Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday said the House Democrats’ impeachment probe should not prevent President Donald Trump from working with Democrats on issues such as gun control.
His comments came hours after a deadly shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that it is an opportunity for Trump and Congress to work together. Trump has asserted that he cannot work with Democrats while the impeachment inquiry is taking place
“Look, you got hired to do a job. You don’t get to – every day’s an opportunity to make something good happen,” Clinton said. “And I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.’ That’s what I would do.”
Clinton’s message to Trump is not the first time the current President has been advised to stay focused on his presidential obligations instead of focusing on impeachment proceedings.
A number of Republican senators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have told Trump to follow Clinton’s approach, according to officials. They believe Trump is doing himself a disservice by constantly focusing on impeachment rather than attempting to rise above it.
“President Clinton defended himself, but he never stopped being President. I think one of the reasons that he survived is that the public may not have liked what the President had done, but believed that he was still able to do his job,” Graham said last month at a press conference after introducing a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry process. “I’m hoping that will become the model here.”
Clinton, who was impeached by a Republican-controlled House in 1998 on charges of obstruction of justice and lying under oath, called Attorney General William Barr’s Wednesday comments that gun control measures have been “sidetracked” because of the impeachment inquiry an “excuse.”
Clinton said gun control is an obvious area where Trump could work with Democrats.
“He did indicate a couple times he would go along with this and then obviously the gun lobby got a hold of him and pulled him back, but at some point denial is no longer an option and the Congress is basically in denial of the consequences of doing nothing,” Clinton said.
In 1993, Clinton helped usher the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act through Congress. That law required mandatory background checks for most gun purchases. He also pushed the 1994 ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. Among the House of Representatives, 54 Republicans supported the so-called Brady Bill, while 69 Democrats voted against it.
The former President said the shooting in California is another deadly example of the consequences of inaction in Washington.
“We ought to try to put this beyond politics and think about these kids’ lives,” he said. “I mean, you know, we can all talk about sympathy and talk about mental health, although mental health in Americans is no worse than other major countries, but this is an opportunity for us to do something responsible, and to do it together.”