ORLANDO, Fla. - Congress will be back in session Tuesday following a two-week recess, and there's no doubt the focus will be on the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, a Republican who represents Volusia and Flagler counties, joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss the probe into the president's dealings with Ukraine and why he's against the move to pull back U.S. troops from Syria.
News 6 investigator Mike Holfeld will also have an interview with former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum this weekend. McCollum, who was one of the 14 U.S. House members who prosecuted Bill Clinton in 1998, will offer his perspective and insight into how the impeachment process works.
Here's a portion of the interview with Waltz that will air Sunday at 8 a.m. on News 6:
WARMOTH: You're headed back to Washington this week. Towards the tail end of session before the two-week recess the impeachment talk really started up. Tell us what the atmosphere was like then and what you expect it to be like when you go back.
WALTZ: This momentum had been building for awhile, but the fact that Speaker Pelosi didn't wait for another day or two to at least see the transcript, which the president had offered to release, and to at least see the whistleblower report before she immediately went to something so consequential as impeachment for just the fourth time in American history, I found really surprising and shocking. But on the other hand, there have been Democratic members of Congress who have said since the day the president was inaugurated that they intended to impeach him, and if it wasn't for Russia then it was for this -- they were going to find a crime to fit that investigation and fit their agenda. So, it surprised me that she didn't wait to actually see what he said, but on the other hand there's clearly been an agenda on the left from day one.
WARMOTH: And [Speaker Pelosi] doesn't plan to hold a formal vote on this either. Do you think a vote should've already happened?
WALTZ: It absolutely should've happened. It's a historic precedent that it happened. It happened with Clinton, it happened with Nixon. For something so important of a coequal branch of government removing the head of another branch of our government as laid out in the Constitution, go on record. If you feel it's that consequential that these crimes, that this conversation reaches bribery, treason, or a high crime and misdemeanor, then go on record and vote up or down. That's our system and I think you should have the guts to do it.
WARMOTH: What do you make of the president's actions with Ukraine?
WALTZ: I think a lot of people are projecting intent on that conversation biased by their own filter. A lot of people, me included, say he was looking at corruption and he was looking back at 2016. He was looking at the DNC hack and really he's been loud and clear at wanting to get to the bottom of how those FISA warrants came about -- with the Steele dossier and all of those pieces. Was that FISA court process corrupted in some way by some bad actors in the FBI? He's also been loud and clear in calling into question foreign aid. Is it in America's interest? Is it being used efficiently? Are corrupt governments taking advantage of it? Whether that's in Central America with the migrant flows, whether that's in Afghanistan, or whether that's in Ukraine or other countries -- I don't think that should've been a surprise to anyone. I think a lot of people are trying to connect some dots to fit their own agenda.
WARMOTH: A lot of people are talking about the favor that he asked. Is that an impeachable offense or just wrongdoing?
WALTZ: Again, folks are conflating different parts of that conversation. The favor was asking for the servers that were serviced by a company called CrowdStrike. Some people are shifting that conversation around. But nowhere in there was a quid pro quo that I saw. Again, his hold on foreign aid has happened. And I've actually led some efforts and been part of efforts to say to release the foreign aid in a number of countries. But his concern about it shouldn't be new and it's been around the globe, not just Ukraine.
WARMOTH: You know, many Americans might be thinking that we just went through this for two years with the Mueller Report. Are we going to go through this again?
WALTZ: Justin, I just had a town hall, I've been all over my district in Central and North Florida, and people have had it with all of this. I think the Democrats have cried wolf too many times, particularly with Kavanaugh and immediately jumping to impeach him too just to have the New York Times pull that story back. So, they want to know what we're doing with health care, with prescription drugs, with transportation and infrastructure, with clean water and foreign policy -- what we're getting done for them in these big reform efforts. I can tell you with six committees involved in this investigation, we're not getting anything done and that's really a shame.
WARMOTH: With all the impeachment talk and some wanting to impeach, do you think [Democrats] are using it too loosely and is that dangerous?
WALTZ: I'll quote Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who leads the Democrats in the Senate, from the 1990s. He said we're heading down a dangerous road of using impeachment as a political tool to settle political scores. This, again, is hugely important and hugely consequential, and the minimum it deserves is to know where people stand on the record and to have a vote. So, I'm calling on all of my Democratic colleagues to step up and cast your vote. That's what I think our system is designed around.
WARMOTH: Last question on this, how do you see this all playing out?
WALTZ: I think the Democrats are determined to do it at this point. Politically now that Nancy Pelosi has sort of crossed that threshold, I think she's going to drive it forward. What is really bothersome to me is that this has not been a fair and open process. Adam Schiff, who leads the intel committee, is not allowing the transcripts to be seen by the public yet. They're selectively leaking certain texts and he's going right to the microphone with his own spin. Again, with something this consequential then let's have the open hearings, let's have everything be heard, and I think the president's right to say that we're not going to participate in this tilted, unfair, partisan process until we at least have a vote. Our Founding Fathers intended for this to be bipartisan. That's why they have a two-thirds requirement in the Senate, so that you can't just have a simple majority from one side or the other start taking down another branch of government. That's what they intended and I think that's what we should do.
WARMOTH: I want to switch now to the president pulling troops out of Syria -- a move you are not for. Tell us why.
WALTZ: First, I want to say a lot of people are painting this as totally irrational and him flying off the cuff. He's trying to improve our relationship with Turkey, which has been deteriorating since Obama, is not irrational. I get that logic. I just disagree with the downside of abandoning our allies, the Kurds, and allowing ISIS to resurge. The Kurds are guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners in prison camps and we're essentially opening the jail doors now by allowing the Turks to attack the prison guards, which are the Kurds. It's complicated, but I think at the end of the day ISIS can resurge, they will attempt to resurge. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive. He called on his remaining fighters to attack these camps as well. They can become a threat to the United States again. The other thing I want to be clear on is that we're not talking about hundreds of thousands of American troops. I think a lot of folks believe we're in Syria in a way that we were with the Iraq invasion. We're talking a few hundred, so if our goal is bring a few hundred troops home then how about the 50,000 that are in Japan? Or the 30,000 that are in South Korea? Or the 30,000 that are in Germany? We even still have a battalion in the Egyptian Sinai. So, if we want to bring some troops home and reduce our exposure overseas there are a lot less dangerous place to do it than at the height and at the heart of the ISIS caliphate. We can't repeat the mistakes of Obama who pulled us out of Iraq too soon. That's what lead to ISIS in the first place.
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