Lankford says House can fight it out over Trump statements, impeachment
U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Monday he considers Russian interference in U.S. elections a higher priority than statements made by President Donald Trump during a two-year investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of collusion and obstruction of justice.
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said in an interview that he plans to read the redacted Mueller report in full. The 448-page redacted report was released on Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department. Lankford said it would be up to the House, controlled by Democrats, whether to pursue more investigations or impeachment in the wake of the report's findings.
“The Russian interference part is the part that I’ve been on since 2016, even before the election,” Lankford said, adding that he had seen thousands of pages of relevant documents while serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“That part is my highest priority. How do we make sure that a foreign power is not trying to engage in our elections and trying to interfere in our system?
“Statements that the president makes and doesn’t make, issues of impeachment, I’m going to allow the House to be able to fight that out.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter on Monday to Democratic colleagues saying that Russian interference and the president’s behavior during the investigation stood out in the report. She called Trump’s behavior unethical and unscrupulous.
Pelosi stopped well short of calling for impeachment.
She wrote, “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.
“As we proceed to uncover the truth and present additional needed reforms to protect our democracy, we must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment proceedings must begin in the House.
On other topics, Lankford said Congress may be able to approve legislation before the 2020 elections to control prescription drug prices. And he said a “full-out repeal” of the Affordable Care Act would be impossible.
There has been bipartisan support in Congress for action on prescription drug prices, and Trump has said it was a top priority.
“There’s a real dialogue to say: How does this get fixed and what has to happen?” Lankford said.
“We’re going to work our way through every segment of this.”
After years of Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act and dozens of votes to repeal it, Lankford said Monday that it would not be possible to repeal the law since the health insurance and health care industry are now structured around it.
"I don’t hear the words 'repeal and replace' anymore," Lankford said. "We’re 10 years past. It’s firmly ingrained in the system now."