Washington, D.C — Former White House Chief of Staff and Center for American Progress founder John Podesta joined “The Tent” podcast this week to discuss the upcoming trial in the U.S. Senate to remove President Donald Trump from office, as well as the threat still posed by Russia and other foreign actors when it comes to election interference.
Before founding the Center for American Progress in 2003, Podesta served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff throughout his impeachment hearing and trial. In his conversation with “The Tent,” Podesta drew sharp contrasts between Congress’ conduct in the 1990s and the conduct of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republicans in the Senate today.
Podesta recalls the bipartisan process through which the upper chamber agreed on rules for the Senate’s trial of then-President Clinton:
One hundred senators adjourned to the old Senate chamber to try to talk through amongst themselves, with virtually no staff present, “How do we want to deal with this?”
I think the weight of history was on them. They came up with a method of conducting the trial that had the support of both sides of the aisle. Ultimately, the president was acquitted, with a number of Republicans voting to acquit him in the Senate. But they took that process quite seriously. … And I think what we see in the current circumstance is quite different than that, with McConnell kind of acting like he did with the Supreme Court nominations: His outcome is determined, he knows he wants to get to a point of acquitting Trump, he wants to do as little as possible before they render that judgment.
Podesta, who served as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, also expressed alarm over President Trump’s indifference toward—or even courting of—foreign interference in yet another presidential election.
“Now we’re seeing documents coming out that clearly indicate that Trump’s motivation was to get the Ukrainian government to at least announce, if not investigate, Joe Biden and try to use it in order to benefit his own reelection chances,” Podesta told “The Tent,” referring to this week’s release of documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Parnas has publicly stated that President Trump himself was aware of these efforts.
“You know, look, it worked for them in 2016—the Russians interfered with the U.S. elections, and it helped put him into the Oval Office. So I think his tolerance for foreign government playing around in the U.S. elections is high, at least by previous American standards.”
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