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Pete Buttigieg Would Not Pardon President Donald Trump

At The Texas Tribune Festival, the Democratic presidential hopeful said he supports impeachment and promises not to pardon Trump if that issue were to reach him in the Oval Office.

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South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks with MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg expressed support for the impeachment of President Donald Trump and said he would not pardon Trump if confronted with that choice in the White House.

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle wasted no time getting straight to the impeachment question in her one-on-one interview Friday afternoon with Buttigieg at The Texas Tribune Festival.

“Impeach or not to impeach?” she asked him for her first question. After raucous applause erupted and then quickly died down inside the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Buttigieg said simply, “Yes.”

“We’ve reached a point where the rule of law and our constitutional system requires holding this president accountable for what he’s done,” said Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “This is not just about this moment or about this president. This is about the integrity of the system.”

Later — in her last question — Ruhle asked Buttigieg if, as president, he would pardon Trump in the event that his predecessor had been convicted of crimes. Buttigieg said he would not.

“It’s not about him. It’s about the presidency,” Buttigieg said. “We have learned the hard way what happens when we’re deprived of a presidency, not just a president who agrees with me on policy but a president that your kids can look up to. And we need to demonstrate that that will never be allowed to happen again by showing that there are consequences.”

Relaxed and jovial throughout the interview, Buttigieg, the youngest of the 2020 hopefuls, sought to distinguish himself from the crowd of 19 Democrats still in the hunt. He portrayed himself as a pragmatic liberal, saying he could achieve “progressive outcomes” without pitting people against one another and losing big swaths of the electorate. He noted his support for Medicare “for all who want it,” allowing people to join the federal health care program but not requiring it under a single-payer framework as U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have endorsed. He also said he wanted to make college more affordable without promising “to pay down every last penny of college costs” for everyone, including those who don’t need the help.

Buttigieg took more direct jabs at leading candidates Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden when Ruhle asked him to articulate why voters should pick him over them. On Biden, whose campaign has sold his ability to defeat Trump in November, Buttigieg turned the tables, saying his own electability is why voters should prefer him. As for Warren, Buttigieg suggested that her proposals were too divisive: “The boldness that is required in order to meet the moment doesn’t have to be ‘my way or the highway,'” he said.

Turning to the economy and taxes, Buttigieg promised he would “reverse the Trump tax cut” and said his generation will suffer the consequences from the rising sea of red ink in Washington unless something is done soon to tame the rising national debt. He said Republicans have abandoned fiscal responsibility, so Democrats must embrace it.

“I know it’s not fashionable among Democrats to talk about the debt and deficit like it’s something that matters,” Buttigieg said, promising that all his policy proposals would have identified funding sources. “If we don’t care in the Democratic Party, then nobody does.”

Taking an audience question about the importance of Texas in the 2020 race, Buttigieg said he was “very enthused about the possibilities of Texas for the Democratic Party and for what that means for the country.”

“Texas is the kind of place that has so often been about the future rather than the past,” Buttigieg said. “And that’s what my campaign is about, too.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Jay Root is an award-winning journalist who has covered politics, immigration, natural disasters and live music — not necessarily in that order. For a dozen years Root was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he chronicled the rise of then-Gov. George W. Bush, wrote about cartel violence in Mexico and covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During a three-year stint at the Associated Press, Root was twice named AP Staff Reporter of the Year for his watchdog reporting, including a story that sparked felony charges against a sitting state representative. Since 2011, Root has been a senior political and investigative reporter at the Texas Tribune, where he covered the dramatic collapse of Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign and went on to write an ebook about it called “Oops! A Diary from the 2012 Campaign Trail.” Root also broke the story that put the Texas attorney general on the path toward criminal indictment, co-wrote an exposé that brought an end to privately funded prosecutions in Travis County, and authored a series of watchdog articles that prompted a wave of firings and resignations at two major state agencies. In 2017, Root co-directed Beyond The Wall, a film exploring border politics in the age of Trump, which won a national Edward R. Murrow award for best news documentary. Root’s latest film, Border Hustle, was released in early 2019 and reveals how desperate migrants have become cash cows on both sides of the border.

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