Rep. Karen Bass on the urgency of impeachment, plus Kamala Harris dropping her presidential bid

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today said President Trump has left Democrats “no choice” but to proceed with impeachment. It’s increasingly likely that Trump will be impeached before Christmas, making him the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House. 

Just before Pelosi’s announcement, Trump said on Twitter that Democrats had “gone crazy” and should get the whole thing over with. 

California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which held its first impeachment hearing Wednesday. Four legal experts testified on what might be the constitutional basis for impeaching Trump.  

Bass tells Press Play that she’s still set on voting to impeach Trump. “What's particularly important to me is the notion of high crimes and misdemeanors. … When the framers were writing about it, they were writing about the exact type of behavior that President Trump has exhibited from the beginning of his administration, but most notably with the phone calls with Ukraine and him attempting to bribe and threaten the president of the Ukraine,” she says.

As their witness on Wednesday, Republicans called Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who argued that there’s not enough evidence. “You’re saying Article I gives us complete authority that when we demand information from another branch, it must be turned over or we’ll impeach you in record time. Now making that worse is that you have such a short investigation. It’s a perfect storm. You set an incredibly short period, demand a huge amount of information, and when the president goes to court, you then impeach him,” he said. 

Bass says what surprised her yesterday was “the weakness of the Republican witness.” She continues, “It's quite ironic to say that when it's the president and it is the administration that is holding back on a trove of information. So for example, the ambassador to the EU, the guy who said it was absolutely a quid pro quo. He testified based on his memory because the State Department will not even allow him to look at his notes. So if the administration is holding back on the information, it leaves us no choice.”

Bass points out that the president himself came forward with evidence. “He said to the press directly what he had done. He released the transcript that verified what he had done. His chief of staff went before the press and said, ‘Yes, this is what we did, this is the way foreign policy was done,’ and told all of us to ‘get over it.’ … I serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is not how our foreign policy is done. What the president did was for his own benefit.”

Bass adds that impeachment cannot wait because Trump “is attempting to intervene in the next election.” She continues, “There is an incredible sense of urgency. We must act now. We cannot allow our own president to interfere in the election. It's bad enough [that] we're worried about the Russians interfering. Now we have to worry about our president interfering in the election?”

Bass points to why Republicans are resisting impeachment: “The only reason my Republican colleagues will not admit what they very well know that this president has done -- is because they're all scared to death that he is going to attack them through tweets. I find that just shameful that they would, because of their own individual elections, compromise our election, and compromise our democracy, and make us look like fools to the world.”

What if the senate doesn’t vote to convict Trump? 

Bass says she hopes that when Trump goes through the impeachment process, it’ll help “put the brakes on him from interfering in our next election.” 

She predicts another possible scenario: With Trump’s erratic behavior, he could do something completely bizarre. “What he does on the international stage is absolutely frightening. And when he gets cornered like this, his behavior might become so erratic that the Republicans decide … he's a clear and present danger and needs to be removed from office. I don't think that we can wait another year.” 

Bass says the House Judiciary Committee will decide next week on the number of articles of impeachment drafted against the president and what the articles should focus on. They’ll also have a hearing on Monday about evidence put forward by the House Intelligence Committee and possibly other committees. 

This week, California Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the presidential race. What is Bass’ reaction? 

“Seeing our senator drop out of the race was definitely disheartening to me. I think she had a brilliant run. It was so exciting to see her on the national stage. I thought she did great,” Bass says. “But at the end of the day, every campaign has to have a tremendous amount of money. And how difficult is it to run when you have people who are, number one, personally, incredibly wealthy; and number two, have been at it longer than her.”

Nonetheless, Bass says that Harris has a bright future and broke a glass ceiling as an African American woman running for president. 

Is Bass leaning toward a particular candidate to endorse?

She says it’s best to stay neutral, particularly as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which includes more than 50 members. But she adds that she doesn’t know if she’ll stay neutral throughout the whole primary process.

Most Democratic African American voters currently support Joe Biden. Why?

Bass says African American voters know Joe Biden. “Joe Biden has a great history with African Americans. And it's not just because he was the vice president with Barack Obama. He has his own independent history with black voters. And people have known him for decades, and they trust him.”

She adds that a similar trend happened in 2008. “The majority of African American voters did not support Barack Obama either. That happened after the Iowa caucuses. But it also happened after there were some missteps on behalf of the Clinton campaign. So because African American voters are supportive now, you know, we will see what happens in the future.”

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy