Democratic Sen. Tina Smith says it is premature to consider impeaching President Donald Trump for allegations outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but does favor continued congressional investigations, particularly into obstruction of justice allegations against the president.
“I think it’s really important to hear from Mueller in more detail in his thinking about the obstruction issues,” the Minnesota senator said. “I think Congress does have an important role to provide oversight over what happened here.”
The DFL senator was in Rochester Thursday, touting her legislation to boost mental heath services for students during a visit to Ben Franklin Elementary School.
Smith also stopped by the Rochester Post Bulletin to talk on a range of issues, including her reaction to the Mueller report, which she said she had read last Friday.
But since reading it, Smith said she was struck by the “pervasive and systemic” nature of Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election and how it was aimed at helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.
“There is just no way of looking at all of that evidence and coming to any other conclusion,” Smith said.
Smith also said she favored creating a 9/11-type commission that would make policy recommendations for safeguarding the U.S. election system and to make sure there is no repeat of what happened in 2016.
Smith said she was bothered by reports that the president is unwilling to hear anything about the role the Russians played in interfering in the election “for fear that it would undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.”
That attitude is harming congressional efforts aimed at bolstering the U.S. electoral system as Republican senators take their lead from the president. She said a proposal developed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other senators would direct resources to states and help protect the integrity of the ballot box, but the bill is stuck in a rules committee because of the sense that the president doesn’t “want to do anything like that.”
“To me, that is just unacceptable,” Smith said.
Asked about the upcoming 2020 election, in which she will be seeking re-election, Smith predicted that health care would continue to be a dominant concern of voters.
The issue will remain a high-profile one as long as people worry that they won’t be able to afford health care and prices for drugs, such as insulin, continue to skyrocket.
“(People feel) there is something fundamentally unfair about how this is all working. I heard that so much in rural parts of the state,” Smith said.
Smith said she did not support Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill, but instead favored a proposal that would allow people as young as 55 to opt-in to Medicare.
“I have a high regard for the challenges of implementing a massive systems reform, having lived through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Smith said. “I’m very interested in approaches that are going to create universal health care.”
Smith said her mental health bill would direct services to students. One in five young people struggle with mental health problem, but often have a hard time getting services. Schools are an ideal setting to recognize students who have mental health needs and connecting them with services.
Her legislation provides $200 million in grant dollars to local agencies, tribal schools ad community-based organizations to forge partnerships and train teachers and others to recognize when a student is experiencing a mental health crisis.
Smith was elected to her senate seat last November in a special election to complete the term of Al Franken, who resigned in the wake of sexual assault allegations. She is up for re-election in 2020.