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Impeachment Trial Resumes As The End Nears


Donald Trump's second impeachment trial continues today. Senators could even resolve the issue today. Senator Ben Cardin is a Democrat from Maryland and joins us. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

BEN CARDIN: Scott, it's good to be with you.

SIMON: I've got to ask you a question that's developed, I think, over the past few hours - this report, beginning with CNN, of a heated phone call between President Trump and Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader. Expletives aside, reportedly, the president was bluntly told about violence in the Capitol and condoned it. There's a Republican representative from Washington state who confirms the call. Senator Tuberville of Alabama says he told Donald Trump Mike Pence had to be removed because of the violence, and the president demonstrably just kept on tweeting his criticism of Mike Pence. So do you want witnesses? Should House managers call them?

CARDIN: Well, that's certainly up to the House managers. But I must tell you, it is very troubling that the president's lawyers have yet to give an explanation as to why the president took no action when he saw the Capitol being breached to provide the type of National Guard help to protect those of us in the Capitol and to protect the Capitol itself. He knew of the violence. He knew it was taking place. He was directly informed about it. Instead, what he did was send out a tweet putting the vice president at greater risk. And to this date, he's really never condemned those that breached the Capitol and never disavowed his association with these people. So these are very troubling issues. And the president's lawyers have not really explained this. So it's a big question mark.

SIMON: Well, let me come back to the question of witnesses because is that in your mind, sir, a political or tactical question or a moral one? Do you want to hear from witnesses directly?

CARDIN: I think we all know the facts. The facts aren't really that much in dispute. We know that the president could not accept the loss. He made that clear before the election. We know that he promoted the fact that the election was stolen and stop the steal was promoted by him. So I think we know the basic facts. We certainly would like to know why the president didn't take any action. But I think we all can fill in the blanks unless the president wants to come forward and present that information, which the House managers have certainly requested.

SIMON: Let me raise another prospect with you. If the votes fall along party lines with the exception of, let's say, five, six, 10, even, Republican votes for impeachment, should Democrats or a bipartisan group draft some other kind of bill to rebuke Donald Trump?

CARDIN: Well, we're going to take it one step at a time. We're still in the midst of the trial. We still could have witnesses. We have closing arguments. The vote has not taken place yet. So we need to take this one step at a time. We all took an oath to listen to all the facts. So I just hope every member votes their conscience and recognizes this is one of our most important constitutional responsibilities. After the vote is in, we'll decide what comes next.

SIMON: Did this week's presentations focus your thoughts?

CARDIN: It did. I think it went through the chronology, which, to me, it connects a lot of the dots. Again, I would really like to hear from the president as to why he left us at risk, why he did not send in the National Guard.

SIMON: Did the us here - I mean, it's very personal. Do you mean senators and members of Congress?

CARDIN: Right. I was on the Senate floor. And the day that they presented the videos, really, I didn't realize how close we came and how the chronology really fit into the noise we heard in the hallways as we were leaving the Capitol. So it - I really connected the situation to all of us about how close we came to seeing personal harm or death to members of Congress and those that were in the Capitol that day.

SIMON: Well, I've got to chance one more question then, Senator. Do you have relationships across the aisle that are convenient now so you can talk about some of these things and maybe work something out?

CARDIN: You know, I think all of us have been reluctant to talk among ourselves about how we will vote. We know we're jurors, and we don't know that's appropriate at this particular moment. So this is a vote of conscience. So, no, I have not had conversations with either Democratic or Republican senators as to how they're going to vote.

SIMON: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Thanks for your time, sir.

CARDIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.