Barring the appearance of unexpected information, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said Friday that he is prepared to vote to impeach President Donald Trump at the conclusion of the House's ongoing inquiry.
"The evidence I've seen is a clear breach of the oath of office and an abuse of the public trust in pursuit of a private advantage," Welch told Seven Days, adding that he would "reserve final judgement until all the information is in."
As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Welch spent the previous two weeks hearing testimony from civil servants who described the president's efforts to secure a Ukrainian government investigation of a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
Welch said he had been struck by two things during the hearings. "One is how little the president cared about the real issues in Ukraine," he said. "He only cared about getting the investigations."
Welch's second observation was how dedicated the witnesses were to doing the right thing. "They are so inspiring. They're professional. They are committed to doing their duty. They don't seek the limelight but are extraordinarily professional and competent, and they're very brave in a matter-of-fact way," he said. "They are regularly trashed by President Trump, but my goodness they were extraordinary."
According to Welch, the Intelligence Committee has not yet made "a definitive decision" as to whether it would hold more hearings or call more witnesses. But, he said, "In my view, we actually have the information we need to proceed." The next step, he said, would be for the committee to prepare a report with recommendations and, pursuant to a vote, send it to the House Judiciary Committee. The latter committee is expected to draft articles of impeachment, which would require approval by the full House.
Though Welch said he found the hearings "extremely focused and disciplined" — and largely free of typical congressional grandstanding — he wasn't sure whether they would change minds. "We did our job as best as we could, but it's in the context of a modern media situation where the conspiracy theories penetrate into the mainstream."
As for whether any Republican members of Congress had been persuaded to support impeachment? "I don't think so," he said. "Not yet."
During his final opportunity to speak at Thursday's hearing, Welch opted to deliver prepared remarks rather than question the witnesses. In his speech, he said that the testimony he'd heard "reaffirms a very central fact: President Trump conditioned our foreign policy and national security on getting a valuable political benefit from Ukraine." He added, "It's equally clear that President Trump has launched a coverup — a disinformation campaign — to hide this abuse of power from the American people."
Pausing for dramatic effect, Welch said, "Now the president and even some members of this committee are pretending this is normal. It is not. It must never be. No other president has betrayed his office like this by putting his own small political interest above our national interest and our national security."
Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch's communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.