U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., avoided criticizing or defending President Trump on Thursday when Thune fielded questions about impeachment during a visit to Rapid City.
“I think you can argue about whether or not the judgment the president exercised was appropriate,” Thune said, “but it’s pretty hard in my view to see a case where you would argue that this would be an impeachable offense. I don’t think it reaches that level based on what I’ve seen so far.”
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment against Trump on Dec. 18 for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. The charges stemmed from allegations that Trump temporarily withheld military aide to Ukraine while asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival, the former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet submitted the articles to the Senate, which is a necessary step before the Senate can begin a trial. It would take a two-thirds majority of the Senate – 67 votes – to convict Trump and remove him from office.
Thune was in Rapid City on Thursday to tour a local business and participate in a roundtable discussion with local business leaders. He spoke to SDPB after the roundtable.
After acknowledging the legitimacy of arguing about the president’s judgment, Thune declined to take a side in the argument.
“That’s not probably a question that we’re going to pass judgment on,” Thune said. “The question we have to decide in the Senate is whether it’s an impeachable offense that would necessitate removing the president from office. I just don’t think it reaches that threshold.”
Thune ranks second in Senate leadership behind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, are at odds over whether to allow witnesses to be called during the Senate’s impeachment trial.
Thune deflected a question Thursday about whether he thinks witnesses should be called.
“You know, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Thune said. “I think it’s going to be whatever 51 senators decide at some point.”