Politics

Ryan Takes ‘No Joy’ in Calling for Impeachment at Town Hall

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan added his voice to the chorus of Democrats calling for initiating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump during a nationally televised town hall on CNN Sunday night. 

Ryan’s assertion that the U.S. House of Representatives should begin pursuing impeachment charges against the president came about 20 minutes into the hour-long forum, held in Atlanta and moderated by CNN anchor Poppy Harlow.

Based on his reading of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the potential involvement by the Trump campaign, Ryan said Trump committed obstruction of justice on multiple occasions.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, also expressed his regret for the necessity of the process.

“I don’t want to. I know what this is going to do to the country,” Ryan lamented. “I take no joy in this, but I have a duty and a responsibility.” 

The national spotlight provided by the cable news channel was “very important” to the campaign, said Ryan spokesman Michael Zetts last week. The congressman is one of more than 20 candidates seeking the 2020 presidential nomination from his party, and one of three who were subjects of town hall forums on Sunday.

Ryan fielded questions from Harlow and audience members – including ones who had expressed preferences for his rivals for the nomination – on an array of issues.

Among those was diversity. Ryan, who is of Irish and Italian ancestry, said he is “absolutely not” comfortable with the Democrats nominating an all-male, all-white ticket.

“Our ticket and the next president’s cabinet must reflect the diversity of our country, and I am committed to do that,” he said.   

Much of the forum focused on economic issues such as those Ryan has put at the heart of his campaign, and he sometimes would steer other topics to that message.

Ryan was asked whether he would commit to telling workers in industries based on 19th- or 20th-century technologies – many of whom supported Trump based on his pledges to bring back their jobs – that those jobs weren’t coming back, and to come up with “concrete plans” to move them into 21st-century jobs. 

“I’m running because I understand exactly what those workers are going through,” Ryan said, from the closing of the steel mills decades ago to the idling of General Motors’ Lordstown Complex in March. He told of his efforts to steer federal dollars into his district to support technologies such as additive manufacturing to move the region into the future.  

Ryan also was critical of trade agreements that ignore workers and have eviscerated the middle class, he said. While the United States has to engage the world economy, it has to be in a way that lifts the labor and environmental standards of its trading partners so they are more in line with those here.

Liz Haywood, identified as a supporter of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, challenged Ryan for comments in which he suggested that concern about climate change was “a luxury.” 

He defended that position, saying that is the case for people like autoworkers who are concerned about putting food on the table and other kitchen-table concerns. 

“We can reverse climate change. Let’s talk about it in the context of jobs,” he continued. Electric vehicles, solar and wind all represent markets that the United States should dominate but instead China does.

Ryan, who was first elected to the house in 2002, who pointed out he was an original cosponsor of legislation to punish China for currency manipulation, expressed his support for “targeted tariffs” but criticized those Trump has imposed. The president lacks focus and “a big strategy” and instead has a tactic that gets him on television and “makes him look tough,” he said.

While Trump is in the midst of a second wave of payments to support farmers hurt by the trade war with China, he could spend $1 billion to help put an electric vehicle plant in Lordstown, Ryan said.  

“We need an industrial policy in the United States,” he said. 

Tish Woodward, a former Ohio resident and program manager for the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine, asked how his campaign, which appears to be focused on winning back the white working class, would address racial inequality, an issue not explicitly a “main focus” of his base.

“A lot of people don’t know, but Youngstown is 50% African-American,” Ryan said. “I’ve been working on these issues a long time.” 

His campaign isn’t just about the white working class, Ryan said, but rather for people around the country regardless of ethnicity, gender or geography. He pledged to have “concrete plans” to steer investments into communities of color and communities that have been left behind. 

“I want an opportunity to represent all of the forgotten communities,” he remarked. “When I’m president, they’re not going to be forgotten anymore.”

Other issues Ryan addressed during the forum included his shifts from his earlier positions on abortion and gun regulation. He attributed the shift to away from pro-life to his work with other members of Congress on women’s heath issues and learning about the “very difficult circumstances” of women who had gone through the procedure.

He also pledged his support for an assault weapons ban and for studying gun violence as a public health issue. He was critical of the availability of extended magazines and suppressors found at the scene of the mass shooting Friday at Virginia Beach.

“Those need to be banned,” he said. “The [National Rifle Association] needs to get off the dime and help the American people make that happen.”  

Harlow pointed out that Ryan, who previously held an “A” rating from the NRA, now gets an “F” from the organization, which also drew applause from the audience.  

“This is the first time in my life I’ve been applauded for going from an A to an F,” Ryan said.

Ryan said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has done “a terrific job” in keeping the House Democratic Caucus unified. Reminded of his past challenges to her leadership, the congressman said when he ran against Pelosi it was “never personal” but he repeated his concern that the Democrats were becoming a “coastal party.”  

He said Trump had “met his match” in the speaker. “I knew first hand what he’s up against. He’s going to lose,” he said. 

Toward the end of the town hall, Harlow pointed out Ryan’s use of yoga and the book he wrote on mindfulness. Audience members applauded when he said he loved doing hot yoga. 

“I did not take you for a hot yoga crowd,” he quipped.

Ryan described meditation as an “amazing experience” that “reduces your stress level dramatically” and “helps you see how things are interconnected.”   

In advance of the forum, the Republican National Committee sent an email criticizing Ryan as “a radical Democrat trying to masquerade as a moderate” and said the congressman was “all but calling for [Trump’s] impeachment,” an action he indeed called for during the program.

The email, from Mandi Merritt, RNC regional communications director, also criticized Ryan for his changed position on abortion rights, his criticisms of Trump’s economic policies and his support for “government-run health care” that would remove more than 6.4 million Ohioans from their private insurance, eliminate half a million jobs and cause “soaring taxes” to pay for it, the RNC claimed.

The email reiterated the earlier criticism of Ryan for the number of votes he has missed this year, more than any of the other presidential aspirants in the House and third highest among House members overall.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.