Katko says evidence, so far, doesn’t rise to level of impeaching Trump

Nov 22, 2019

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said so far, the evidence laid out in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. Katko said it all goes back to a July phone call, where Trump asked the Ukrainian president for an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden. 

Katko said one can quibble if Trump should’ve made that call, or said what he said.

“I would’ve avoided that call if I was in his position," Katko said. "That doesn’t mean you throw the guy out of office for it.”

Katko said he wouldn't have engaged in that call, and would have been more careful in conversation. But he also said forcing the president to release a summary of the call, dampens the international cooperative spirit between the president and foreign leaders.

Katko said he’s concerned about hearsay, that much of the testimony from witnesses was second or third-hand information.  

But on Wednesday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that there was a quid pro quo, and he had direct access to Trump. Sondland said the Ukrainian president intended to open an investigation in order to unlock a meeting with Trump, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of U.S. aid.

“But then I heard some conflicting testimony afterward," Katko said. "So, I’m trying to balance it all out, which you have to do."

Sondland did testify that no, the president never told him personally about any preconditions. The aid was eventually released, and no investigation into Biden was ever announced.

Katko said more evidence could still come out and he’s keeping an open mind.

“We’ve never removed a president in the history of our country," Katko said. "So, for that reason, impeachment is a very high bar. I’m not sure the evidence is there yet. I haven’t reached my final conclusion. I think the ultimate jurors on this should be the voters next fall.”

The House Intelligence Committee will submit a report to the House Judiciary Committee, which will decide whether to draft articles of impeachment.