Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Tester talks impeachment, Syria at Livingston town hall

by Perrin Stein

LIVINGSTON – Sen. Jon Tester urged caution about the ongoing impeachment inquiry and condemned President Donald Trump’s recent decisions regarding troops in Syria while speaking at a town hall of about 150 people on Friday.

Before taking a stand on impeachment, Tester, a Democrat from Big Sandy, said he needs more information about the July phone call during which Trump may have pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival and a Democratic presidential candidate. The call prompted a whistleblower complaint and caused the House to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president.

“I’ve read the transcripts … I’ve read the complaint,” Tester said. “We need to get as much information as we possibly can.”

With the White House announcement this week that it won’t comply with the House investigation, Tester said the issue will likely end up in the courts. The Supreme Court may rule on whether White House officials must comply with House subpoenas related to the investigation. If the Supreme Court has to rule on the impeachment, Tester said he hopes the justices recognize they are one of three co-equal branches of government and don’t let politics color their decisions.

“I think we are in a crisis,” he said.

If the House impeaches Trump and the Senate holds a trial for removal from office, Tester said he hopes senators take their role as the jury seriously. He criticized Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2020, for promising in campaign advertisements that impeachment won’t happen as long as he remains the majority leader. He hopes Kentucky voters consider McConnell’s statement when they go to the polls.

“When we get all the information, the decision will be easy,” Tester said. “(But) people will try to draw it out and politicize it.”

Tester spoke harshly about Trump’s decision on Sunday to endorse a Turkish military operation against American-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria. He pointed out that Kurdish forces have been allies to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State. By not supporting the Kurdish forces, Tester said, the United States is signaling that it is a weak ally.

“It’s really sick,” Tester said.

Democrats, Republicans and American allies condemned Trump’s decision. In response, Trump walked back his announcement on Monday, saying that he would restrain Turkey.

Tester said the United States needs to find a way to leave Syria but must do so in a way that is respectful of the Kurdish forces and doesn’t risk national security by leaving an opening for the Islamic State.

“I’m the guy that thinks we’re in too many wars and should get out, but the truth is if you don’t utilize the military experts that are there – which I don’t think was done in this case … it was done by tweet – you create more problems,” he said.