Senate Democrats who are running for the party’s 2020 nomination are ruling out recusing themselves from participating in any Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, even amid questions from Republicans that it could represent a conflict of interest.
“No, I would not recuse myself. It's part of my constitutional obligation,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told reporters Friday when asked.
The question of recusal was raised by Rep. Thomas Masie, R-Ky., who asked if senators running for president “have a conflict of interest regarding possible impeachment of an opponent.”
House Democrats last month launched an impeachment inquiry into the circumstances surrounding President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Democrats allege that Trump was using U.S. military aid to push Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s conduct in the country. Trump has said there was no quid pro quo and that he wanted only to root out corruption.
But as the inquiry consumes Washington and the 2020 campaign trail, it is possible the Democrat-controlled House votes to impeach the president in the coming months.
That would then set up an impeachment trial in the Senate, where a host of 2020 candidates -- including Sens. Klobuchar; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
It raises the question of whether they would benefit if their potential 2020 general election rival were removed from office -- and if so, if they should therefore recuse themselves from any trial.
“Shouldn’t they recuse themselves if it came to the Senate?” Massie asked. “Wouldn’t anyone so positioned against a defendant be barred from serving as a judge or jury in a court of law?”
Booker was asked on Friday if he would ever recuse himself, and he gave a short, simple answer: “No.”
In her answer, Klobuchar went into greater detail.
“I was elected as a U.S. senator for the state of Minnesota and my job will be to be a juror in the case and...I very strongly believe that this impeachment proceeding must go forward,” she said. “I don't know what counts that the House will come up with and what they will bring over to us but my job will be to look at the evidence and make a decision.”
Other senators have not addressed the question directly, but have no given any sign that they would recuse themselves. On Wednesday, Harris sent a letter with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to every Trump cabinet official demanding they cooperate with ongoing investigations and preserve relevent evidence.