversaries and time together. And we - we - our - our family could not survive more of that. We - we need to be together."
King asked O'Rourke about the shift, noting, "I know everybody has a right to change their mind."
"What changed for you and the family?" King asked.
"After the campaign that we ran for Texas and after election night, the best decision was made by my wife, Amy, where she said, 'There are lots of people who are talkin' about us doin' lots of different things. Let's instead of trying to figure that out right now, just spend some time as a family' ... That's really what we did," O'Rourke said, adding, "We were able to see just how resilient and strong our kids were. And as Amy and I came closer to making this decision, we didn't have a sit-down conversation with our kids. They just voluntary started offering advice. 'Hey, Dad, if you run, this is how I think you should do it. Or, 'Hey, Dad, you've gotta run because of this or that issue.' These were the conversations on the ride home from school or--"
"On their own they would encourage you?" King asked.
"On their own," he said.
"Unsolicited. And I honestly did not expect that. But I think they're just as sensitive to what's going on in the world right now. They understand that they will inherit the consequences of the choices that you and I make at this moment. And they're counting on us to make the right ones," O'Rourke said.
A "star" and a "loser"
King noted O'Rourke has been described as a "star" and "loser" in the same sentence. "'Star' because look what he did in Texas with that race. You came within three percentage points in a deep red state. 'Loser' because at the end of the day he lost the race," King said. "What do you say to that... 'He couldn't win in his own state. How can he win the country?'"
"Yeah. I lost that race. But in the process of running that campaign, we were able to help change the face of democracy in Texas," O'Rourke said, adding, "So many young people who understand that their voice and their vote will make a difference in their future. So many candidates who were running along with us who won their elections that might not otherwise have been able to do so... In some way we part of some much larger victory - for our state, for our country. And now Texas counts."
"So where's the loser part of that sentence?" King asked.
"Well, I lost the race. And - and I tell you that at the end of the day, squarely that is on me," O'Rourke said. "And it's a recognition that you can always do a better job. There's always the ability to learn from your mistakes. But in so doing, I don't wanna lose sight of the fact that we got to be part of a tremendous movement and community whose power still persists long after that election."
"Do you feel at a disadvantage as a white man?"
O'Rourke was also asked about the crowded Democratic field of candidates, with more women and people of color running than ever before.
"Some could say it's the way the party is leaning that maybe the voters are signaling that's the candidate we want. Do you feel at a disadvantage as a white man - as a privileged white man, they say about you?" King asked.
"I don't feel at a disadvantage. And at the same time, I feel extraordinarily grateful that the Democratic Party has produced so many extraordinary candidates, each of whom brings a different set of skills and life experiences and background," O'Rourke said. "This is a great moment for America. It's a great moment for the Democratic Party. And I count myself so lucky to be a part of it."
O'Rourke plans to raise taxes on corporations
O'Rourke said he does plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and elaborated on what that would look like.
"I think corporations should be asked to pay a greater share into the success of this country. I think the wealthiest at a time of historic income inequality should be asked to pay a greater share. I don't know what the levels should be at. But I know that the tax cuts from nearly two years ago of $2 trillion at a time that we had $21 trillion in debt, at a moment of extraordinary need across this country was one of the most irresponsible things that the country has ever done," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke on what his cabinet would look like
"And you said if you are elected your cabinet will look like America," King said. "What does that mean and why is that important to you?"
"In a country where the wealth is disproportionately concentrated in white families, in a country where the prison population, the largest on the face of the planet, is disproportionately black and brown, in a country that has never--never fully accounted for the cost of slavery, of segregation, of suppression of voters, of participation in our economy, we have a lot of work to do," he said. "And where we can ensure that those who have the opportunity to hold positions of power and public trust look like and reflect the country, we should make every effort to do so."
O'Rourke on health care
O'Rourke told King on healthcare, "The goal should be universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care."
"I think we complement, supplement those who have private employer insurance with the ability to be covered under Medicare. That allows us sooner than almost any other plan to ensure every single American has the ability to see a doctor, afford their prescriptions, or take their child to a therapist," O'Rourke said.
Prominent 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders support eliminating private health insurance under a Medicare for All system, a plan that has provoked criticism from Republicans who have long accused Democrats of wanting to stage a government takeover of the health care system.
"I think Medicare For All is one of the possible paths," O'Rourke said. "I think the fastest way to get there is to ensure that people who have insurance that they like through their employer are able to keep it, and that we complement that with those who can purchase Medicare, be covered by Medicaid."
O'Rourke responds to Trump's comment that he has "a lot of hand movement"
At a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House Thursday, Mr. Trump told reporters that he thinks O'Rourke is overly expressive with his hands while talking.
"Well I think he's got a lot of hand movement, I've never seen so much hand movement," the president told reporters. "I said is he crazy or is that just the way he acts? So I've never seen hand movement -- I watched him a little while this morning - doing I assume it was some kind of a news conference. And I've actually never seen anything quite like it. Study it. I'm sure you'll agree."
O'Rourke was unapologetic about speaking with his hands in his interview with King.
"I'm pretty animated," O'Rourke acknowledged, saying someone had once told him on the campaign trail for the Senate that he used his hands too much. "I am who I am," O'Rourke said.
"And I really do think we all want to get past the pettiness, the personal attacks," O'Rourke said, indicating his philosophy towards campaigning. "Let's not put anybody down. Instead, let's lift each other up. Let's bring out the absolute best from our fellow Americans -- every single one of them from every single community."
O'Rourke jumps into presidential race
O'Rourke made his presidential run official with an online video released Thursday morning. Seated on a couch next to his wife, O'Rourke announced, "Amy and I are happy to share with you that I am running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America."
He said that the crises in our economy, democracy and climate "will either consume us or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America." O'Rourke went through a list of Democratic priorities, including health care, climate change, family separation and criminal justice reform, gesturing or chopping with his hands to emphasize each point.
O'Rourke said that he plans to travel the country and "listen to those who I seek to serve, to understand from your perspective how we can best meet these challenges."
"At this moment of maximum peril and maximum potential let's show ourselves and those who will succeed us in this great country just who we are and what we can do."
-- Caitlin Huey-Burns
Who is Beto O'Rourke?
Here's what you need to know about the latest candidate to enter the crowded and diverse Democratic primary race:
- Although his legal first name is Robert, he has been known as Beto, the nickname Spanish-speaking communities give names that end in "berto," like Roberto and Alberto, since childhood.
- He was an avid musician as a teenager and was part of various rock bands, including the El Paso-based punk group Foss after graduating from Columbia University in New York in 1995.
- O'Rourke spent several years working in start-up companies and civic groups when he returned to El Paso from New York City.
- After working on several local political campaigns, O'Rourke ran for the El Paso City Council in 2005 and defeated a two-term incumbent.
- In 2012, O'Rourke, who speaks fluent Spanish, announced his candidacy for the Democratic primary in the race to represent Texas 16th Congressional District, a Latino-majority district encompassing El Paso and the surrounding communities.
- While in Congress, O'Rourke compiled a moderate voting record during his three terms, where he served on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees.
- O'Rourke launched a long-shot, insurgent campaign to oust Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. His robust Senate bid in Texas -- along with his Obama-esque oratory powers and social media dominance on the campaign trail -- catapulted him to national fame.
- O'Rourke shattered fundraising records, galvanized a broad electoral coalition in Texas, including the state's large and growing Latino community, and lost by less than three percentage points.
- Although he told "60 Minutes" shortly before the election that he was "completely ruling out" running for president for 2020, O'Rourke admitted shortly after the election that he had become open to the idea.
- In his six years in Congress, O'Rourke supported the legalization of marijuana, investing in clean energy like solar and wind to combat climate change, more expansive gun control legislation, LGBT rights and had a pro-choice stance on abortion rights.
- O'Rourke strongly supports legislation to put young undocumented immigrants, known as DREAMers, on a pathway to U.S. citizenship, and is a harsh critic of the Trump administration's immigration policies.
-- Caitlin Huey-Burns