WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Senate begins the third impeachment trial in American history, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was the final member to be sworn in and will be one of 27 to sit in on a second impeachment trial of their careers.
Owing to a family matter, Inhofe missed formal proceedings of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and was the only senator not sworn in last week.
“Last Tuesday morning, early, my wife had a mild stroke, and I went back to Oklahoma,” said Inhofe. “She’s recovering nicely. No damage was done, and she’s in therapy, and we’re very happy that we were able to be there, but I was not there for the opening ceremony.”
In a statement in February of 1999, Inhofe said his vote in favor of convicting President Bill Clinton was the most important vote he would cast in his lifetime. Inhofe said Tuesday he thinks this impeachment vote regarding President Donald Trump is just as important.
In 1999, Inhofe voted for conviction on the two impeachment articles brought against Clinton. This time, Oklahoma’s senior senator said he plans on doing the opposite.
“Well, if there’s nothing new that hasn’t already been uncovered, I would vote against the [conviction],” Inhofe said. “He’s already been impeached, so I would be voting against removing him from office, unless something comes up that we are not aware of and hasn’t happened before.”
There are many differences when it comes to the two impeachment trials Inhofe has been a part of. But he said he also recognizes the similarities.
“Impeachment is impeachment,” Inhofe said.
The Senate impeachment trial began Tuesday afternoon, and opening arguments are slated for today. The trial is scheduled to continue for several days.
“The question when it comes over is to have the trial and sit as a juror and determine whether or not the accusations and findings were impeachable offences,“ Inhofe said.
The official articles brought against the president accuse abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But Inhofe said one of the most interesting differences about Donald Trump’s impeachment is that not one of the 17 witnesses in the House had first-hand information.
Inhofe said Trump has not been accused of a crime at any point in the impeachment proceedings. While the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report determined the Trump administration broke the law by withholding Ukraine aid, the finding was released after the House’s impeachment vote. Because this is new information, it could be discussed throughout the Senate trial.
“While the findings have been an abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” Inhofe said, “by definition, those are not impeachable offenses.”
Impeachment trial background
Proceedings for the Senate trial extended late into Tuesday evening, with arguments staying along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sparred vocally on the Senate floor.
Politico reported that McConnell and Schumer met for 20 minutes in December to craft a bipartisan resolution outlining the trial, but no agreement was struck.
Tuesday, McConnell and his 53-Republican majority were able to table any Democratic amendments to subpoena witnesses and documents.
“It’s clearly an effort to put in place what the White House wanted. And to ignore what [McConnell] had promised the Senate to adopt the rules that the Clinton impeachment used,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in an interview with Politico. “This is not a fair trial (…) this is a cover-up, pure and simple.”
In his interview with Gaylord News, Inhofe said during the Clinton impeachment that Clinton should be held to the highest of standards. He said Trump is upholding those standards he talked about.
“Right now, we have arguably the best economy in my lifetime, and that’s a pretty long time,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe attributed many of America’s successes to Trump and his administration. He said many Americans are just obsessed with the idea of hating the president.
“I’m very proud of the president. I know what he’s done. I look at our economy, and I know he’s done a good job,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe said he thinks the Senate trial could be finished by the end of next week and predicted that Trump — despite the House impeachment process and other obstacles — will be acquitted and reelected.