As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump gets underway in the U.S. Senate, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said he and his colleagues recognize the gravity of the situation. The Republican also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the chamber eventually votes to allow witnesses to testify
The state’s senior senator spoke with KUAR News about the impeachment trial, sharing his thoughts and expectations.
MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First off, how do you feel as this begins given everything that has happened leading up to this in the House and now coming to the Senate?
SEN. JOHN BOOZMAN: Well, it’s really a solemn time. Last week the chief justice [of the U.S. Supreme Court] was sworn in in front of the Senate and he in turn gave us the oath of office. And as you looked around and saw my colleagues in the Senate, everyone, I think, realized the gravity of the moment. Impeachment is such an important thing and I think everybody is really taking that to heart.
HIBBLEN: There has been the expectation from many that this trial will end strictly along party lines. Critics have suggested if that’s the case then what’s being presented during the trial won’t really matter. Can you be an impartial juror?
BOOZMAN: No [implied referring to critics], I think the reason that they feel that way is that you have a situation in the House where I think that many people felt like it was an unfair process. As a result… perhaps the two articles [of impeachment] being of concern, but not really rising to the level of impeachment, you had a situation where not a single Republican voted in favor of impeachment. 20-some odd of those are retiring, so it didn’t have anything to do with reelection or those kind of things, and you actually had some Democrats join them. So based on the evidence being presented thus far, I think that’s why people feel like it’s going to be very difficult to get a two-thirds vote in the Senate in order to convict the president.
HIBBLEN: And in terms of the process, will you support witnesses being called?
BOOZMAN: Well, what we’ve agreed to, and we agreed to this unanimously at this point, is to go ahead and start the trial [following the format of] the Clinton trial and the president will present his case, the House impeachment managers will go ahead and present theirs. Each senator is allowed to ask their questions, so there will be numerous questions you can only imagine, and at the end of that we’ll have a vote as to whether or not we feel like as a group that we need additional information. But I would not be surprised if witnesses are called. If they are, then I feel strong that the House impeachment team has the right to make their case, but also the president’s team has the right to make their case. Then I think you get into a situation where perhaps all kinds of witnesses will be called.
HIBBLEN: And you mentioned this will follow a similar format to what we had two decades ago during President Clinton’s impeachment trial. Obviously you weren’t in the Senate then, but shortly afterward would come to the House… any reflections from that experience that you’re thinking about now as this begins.
BOOZMAN: Well I think that we… the situation is such that at the end of the day I think the public felt like the charges didn’t rise to the level of impeachment, and I think that Republicans paid the price for that. The public viewed that as trying to get even with the president. I think you really run into a difficult situation when you don’t like the president so much that you can’t base that on essentially invalidating the election that put him in office in the first place, and so people don’t like that. What happens with impeachment is essentially that, you’ve got the legislature choosing the president, and so these are really important things. My concern is, and I think this is really a concern on both sides in the Senate… and we’ll see how the trial plays out and all those things, but what we don’t want to do is weaponize this where every time you have a different party in power from the president and the House that the method of removal is impeachment.