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House Impeachment Manager On Preparations For Senate Trial


President Trump woke up in the White House this morning the only president in American history to have been impeached twice. The impeachment itself played out with dizzying speed just a week after the violent siege that left the U.S. Capitol ransacked and five people dead. Now the focus shifts to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a trial will not get underway until after the Senate reconvenes on January 19. That is next Tuesday. When the trial does begin, California Congressman Eric Swalwell will be one of the nine House impeachment managers presenting the case against the president. He joins us now.

Congressman, welcome.

ERIC SWALWELL: Thanks for having me back.

KELLY: First off, are you confident there will be a trial?

SWALWELL: Yes. We brought this case intending to remove the president from office, and I want to say we didn't want it to be this way. We thought if the president was a big person, considering what he did, he would step down. If he's not going to do that, then the vice president could invoke the 25th Amendment and have the president removed. And if he was not going to do that, then we would have to impeach and put in place the removal process. But this is about protecting people, considering that lives have already been lost and more plots are in the planning phases.

KELLY: Understood. So just to get through some of the brass tacks, the nuts and bolts, you're confident there will be a trial, even though we're talking at least a week before it would get underway, and all kinds of questions about whether that would detract from other things that the incoming president would really like to get done.

SWALWELL: Yes. And also, I hope I serve with colleagues who can do more than one thing at a time. I know at least on the Democratic side, we can. So we'll continue to pass legislation to crush the virus and open schools and the economy and also address income inequality and support the vice president and his team as he stands up a new government.

KELLY: Yeah. Do you have any idea yet how it will work in terms of trying to get all of that done at once? Will there be all-day testimony and debate like we saw at last year's trial or some sort of split day where maybe you spend the morning doing the trial and the afternoon on other business?

SWALWELL: You know, we'll be ready to try our case. That's a Senate decision, and I'll leave it with them.

KELLY: Last time around, as you know, there was a very complicated background story for people to try to get their heads around. I know I kept a running multipage list of all the Ukrainian officials we were trying to keep track of. Is this a simpler impeachment from that point of view in terms of the narrative that you are trying to convey in order to win a conviction?

SWALWELL: This is an act of workplace violence, you know, incited by our president who incited our citizens to attack our Capitol when we were carrying out our constitutional duty. I think people who saw the images and members and staff and custodial workers running for their lives understand exactly what the president did. So, yes, I think people understand pretty clearly what he did and who was affected.

KELLY: So how confident are you you can win a conviction, given you would need to get 17 Republican senators on board?

SWALWELL: We're trying this case as a team to convict - to hopefully remove the president, if not to hold him accountable and deter anyone in the future from ever inciting an attack like this again.

KELLY: From a legal standpoint, do you believe the legal case for inciting an insurrection, which is the charge here - is that as strong a case as, in your view, the one last time around was when it was two counts - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, two charges on which the president was not convicted?

SWALWELL: He should have been convicted on those charges. But this case, we will display that, you know, words have consequences. And this president - it wasn't only his spontaneous - it wasn't a spontaneous statement at a rally, but for weeks he refused to accept the outcome of the election. He called people to Washington there. He gave them essentially orders to not show weakness and to fight as well as other speakers. And the consequences were the loss of life. And we were disrupted for six hours from doing our constitutional duty.

KELLY: That is Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California. He is one of the nine House impeachment managers who will present the case against the president to the U.S. Senate.

Congressman, thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.