This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The video player has been updated for the Sen. Mike Rounds interview.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Congressional delegation is responding to the impeachment inquiry being opened in the House of Representatives.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has read the “transcript” of the call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“There was not any suggestion of an exchange of assistance for that so I think it was a lot less than it was hyped up to be,” Thune said. “That being said, I’m not a fan of the way in many cases the president goes about this and I would prefer he would not raise an issue like that with a foreign leader.”
Thune, as the majority whip of the Republican-led Senate, could play a big role in impeachment proceedings. This isn’t Thune’s first impeachment experience. In 1998, the now-senior South Dakota Senator was entering his second term in the House.
Thune voted in favor of three of the four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.
“I think the Democrats run the risk of what we went through in 1998 and that is again perhaps getting ahead of where the American people are or out of sync with what they believe,” Thune said. “I think in the end it’s going to be the American people who render the ultimate judgment on this.”
Thune wants to wait for all the facts before making a judgment.
“I think (House Democrats) are very anxious to rush to judgment, I think they’re under a lot of pressure to do this and again I think at this point it makes sense for all of us to take a deep breath and just wait and see where the facts lead,” Thune said.
In the other chamber of the Capitol, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) will be likely the first to take part in an impeachment inquiry.
“All of this impeachment talk is going to take all of the oxygen out of the air,” Johnson said. “I’m a little concerned it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get work done here in Washington. “
Johnson – who is up for re-election next year – is more concerned about the attention this will draw away from key issues.
“This is obviously a fluid situation. I’m the kind of guy who likes to keep my head down, work hard and stay above the political fray,” Johnson said.
South Dakota’s junior senator agrees.
“I don’t think it’s the smoking gun that Democrats wanted in the House,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said.
Rounds, who is also up for re-election in 2020, said Democrats should be focusing on getting work done.
“(Democrats) have been trying to find a way to start impeachment proceedings against the President since he was elected,” Rounds said.
Both Rounds and Thune say they’re committed to transparency.
“The one thing that we’ve talked about in the Senate is full transparency with regards to these issues. We recommend though that it be done in the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Rounds said.
Rounds would like information to be classified in the Republican-majority Senate Intelligence Committee, and if there is something that needs to be released publicly, it should be declassified and made public.
“I think this is one of those issues where you just want all the facts,” Thune said. “They should be as transparent as they possibly can and then everybody will be in a better position to make a judgment and most importantly, the American people who ultimately decide if impeachment moves forward in the House.”
First, Thune said, the House needs to determine if what Trump did pass the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.
“Whether or not the President did something that was inappropriate is an entirely different question than whether he did something that would reach the threshold that would constitute what the House is now talking about doing, which would be an impeachment process,” Thune said.
Thune said his experience more than 20 years ago informs how he looks at this now.
“In 1998, as you mentioned, I did support those Articles of Impeachment, but I also know at the time that we, I think, were probably a little bit at odds of where the American people were and felt, although the President lied under oath at the time, what he lied about wasn’t something that he should’ve been impeached for and they took out that judgment in the subsequent elections,” Thune said. “So my guess is, the American people are going to weigh in on this.”