Former South Carolina Governor and 2020 Republican presidential candidate Mark Sanford criticized the Democratic impeachment efforts in the House for crowding out all other discussion on pivotal issues facing the country.
“It sucks all political conversation out the door and becomes the only issue that gets discussed,” Sanford told The Federalist. “So rather than discussing the fact that our finances are in a frightful position and it’s really going to hurt every one of us … none of it gets discussed.”
Sanford added that while he generally supports the House pursuing an investigation into the president’s conduct, he stopped short of calling for Donald Trump’s removal. “I don’t think you should prejudge the process.”
Sanford also challenged members of the lower chamber to take an official vote on impeachment rather than Democratic leadership going rogue, noting that a vote, rather than mere rhetoric, would verify where each member of the House genuinely stands on the issue.
“I think that’s the right way procedurally to do it,” Sanford said, adding that the last three impeachments in American history included an official vote. “Why don’t you take that vote, because that’s not what they’re saying to their audiences at home.”
As of now, the impeachment inquiry House Democrats have set in motion has been at the order of only House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and no official votes have been taken on the process.
Pelosi announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry following reports of an anonymous whistleblower complaint charging the president with conspiring with a foreign leader to interfere in the next U.S. presidential election. Pelosi’s announcement came the day before the release of the unredacted and declassified transcript of the July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that Democrats claim is cause for impeachment. The transcript, however, revealed no incriminating requests from Trump and contradicts charges levied by the initial whistleblower complaint, made public the following day.
Last week, Sanford said Trump ought to be impeached “at first glance” during an appearance on the “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” but he still cautioned the House not to rush the process. On Wednesday, Sanford suggested that Congress move instead to censure the president given both the close calendar proximity to the next election and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement that the upper chamber would not remove Trump from office if the House passed impeachment.
“It makes a lot more sense to look at a censure,” Sanford said, making the case that the House could still “say declaratively that what the president did was wrong.” If Trump survives impeachment proceedings, Sanford argued, the president and his allies would claim vindication.
Sanford’s more cautious approach to impeachment is at odds with the two other 2020 Republican challengers in the race who have joined Democrats in their calls to eject the president from the Oval Office.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld alluded to Trump’s execution over the charges and labeled his actions as “treason.”
Former one-term Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., branded the president as a “traitor” who “deserves to be impeached,” but declined to use the term “treason.”
While Sanford has steered away from using extreme language of his opponents, Sanford has been clear that the president’s conduct is worthy of investigation and called the recent letter the White House sent to House Democrats, declaring the Trump administration would not cooperate with subpoenas, “troubling.”
“It’s absolutely unequivocally clear that Congress does have an oversight role with regards to the executive branch,” Sanford said, citing the government’s checks and balances. “Congress can be free to do misguided things and then suffer the electoral consequences for doing so. … Trust the systems.”
The former South Carolina governor most recently served in the House of Representatives before losing a primary challenge to a Trump-endorsed opponent last year who ultimately lost the general election to a Democrat in the November midterms.
Since his entrance into the presidential race, Sanford has run on a message of reviving the Republican Party’s focus on fiscal responsibility, highlighting the deepening debt crisis that has only grown worse under the Trump administration. Unlike his other GOP 2020 rivals, Sanford has avoided going after the president on personal issues, having told The Federalist in August that the nation’s debt would bring down the republic before Trump’s personality would.
“Certainly, he has a big personality,” Sanford said of Trump. “I think the spending issue is bigger than Trump’s personality.”
True to form, however, Trump has certainly not been shy about going after Sanford’s own personal history, attacking the former governor as “Mr. Appalachian Trail” on Twitter. The nickname stems from the 2009 scandal that embroiled Sanford during his final years as South Carolina governor after he disappeared to South America with an Argentine mistress while claiming to be hiking the national scenic trail spanning the East Coast.
The latest polls conducted in the 2020 Republican primary show Trump with a comfortable lead, more than 80 percent ahead of the rest of the small field.