Both the Republican and the Democrat running in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District are willing to buck their base on the issue of the investigation into President Donald Trump.
Republican Rep. Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Kara Eastman strike a different tone when they discuss special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations that the president colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
But ultimately, the two agree that they’re troubled that President Donald Trump’s personal attorney has implicated him in a criminal conspiracy, and they agree that it’s too early to commit to an impeachment vote.
Last week, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight financial crimes unrelated to the campaign. On the same day, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. Cohen said Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to two women who claimed that they had affairs with Trump.
All the allegations came out of Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 election and whether the Russian government coordinated with associates of Trump.
Is impeachment next?
Bacon and Eastman both said they want to wait for Mueller to finish his investigation to make a decision about what Congress should do next.
“I respect our judicial system and the rule of law, so I think that’s first and foremost,” Bacon said. “When somebody breaks the law, they should be held accountable.”
That position puts him at odds with the Nebraska Republican Party, which adopted a resolution at the state convention earlier this year that says any Republican “who willingly gives credence to, provides aid for, or assists in any way and to any degree, the pursuit of this unjust attack” on the president and his administration is “notorious and unfit for office.”
Meanwhile, Eastman did not go so far as calling for Trump’s impeachment, but she said Congress should be concerned about Trump’s statements about the investigation.
“I think every member of Congress should be condemning a president who seems to be defending the fact that there was collusion with Russia,” she said. “This is such a fundamental threat to America that it’s hard to believe there are people who are unwilling to call out a president who sides with Russia over America.”
‘Firewall against impeachment’
Eastman was particularly critical of Bacon’s statement at the state GOP convention that he would be a “firewall against impeachment.”
“I think that’s such a bizarre statement to be making,” she said. “That’s not leadership. Don Bacon was not elected by the president. His job is to protect and serve the voters of this district, the American public. His job is not to protect the president.”
Bacon said he did not mean that he would never vote to impeach the president.
He said he was referring to a push among congressional Democrats to impeach Trump before the results of Mueller’s investigation came out. He said that he sees that push as an attempt to invalidate the election and that he was saying that he would block attempts to impeach a president for political reasons.
When asked whether he would vote to impeach Trump if Mueller’s evidence shows it’s appropriate, Bacon said: “If there is high crimes and misdemeanors shown by the prosecutors, whether it’s this president or any president, I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have warned that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and will likely do so again in 2018.
Eastman said she would like to see the U.S. “doing more in cybersecurity” before then.
“We need to do everything we can to protect our elections,” she said.
Eastman said she would like to see more resources go to states to protect election security. Congress has allocated $380 million in state grants for elections. Democrats unsuccessfully tried to add another $380 million earlier this year.
Bacon said there are three ways in which Russia is trying to interfere: vote hacking, social media propaganda and email hacking.
On vote hacking, Russian attempts were unsuccessful across the board. Bacon said he feels comfortable that the U.S. is protected from that sort of interference.
To address the issue of social media propaganda, Bacon has co-sponsored a Democratic representative’s bill that would require social media ads to abide by the same rules that political TV ads do. That means that, among other things, the ads would have to contain disclosures of who paid for them.
On the third front, email hacking, Bacon said the National Security Agency and the FBI need to continue improving their monitoring and alerting system.