‘It could backfire’: Trent Lott, reminiscing on 1999 Clinton impeachment, blisters House Dems over Trump impeachment inquiry

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Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Aug. 27, 2018

Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, who was intimately affiliated with two of the nation’s three presidential impeachment proceedings, lamented House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in an extensive Tuesday evening interview.

In 1974, Lott served on the House Judiciary Committee during his first full year in Congress as the committee mulled impeachment articles for President Richard Nixon. Then in 1999, Lott served as Senate majority leader and presided over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

In an extensive phone interview on Tuesday evening with Mississippi Today, Lott blasted Democrats for rushing the impeachment proceedings.

“This is not good for the country,” Lott said. “At least wait and see what the evidence is. What did Trump say? Was it something out of order or not? Let’s wait to see before we jump the gun here, which I think Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have clearly done. It could backfire on them. I don’t know that it will, but having been through two of these proceedings, I would urge caution.”

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced that the House would begin the formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, saying he enlisted the help of a foreign government for personal political gain and that Trump’s actions “have seriously violated the Constitution.”

Trump admitted to reporters this week that he asked the president of Ukraine to open a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Biden is a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and could face Trump next year.

Trump’s admission comes as the White House has withheld a whistleblower complaint from Congress that reportedly centers on Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president regarding the Bidens.

In the Tuesday interview, Lott said that “United States presidents talk to world leaders all the time” and highlighted “some serious question” about the Bidens’ relationship with the Ukrainians.

When asked how Tuesday’s news might affect the 2020 presidential race, Lott pointed back to the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial in the Senate.

“It’s hard to tell, it’ll depend on how it plays out,” Lott said of next year’s race. “But as you’ll recall with the Clinton proceedings, (Clinton’s) favorable ratings actually went up. It was not a positive thing for the country or for the Republicans.”

Mississippi’s current congressional delegation began weighing in on the moment Tuesday evening. Republican Congressmen Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo slammed their Democratic colleagues.

“This is undoubtedly the lowest political attack I’ve witnessed since coming to Congress,” Palazzo said in a statement. “Pelosi and her cronies have been waiting for this day since the moment President Trump was sworn into office. I fully believe President Trump has nothing to hide and that this investigation is a continuation of the liberal witch hunt against him. This is a sad day for our country.”

Guest said in a statement: “Democrats in this Congress have repeatedly relied on unfounded claims to fulfill their desire of impeaching a president who was democratically elected by the American people. I have little confidence that this inquiry is motivated by anything other than the political games that so many in the Democratic Party prefer over their responsibility to this nation.”

Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson and Republican Congressman Trent Kelly did not respond on Tuesday to requests for comment. U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith did not respond to requests for comment.