Impeachment discussion draws heated debate at town hall meeting
FALCONER — What started as a relatively peaceful town hall meeting Thursday evening at the Ellicott Municipal Building by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed turned into a contentious debate surrounding President Donald Trump and an ongoing impeachment inquiry.
“Right now the topic of the day is impeachment,” Reed told a crowd of about 30 at the town hall. “Impeachment is taking up … the airwaves and taking up the oxygen in the room. As I have publicly stated, and I’ll state here again, I do not support the impeachment process. I do not support the inquiry. I think when you look at impeachment, I think the lessons of President Clinton and the lessons of President Nixon when impeachment is employed historically, we’re talking about overturning a duly held election in America.”
“Going down that path, in my opinion is not warranted here today,” he continued, noting that the inquiry will only further force Congress into gridlock.
Asked specifically of his thoughts on the inquiry — brought on after a whistleblower alleged Trump had asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to look into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as part of a corruption probe — Reed said he saw “no smoking gun evidence” for an impeachable offense against the president.
Reed alluded to the transcript detailing Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, viewed by many Democrats as a quid pro quo as Ukraine had been seeking U.S. military aid. The congressman said he reviewed the transcript and believes it does not show any wrongdoing that should lead to the removal of the president.
“What is the high crime?” Reed asked. “High crime, when you look at the constitution, are crimes that are generally subject to things like penalty of death (and) bribery in regards to selling out state secrets for personal financial gain. Those are the types of impeachable offenses that are envisioned in the constitution.”
Several attendees raised their voices, and a few shouted Reed down on the topic of impeachment.
One person asked Reed if an impeachable offense should include a foreign nation aiding a U.S. politician, and further alluded to fines leveled against the president by the Federal Election Commission.
The congressman countered, noting that former President Barack Obama had been fined by the FEC for failing to document donations in a timely manner in his 2008 campaign, an thus was guilty of violating the rules.
“So you would then support the impeachment of President Obama on that crime?” Reed asked.
“We’re talking about Trump,” one person responded. “Obama’s gone. We’re talking about Trump.”
Reed attempted to discuss Biden’s son, Hunter, and his role on the board of Burisma Holdings in Ukraine. He said a portion of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy was alluding to the lack of an investigation into the “corrupt activity that (Biden) may have been involved with his son, and that has never been investigated.”
The mention of Hunter Biden and the lack of an investigation drew a quick rebuke from some in the crowd, with many shouting, “Yes it has!”
Also discussed Thursday was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Reed said the partnership, which remains in negotiation between Democrats and the Trump administration, will “modernize” the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Reed has called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a vote on the House floor. “USMCA is truly the gold standard for labor, currency manipulation and rules of origin,” Reed said in a statement handed out to those in attendance. “It maintains market access and sets the table for future trade agreements with China, Japan and the European Union.”
Reed was also asked his thoughts on climate change as a member of the Problems Solvers Caucus. The congressman said he expects the issue to “boil up” in the 2020 election cycle.
He said while the caucus has not come to a 75% consensus “on this issue of climate, there are many of us talking about it. And hopefully we will be able to get there.”
After the town hall, Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said he was grateful Reed stopped by, noting that not many Congressmen often hold open meetings with their constituents.
“While people might not always agree with what he has to say, I think it’s great he is willing to come in and speak,” McLaughlin said. “He is willing to come in and put himself under the gun.”