GOP senator who said Nancy Pelosi is "dumb" says quid pro quo concerns about Trump are "red herring"

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., aroused controversy last week when he said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was "dumb"

By Matthew Rozsa
Published November 10, 2019 2:00PM (EST)
John Neely Kennedy (Getty/Jonathan Bachman)
John Neely Kennedy (Getty/Jonathan Bachman)

Sen. John Kennedy — the Louisiana Republican who aroused controversy last week when he said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was "dumb" — made it clear during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he viewed the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as a "red herring."

"The quid pro quo, in my judgment, is a red herring," Kennedy told CBS host Margaret Brennan on Sunday. "Here are the two possible scenarios. Number one, the president asked for an investigation of a political rival. Number two, the president asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival. The latter would be in the national interest. The former would be in the president's parochial interests and would be over the line."

He added, "I think this case is going to come down to the president's intent — his motive. Did he have a culpable state of mind?"

When Brennan pointed out that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified in the impeachment inquiry last week that "there was no doubt that the president was seeking political investigations of political rivals," the CBS host asked the Louisiana senator whether it is "appropriate to ask foreign governments to investigate Americans."

"Well, it depends on the circumstances," Kennedy replied. "I'm not going to go through the two scenarios that I just gave you, but it depends on the circumstances."

Brennan than pushed Kennedy on the question of whether there were any set of circumstances that would lead him to vote for President Trump's removal from office. The senator refused to say whether he viewed Vindman as a credible witness, arguing that he only had access to the transcripts of his testimony and would need to see him testify in person. After some additional evasion Kennedy answered Brennan's question by saying, "What I am telling you is that if it can be demonstrated that the president asked for and had the requisite state of mind, that the president asked for an investigation of a political rival, that's over the line."

Kennedy became a figure of controversy last week when he defended the president against the impeachment inquiry by telling a political rally, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him. I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb."

When asked about his comments on Friday during an appearance on the Fox News show "America's Newsroom," Kennedy said that he "didn't mean disrespect" but refused to distance himself from the comment.

"Let me say it again: I think that what Speaker Pelosi is doing here is not only dumb, but it's dangerous. It's a partisan impeachment, clearly. All impeachments, I guess, are political. But this one's 100% political, and it's going to establish a new norm for America that I think is bad for us," Kennedy told Fox News.

He added, "Due process should matter. And I think Speaker Pelosi intends to give the president a fair and impartial firing squad, and she made up her mind before she saw the facts."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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