“The best possible path, especially if you’re concerned about a country that’s never been more divided, perhaps more highly polarized every day, is for this President to resign, allow this country to heal and ensure that we come back together with the greatest, most ambitious agenda we’ve ever faced, none of it possible while he remains in power,” O’Rourke said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.
House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry this week into Trump related to a whistleblower’s allegations that he pressured Ukraine’s President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, another 2020 contender.
O’Rourke said Saturday that “beyond the shadow of a doubt, we now know that the President must be impeached.”
He applauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for moving ahead with an impeachment inquiry and said he’s “cautiously optimistic about the path that we’re on now.”
After his appearance on stage, O’Rourke was asked by a reporter if impeachment would further divide the US.
“This country is as divided as is ever been, is being driven further apart every day by this President,” the former Texas congressman replied. “The single best thing to bring the country together would be Donald Trump’s resignation.”
O’Rourke acknowledged Saturday that “impeachment is not easy,” but he argued that “it’s the right thing to do” and that “ultimately, it will unify us.”
“If we were, because of a fear of division, or the politics or polling of this issue, to desist in the necessary effort to hold this President accountable, we will, by extension, have destroyed any chance of this country being able to continue as a democracy,” O’Rourke told reporters in Texas.
He said that Trump should step down in the same way President Richard Nixon left office in 1974 over the Watergate scandal before an impeachment vote in the House.
O’Rourke argued that Republican senators should “make clear to (Trump) that there is no way out of this” and lead Trump to “make that same decision” as Nixon.
A White House transcript released this week showed Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and Biden’s son. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
Trump had acknowledged that Biden was mentioned on the call with Zelensky and later revealed that he had withheld military aid from Ukraine. But the President has denied any wrongdoing.
The phone call is what led, in part, to a whistleblower complaint made public Thursday, which includes allegations that Trump abused his powers to “solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election.
“I think what we should do is take a breath,” said fellow 2020 candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. “This is a very sobering thing, that we have the fourth president in this country’s history that is spiraling towards a potential impeachment.
“We should go where the facts lead us, not where fears or hopes or, all that stuff should be seared away. Let’s focus on doing what is necessary right now, which is the pursuit of the truth. More will come out.”
Speaking to reporters after a campaign event in Virginia, Booker said in the case of former President Richard Nixon, “when the first controversy flared, when the scandal came up, everybody retreated to their partisan camps. But as more information came out, you saw profiles in courage of Republicans that stood up and said, ‘No, this is wrong. This is a violation of the most sacrosanct ideals of our country and we’re going to stand for impeachment.’ That’s why he resigned.”
“I have faith in our nation. I’m going to wait and see,” Booker said. “The most important thing right now is the public has a right to know what the President was doing with their public trust.”
CNN’s Shawna Mizelle and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.