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Rep. Cheri Bustos on impeaching President Trump: This is a matter of ‘preserving our democracy’

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos joins Yahoo Finance Live to weigh in on Democrats working to impeach President Trump following his role in the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: We are continuing to watch the developments unfold over in Washington. House lawmakers there are debating the process of impeachment here for President Trump. It would certainly be the second time for the president to be impeached if, in fact, they do move forward on that. And a vote is expected in the House by the end of the day. Let's bring in representatives Cheri Bustos. She's a Democratic Congresswoman from Illinois. We've also got Jessica Smith joining in on the conversation.

Congresswoman Bustos, it's great to have you on today. Let's start with what is developing in the House right now. How specifically are you approaching this process and how will you vote?

CHERI BUSTOS: Well, I think it's important to look at this-- there's not one member of Congress who will end up voting for this that has any glee in this moment. We first asked after this horrific experience that our nation has had to live through from January 6, 2021, we asked the president do the right thing and resign. Well, of course, that's not going to happen.

Just yesterday, we voted to ask Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would-- along with the Trump cabinet-- would ask him to resign, would remove him from office. And now we're left to have to vote for the second time in Donald Trump's presidency to impeach him again. And this is a matter of really preserving our democracy.

If you think about it-- I was on the House floor when this happened one week ago today-- in fact, almost exactly-- this is when it was beginning to unfold exactly one week from this moment right now. I was sitting on the House floor. And believe me, when you-- a colleague of mine handed me his phone and showed me this mob, this angry mob, storming the Capitol steps-- he hands me his phone and he shows me this, and I said, my god, when did this happen? And he said, this is live television.

And it was from that moment that it quickly unraveled to the point where you had these crazed, mostly men, supporters of Donald Trump trying to hang Vice President Pence. That was their goal-- to assassinate Speaker Pelosi, to kill as many of us members of Congress as they possibly could kill. This was their mission, to take over our democracy.

And it was incited very clearly, all there for the public to see, now on videotape, will be preserved for forever-- the President of the United States inciting this wild and crazy mob that just wanted to disrupt our democracy. The only thing we were trying to get done that day was to confirm the vote of the American people, that President-elect Biden will become president one week from today.

JESSICA SMITH: Hi, congresswoman, Jessica Smith here. As you watch the debate on the floor today and you hear from Republicans who say, it's time for healing, it's time for unity? I mean, what do you make of that argument when, really, these are some of the same people who were saying that the election was stolen, who were saying the election was rigged, and they did vote to reject the election results? So what do you make of that argument that they're making on the floor today?

CHERI BUSTOS: I think that, again, back to no member of Congress taking glee in this moment today-- I think every member of Congress wants to see us unite, wants to see us work together, wants to see us get the nation's work done, to have a national response to this horrible pandemic, and make sure that we begin saving people's lives again, make sure that as we suffer through this economic downturn, that we are in a position where we can get out past pandemic and start running out of this economy and improve our economy again.

We all want that. But I can tell you that if we ignore this moment of what happened a week ago today-- if we ignore this and do nothing about it, we certainly do not ever want this to happen again. Part of the motivation here is that we hold everybody who was involved in this, everybody who we can, hold them accountable. We had a conversation earlier today with a member of your profession, and I said, we need a 9/11 style commission or a Warren Commission type of investigation about what exactly happened. And if there were co-conspirators that are walking the halls of Congress or co-conspirators in the White House, then we need to know the truth, and we need to hold everybody that was involved with this attack on our democracy, this attack on the US Capitol building-- we need to hold every last one of them accountable.

ZACK GUZMAN: There's certainly a lot of questions still out there, Congresswoman. But when we look at the president's actions since that event took place, I mean, just yesterday a lot of people might not be making enough of the fact that the president went down to Texas to talk about the border wall in Alamo, Texas, a town, of course, that shares the name of the last stand where loyalists chose to die over surrendering. And he did make the call for no more violence here.

But what do you think sends-- what's the message you think that he's trying to send there, considering the fact that we're at a point where tensions are so high and the FBI's warning about risks across the country for four more armed action here? So what's your reaction to that?

CHERI BUSTOS: If there's something that Donald Trump is smart about, it's symbolism. It's dog whistling. The terms that were used a week ago today on January 6, 2021 were filled with that kind of symbolism. It was filled with things like the last stand, referring back to 1776, all these moments in our history that this crazed mob wanted to relive.

Make no mistake about this-- they wanted to take over our democracy. They wanted to kill people like me-- this pin that I wear that is a symbol of being a member of Congress. This is what we have to wear when we are here in the Capitol. And they wanted to kill people like me. They wanted to kill Nancy Pelosi. They wanted to kill Vice President Pence.

These are people who are violent and crazed. And Donald Trump stirred them up-- told them that he wanted to walk with them over to the Capitol. The fact that Vice President Pence did not invoke the 25th Amendment after his president, who he has worked side by side with for these last four years-- the fact that he didn't want to remove him from office is baffling. It was the right thing to do for our nation.

But certainly after the guy who you've stood by for the last four years really wants your hide, I mean, I'm amazed that he didn't do the right thing and invoke the 25th Amendment. So it will be left to those of us in the House-- I just left the House floor to come over and have this conversation with you. As soon as we're done here, I will go back to the House floor and be there during this debate to impeach the president for the second time in his tenure-- the first time this has ever happened in the history of the United States of America. But this is what we are left to do because of this-- because of this president's actions.

JESSICA SMITH: Congresswoman, I know lawmakers have been briefed on existing security threats. We see the National Guard members in the Capitol today. How safe do you feel in the Capitol? And do you have concerns for inauguration day?

CHERI BUSTOS: I will be at the inauguration. And we get one ticket-- as members of Congress would get one ticket, and we can invite one guest. I'm going to be inviting my husband, who, by the way, is the Sheriff of Rock Island County, Illinois, where we live. And he's been in law enforcement for going on four decades now.

So he also makes me feel safe. But, look, I feel safer today, certainly, than I did a week ago. And there will be somewhere between 10 and 15,000 national guardsmen and women. There will be snipers. And the Capitol complex, Capitol Hill, should be safe.

We should have been safe a week ago, and it was a massive, massive failure of the leadership of Capitol Police. But as I say that, I also want to say in that same sentence, thank god for those Capitol Police officers who saved my life, who saved my colleague's life, those who saved the life of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the life of Vice President Pence.

Because I could tell you without their help that day, the outcome would have been so much worse. As sad as it is to have lost the lives of five people, including a police officer-- Brian Sicknick, who we pray for his family-- but it would have been much worse. And those Capitol Police officers that day are heroes.

AKIKO FUJITA: Congresswoman, when you look at the timeline right now, where things move beyond the House, of course, the concern is that this impeachment trial in the Senate could bleed into beyond the inauguration date. And we've heard from President-elect Joe Biden as well as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who've said that, look, we're going to leave it up to Congress here. What conversations have you had with the Biden team at all about how Democratic lawmakers, at least, manage all of this? Because there does seem to be concerned that too much focus on it could derail the Biden agenda in the first 100 days.

CHERI BUSTOS: It won't. Look, that 100-day mark is a mark of a new administration. This goes back to the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was governing during the Great Depression, and what he was going to get done in those first 100 days. Joe Biden is going to be a great president.

He's got a plan to get us past this terrible coronavirus pandemic. He has a plan to rebuild our nation through the biggest and boldest infrastructure package that we have ever seen. He's got a plan. And you know, it's not like members of Congress can't do two things at once. We do it-- we do it every day.

We introduce multiple pieces of legislation every single day. And so, look, this is about doing the right thing. This is not about politics. This is about making sure that what happened here in the nation's capital never happens again. And that day-- and this is about the strength and resilience of our democracy-- while we were overrun by these people who wanted nothing more than to not only disrupt our democracy, but to tear it apart-- that day, while we went to a safe location, when we were done and this mob was off of the Capitol Hill, we went back and got the nation's work done.

We certified the votes of the American public. We certified the fact that Vice President Biden will be president in a week-- a week from today. So we got the nation's work done. Democracy was restored, and democracy will stay strong. This is the longest democracy in the history of the world, and we want to keep it that way.

So this is about doing the right thing. It's not about politics, it's about our democracy. And he will be impeached today. Donald Trump will be impeached today. And I hope and pray that we will unite and we'll be a stronger nation when this is all said and done.

JESSICA SMITH: What do you think about other members? Do you think there is a chance that other members might face consequences for potentially being a part of inciting the riot that we saw last week?

CHERI BUSTOS: Well, look, I think there are some very troubling-- there's very troubling evidence that we've seen, whether it's members-- Republican members of Congress who were at that rally who were inciting the already roused up crowd. There are reports of members of the Republican conference and members of Congress who were sending out social media advisories as to the location of the Speaker of the House.

I was sitting on the House floor that night when a guy like Matt Gaetz was making accusations that this was Antifa, and that there was visual recognition software that showed that. So I think that, again, if we have a 9/11 style commission, a Warren Commission type of investigation that is serious and not political, we'll get answers. And if there were any member of Congress-- any-- that is found to have furthered the cause of this crazed mob, then they need to be held accountable. But let's follow the evidence.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And I think-- I mean, that's obviously one of the benefits that would come from this process moving forward. Some critics might say, and they have said, that it might distract the incoming policy proposals coming from the administration. But that aside, I mean, one of the last issues that the House was voting on here in terms of Democratic policy agenda items was the Moore Act-- the idea of Kamala Harris-- the backed act here to see marijuana reforms at a federal level.

You were one of only a handful of Democrats who voted against the Moore Act in the House. When it comes to that issue, obviously, being from Illinois, a state that legalized here, what's your sense of where Democrats sit on the issue once we move past this and focus in on the things that we would expect a Biden administration to push for?

CHERI BUSTOS: I have no idea where that legislation will go-- this session of Congress. It's not a conversation that I've had with any of my colleagues. We're focused right now on uniting our country. We're focused on one week from today that Vice President Biden, President-elect Biden, will become our next president, Kamala Harris will be our historic Vice President. We've got a lot of work to do to unite and move our country forward. And that's what we're focused on right now.

AKIKO FUJITA: Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Democrat from Illinois, it's great to talk to you on this day. Appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us today.