Transcript: Sen. Roy Blunt on "Face the Nation," December 22, 2019

Blunt faults House for "half-baked" impeachment

The following is a transcript of an interview with Senator Roy Blunt that aired Sunday, December 22, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin today on that impasse between the House and the Senate. And there's also one between Republicans and Democrats. Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt is here, as is Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. Good morning to both of you, gentlemen. Senator Blunt, first off to you. Do you agree with the president's declaration that he hasn't actually been impeached?

SENATOR ROY BLUNT: Well, I- I've actually heard some constitutional scholars suggest that you're not impeached until the House sends the articles over. I don't know that it's a distinction worth arguing about. The House will send the articles over. We are going to hear this case both from the House managers and the president's counsel. I- I would argue with the president's counsel for the first time, they get a chance to make their case. And I believe we'll be doing that in January.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So there's no question for you that Speaker Pelosi will transfer these articles?

SEN. BLUNT: You know, I- I actually think this is a mistake for the speaker to continue to dwell on this issue. I don't think it's worked out that well for them politically. I actually don't think the speaker, who has great power in a lot of cases, has the power to decide not to send over--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

SEN. BLUNT: --the determined will of the House of Representatives. They have voted. They have voted on two articles. They need to come and defend those two articles.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know, back during the Clinton impeachment trial, Republican and Democratic leaders sat together and planned out in a bipartisan way how the trial would take place. Why can't that happen this time?

SEN. BLUNT: Well, you know, I think we- because of that, we have the- the plan out before us that worked before. It probably wasn't quite as easily achieved last time as it seems like it was, but it seemed to work last time. And my guess is eventually that's the plan we pursue. That we start, that we let the house managers have the time they need to present their case against the president. And the president has that- his- his counsel has the time they need to present the reason they don't think that case adds up and then we see what happens next.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So why can't you commit now, then to calling witnesses? What you're suggesting is that there would then be a vote--

SEN. BLUNT: Right. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- on whether to approve having witnesses.

SEN. BLUNT: Which is what happened last time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This time Democrats are arguing the trial needs to be fair, and that includes the certainty of hearing from witnesses. How can you have a credible trial without that?

SEN. BLUNT: Well, every one of the Democrats that were in the Senate the last time that are here now voted against witnesses the last time. So this is you know, this is a political process, no matter how you describe it. You can call it a trial, but it's a trial where half of the jurors can decide that the chief justice is wrong and we're gonna go in a different direction. It is a political process. It always has been. It always will be. One of my concerns, MARGARET, is that in a hundred- the first hundred and eighty years of the history of the country, we went to presidential impeachment exactly one time. And here in the last 46 years, we've gone to it three times and never with a result that removed a president--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

SEN. BLUNT: --because of the impeachment itself. And I think it's a mistake to take this lightly or to act like you can send a half-baked case over to the Senate. And then it's the Senate's job to try to figure out how to do what you didn't do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But are you--

SEN. BLUNT: There's nobody the Senate could call that the House couldn't call. There's no privilege. But the Senate--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there is a Republican majority in the Senate. And--

SEN. BLUNT: And? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is where the president has argued he wants to hear his case and get a fair shake. He complained about not getting in the House--

SEN. BLUNT: And we want to hear his case--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So- but- but- he—

SEN. BLUNT: But I think what you don't want to do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --wants witnesses. 

SEN. BLUNT: What you don't want to do--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you persuaded the president not to push for that any longer? 

SEN. BLUNT: I don't know that the president's persuaded not to push for that. And there may be a time when we decide that witnesses are essential, but the witnesses that the House didn't call would have the same privilege in the Senate that they had in the House. I think the House sending over a very vague two charges to the Senate and then assuming it's the Senate's job to try to make something out of that, takes a process we're already taking too lightly, impeachment- three times in 46 years and taking it even more lightly. The- the world we live in now is more certain, more likely than not, that a president will always have a House, at some point in their presidency, controlled by the other party, a majority of that- of the other party can send articles of impeachment over. I think we need to be sure that we set a standard where they have to make sense before they're sent over, not leave it up to the Senate to try to make sense out of a case that the House says they clearly made. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SEN. BLUNT: But now they say, well, we clearly made this case with absolute certainty, but now we need to have the Senate find more information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your former Republican colleague Jeff Flake put out an op-ed where he wrote this is an open letter to senators like yourself, saying essentially the entire body is on trial, not just the president. And you said, don't be complicit. Quote, "You might also determine that the president's actions do not rise to the Constitutional standard required for removal. But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say the president has not done anything wrong. He has." Does Roy Blunt, potential juror, believe that the president's phone call was perfect?

SEN. BLUNT: Well, I think the people that listened to it that should know and hear a lot of these calls have generally said there was nothing wrong with the call. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what do you believe?

SEN. BLUNT: But I think that's not- here- here's what I believe from Jeff Flake's letter, or Jeff Flake's editorial. He also said, "would you reach the same conclusion if Barack Obama had done exactly the same thing?" And the answer is yes, I would reach the same conclusion. We were constantly asked for eight years--

MARGARET BRENNAN: If Barack Obama, on a phone call with another world leader, suggested an investigation into someone who also happened to be the frontrunner from the opposing party, you would be- your party- you would be fine with that?

SEN. BLUNT: Well, I will tell you that for eight years we were constantly challenged on my side. The president should be impeached for this, the president should be impeached for withholding records with Fast and Furious, the president should have delivered--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SEN. BLUNT: --the- the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But on this particular parallel--

SEN. BLUNT: Yeah, let me- let me make my point here. And- and I resisted that. And I understand what our Democrat friends have heard for three years now on this topic, because we heard it for eight years. One of the articles of impeachment is the president resisted giving information to the Congress, which is exactly what President Obama did. It's what President Clinton did. It's what President Bush did. Every president's done that. I- I wouldn't have been for impeaching any of them, for asserting their privilege to make you go to court to prove that you really needed the information the president had. That's one- that's one half of the cases of impeachment right there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Blunt, thank you very much for your time.

SEN. BLUNT: Great to be with you.