FRESNO, Calif. — Pete Buttigieg said Monday he’d vote to impeach President Donald Trump if he were a member of Congress, adding during an MSNBC town hall that the president “deserves to be impeached.”
At the “Hardball” town hall in Fresno, California, host Chris Matthews pressed Buttigieg on whether he supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s take-it-slow approach to considering impeachment proceedings, which has irked many liberal Democrats but that party leaders believe is politically prudent.
Buttigieg has generally supported a cautious approach by Democrats in the past while saying that since he’s not in the House, it would be improper for him to tell Congress what to do.
But if he were in Congress, Buttigieg said on Monday, his vote on impeachment would be a yes.
“Yeah, I would,” Buttigieg said in response to Matthews’ question.
Still, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor argued that a rush to begin impeachment proceedings while Democrats in Congress still have more witnesses they want to interview and more investigative steps to take could be ill-advised.
“It better be an airtight process,” Buttigieg said at the town hall. “There may be some strategic wisdom in following that sequence. I’ll leave that to Congress.”
By deferring to Congress on whether impeachment proceedings should begin now, Buttigieg is still stopping just short of positions staked out by many of his 2020 primary rivals. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., have both argued impeachment proceedings against the president should begin immediately.
During the town hall at California State University-Fresno, Buttigieg also defended his support for a national gun registry, a position first announced on his campaign website last month and one that puts him to the left of many other Democratic presidential contenders.
“If you have to have a license to have a car, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable that for deadly weaponry we would do the same,” Buttigieg said. “Most Americans are fine by this.”
But pressed by Matthews on how he would go about registering the hundreds of millions of guns already in the U.S., Buttigieg expressed new flexibility in his position, suggesting he would be willing to accept a plan that initially grandfathered in guns already sold. He also said that it could be left to states, not Washington, to register guns as long as they meet a national standard.
“Let’s at least get it right going forward,” Buttigieg said. “We can start on a go-forward basis. At a minimum, if we’re not doing it at point of sale, we can begin.”
In Fresno, a central California community that’s home to a larger percentage of Republicans compared with the larger cities in the state, people began showing up to the auditorium around 8 a.m. in hopes of getting in to see Buttigieg. One couple told NBC News they had driven in from San Jose three hours away and begged for tickets.
Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Glezman, sat in the front row as the South Bend mayor took questions from an audience that frequently applauded him enthusiastically.
Though he didn’t mention her by name, Buttigieg also drew an implicit contrast with another 2020 contender, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, over how the Democratic Party handled sexual misconduct allegations against former Sen. Al Franken in 2017. Franken resigned under pressure following calls for his resignation that were led largely by Gillibrand.
“I think it was his decision to make, but I think the way we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us,” Buttigieg said. But pressed again on whether Democrats should have pushed for his ouster, Buttigieg added: “I would not have applied that pressure at that time.”
Buttigieg also addressed a host of other issues, saying he was opposed to right to work laws that prohibit requiring workers to join a union, calling it “a bad idea” that he said has contributed to Indiana’s economic problems. And Buttigieg said he was opposed to a national military draft, but supports expanding national service programs.
He voiced opposition to the death penalty, as well as opposition to letting felons currently serving prison sentences vote, as Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for. Still, Buttigieg said he supported restoring voting rights as soon as those are incarcerated finish their terms.