U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse said President Donald Trump flagrantly disregarded his oath of office in inciting the mob that overran the Capitol on Wednesday, but the Nebraska Republican stopped short of saying he would vote to remove him from office.
Sasse said in a series of national media interviews Friday morning that he would consider any impeachment resolution brought by the House of Representatives.
“He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution (and) he acted against that,” Sasse said. “What he did was wicked.”
But with President-elect Joe Biden set to be inaugurated in just 12 days, Sasse questioned whether an impeachment proceeding would further divide the country. He said there’s a distinction between deciding that Trump failed to perform his obligations as president and “the prudential judgment of what is the best way to take America forward.”
Sasse also said he wanted to learn more about whether Trump played any role in the delayed response of the National Guard to quelling the mob. Though the Washington, D.C., mayor called for help from the Guard, it didn’t come for hours.
“We need to know why that happened,” Sasse said. “Where was the president in that process?”
Sasse said he’s been involved in an investigation of that question that was launched Thursday night.
Sasse has emerged since the November election as one of congressional Republicans’ most outspoken critics of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results. And he has been equally outspoken in the wake of Trump supporters’ attack on the Capitol.
Sasse gave interviews to a number of national media outlets Friday, including NPR, the “CBS This Morning” program and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Nebraska Democrats have criticized Sasse for not being more outspoken over the past four years, saying he and other Republicans have enabled Trump. Some political observers also see Sasse as positioning himself as a leader of the anti-Trump wing of the GOP, possibly in anticipation of a 2024 run for president.
In the Friday interviews, Sasse squarely put the blame on Trump for inciting the riot that has now led to five deaths, including a Capitol police officer.
“An insurrectionist mob came and marched on (the) Capitol after a rally with the president of the United States where he told them to come to the Capitol and to go wild,” Sasse told CBS.
He said one of Trump’s legacies will be all he has done to stoke division within the country. How those faults can be repaired, Sasse said, is more important than whether the president will be removed from office before his term is out.
“The most important question is what happens to the United States people and this union in 12 days and beyond,” Sasse said.
Sasse also blasted Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the leaders of the congressional Republican effort to toss out legitimate election results. During the NPR interview, Sasse called Hawley’s move “dumbass” and “a stunt,” and said Hawley was abetting the president’s efforts to spread lies about the election.
“The American people have been lied to, chiefly by Donald Trump, and lies have consequences,” Sasse said. “And those consequences are now found in five dead Americans and the Capitol building that’s in shambles.”