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2020 Candidate Conversations: Off Script

Cory Booker On Impeachment: 'I Swore An Oath To Protect And Defend The Constitution'

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Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker is seen outside of Vonda's Kitchen in Newark, N.J. on Oct. 12, 2019, ahead of an NPR-moderated discussion with voters.
A.J. Chavar for NPR

Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker is seen outside of Vonda's Kitchen in Newark, N.J. on Oct. 12, 2019, ahead of an NPR-moderated discussion with voters.

New Jersey Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker says he is unequivocal in his support on whether the impeachment inquiry of President Trump should proceed, regardless of polls showing that a majority of Americans want the president's fate decided by next year's election.

"I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution," Booker told NPR on Saturday. "I didn't swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution unless there's an election coming up," he said in the interview, recorded for the NPR series with Democratic presidential candidates Off Script.

Booker spoke from Vonda's Kitchen in Newark, N.J., the same city where he served as mayor from 2006 to 2013. He said that Trump was potentially "violating the Constitution" and "doing things that are unacceptable" with respect to the presidency.

"The long arc of history will look back and say, 'What did the United States Senate, what did the Congress do when a president of the United States was acting more like a dictator or totalitarian authoritarian leader than someone who is subject to the checks and balances as designed by our founders?'"

Booker's comments came as polls show public support building for the impeachment inquiry announced against President Trump last month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In all, 52% of Americans say they approve of the inquiry, while 43% disapprove, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released this week.

Support comes from

But by a 58-37% margin, Americans think the president's future should be decided at the ballot box rather than through impeachment, according to the poll.

With the launch of the inquiry, three House committees are now investigating President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. On the call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to "look into" the family of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House.

In the interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro, Booker was asked why Congress should get involved in impeachment proceedings, rather than leave it up to voters who go to the polls in a little more than a year.

Booker said he has no idea what the state of things will be 13 months from now, but "in this moment in history" the move should not be to sit back and wait for November 2020.

"So politics be damned," Booker said. "I have a job to do which is to hold the executive accountable and we should be doing that."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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