Politics

Charlie Baker was repeatedly asked if impeaching Trump was the ‘right decision.’ He refused to say.

"That's their call, Jim. Not mine. I wasn't there."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker faces reporters during a news conference last week in Boston. Steven Senne / AP

Did the House of Representatives make the “right” decision impeaching President Donald Trump?

Gov. Charlie Baker won’t say.

During his monthly appearance Thursday afternoon on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio,” the Massachusetts Republican repeatedly declined to give his opinion on whether Trump’s efforts to use his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son — or his alleged obstruction of Congress — merited impeachment Wednesday night by the House.

Baker, who prefers not to wade into national politics but has at times criticized the Republican president’s divisive rhetoric and policies, reminded the show’s hosts Thursday that he supported the decision by Congress earlier this fall to investigate Trump’s alleged abuse of power. But when asked if the nearly party-line vote to impeach Trump was the “right decision,” the second-term governor initially sidestepped the question.

“I didn’t support the president in the Republican primary,” Baker said. “I didn’t support him in the general election, and I said that I didn’t think he had the temperament for the job, and there’s nothing that’s happened over the course of the past few years to change my mind.”

But was impeachment the “right” decision? WGBH co-host Jim Braude asked the question a second time.

“I think that’s ultimately going to be decided by the Senate and, ultimately, by the voters,” Baker replied.

Braude reiterated that he was referring to the House’s decision to impeach Trump, not whether he should be removed from office.

“Look, that’s the decision they made,” Baker said. “I wish it had been a little more bipartisan, but unfortunately we’re never going to get that out of this Washington.”

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Braude, sounding somewhat exhausted, asked a fourth time: “Did they make the right decision?”

But Baker wasn’t budging on his refusal to weigh in on the matter.

“They made the decision that they made based on the information and based on what they thought the right vote was,” he said. “That’s their call, Jim. Not mine. I wasn’t there.”

Earlier in the interview, Baker lightly criticized both parties for their conduct during the process, in which only a few Democrats voted against impeachment (or, in the case of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, voted present) and just one libertarian-leaning Republican-turned-independent, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, voted in favor.

Baker similarly declined to weigh in on whether the Republican-controlled Senate should vote to remove Trump from office, adding that his only hope is that the chamber holds a nonpartisan trial — which he found doubtful.

“I hope they do their job,” Baker said, noting that he made similar comments when asked in 2016 if Republican Senate leaders should hold confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (they did not).

“I think the Senate should try to create a fair trial,” Baked added. “I talk to people on the street all the time and this is not one of the things that comes up. And when it does, it typically comes up around the notion that, ‘Boy, is this ever a partisan exercise?’ I would hope one way or another that they have what I would call a fair process over there.”

But again, he wasn’t getting his hopes up — nor should be, based on the statements of Senate leaders.

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Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, noted earlier this week that he is “not an impartial juror” and that impeachment is “a political process.” And during Baker’s appearance on WGBH, co-host Margery Eagan argued that other Republicans were flatly ignoring basic facts about Trump’s wrongdoing.

Baker countered that “both sides” were acting politically.

“I think it’s unfortunate that some of the Senate folks have already, basically, said what they’re going to do before the thing even starts,” he said. “And that’s on both sides. If you’re going to be a juror in one of these things, the most important thing for you to do is say nothing and actually let the process and the House managers who pursue this do their work.”

While expressing disapproval of the conduct of some of his current fellow GOP members, the moderate Republican said he has no plans to leave the party, which — even in Massachusetts — has become increasingly loyal to Trump.

Baker said he first joined the Republican Party after graduating from college because he was a “big fan” of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and former Massachusetts governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci in the 1990s (Weld, now one of Trump’s two long-shot challengers in the Republican presidential primary, has yet to receive the declared support of his protege for his 2020 campaign).

Baker added that he is “still a big fan of my brand of Republicanism,” which he has described as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

“I have no trouble being a Republican defined the way I want to define it,” Baker added. “And look, there’s more than enough blame to go around in Washington. Yeah, there are plenty of Republicans that have not exactly lived up to what I would call the standards that we electeds should live up to, but there’s plenty of Democrats, too.”

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