Levin addresses impeachment inquiry at Solana Beach town hall

U.S. Rep. Mike Levin addressed constituents at the Solana Beach library during the 11th town hall he's hosted in his 11 months in office.
(Luke Harold)

After hearing the testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee for the impeachment inquiry, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin opened a town hall at the Solana Beach library Nov. 23 with an update on what comes next.

“We’ll proceed with the seriousness that history demands,” Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, told about 60 residents from Solana Beach, Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad and other cities in his district who were in attendance. “We’re going to follow the facts.”

Levin is not a member of either the Intelligence Committee, which is now drafting a report, or the Judiciary Committee, which will view the report and decide whether to issue articles of impeachment for a House vote. But he said he’d vote in favor of articles of impeachment, if they’re ultimately drafted and spell out impeachable offenses by President Donald Trump.

“As I’ve said personally many times, I did not go to Washington to impeach a president,” said Levin, elected to his first term in the 2018 midterms. “This is a very difficult time for our country.”

Despite the partisan divide in the impeachment inquiry, he highlighted some of the bipartisan work underway in Congress. The Housing For Women Veterans Act, introduced by Levin and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) is pending in the House. Another bill to promote the use of wind, solar and geothermal energy on public lands, introduced by Levin and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), passed its first committee.

“There are roughly 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans [cosponsoring] the bill,” Levin said. “So that gives me hope, it gives me hope for the future that maybe we can come together and get something done.”

Some of the other local issues he said are on his radar include federal funding for bluff stabilization, especially after a portion of the bluffs collapsed in August and killed three women in Encinitas, as well as handling the nuclear waste at San Onofre.

But Levin also acknowledged that much of the public discourse about national politics has centered around the the impeachment inquiry, which began after a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian government.

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to Europe, was one of more than a dozen witnesses to testify to the House Intelligence Committee and raise concerns about the Trump administration’s contact with Ukraine. He said there was a quid pro quo in which Trump planned to withhold aid to Ukraine unless its government announced an investigation into former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Former National Security Council member Fiona Hill said Sondland’s Ukraine dealings were part of a “domestic political errand.” She also said she warned about U.S. officials “straying into domestic or personal politics.”

At issue is whether Trump asked Ukraine to launch the investigation for his own political benefit, and, Levin said, “whether the president’s actions and those in the administration threaten our national security.”

“We can’t allow this to become acceptable presidential conduct,” Levin added in an interview after the town hall, the 11th he’s held at different venues throughout his district.

Republicans have repeatedly emphasized that none of the testimonies in front of the House Intelligence Committee were based on firsthand communication with Trump. Democrats have responded that witnesses who could have provided those firsthand accounts, such as White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been prohibited or unwilling to testify.

If articles of impeachment are approved by a majority House vote, they would go to the Senate for a trial.

“My personal feeling is it’s going to die in the Senate,” Solana Beach resident Jim Healy said.

He was one of a few attendees who addressed impeachment during the event’s Q&A session. Thoughts ranged from perhaps having Congress issue a censure against the president in the interest of avoiding impeachment proceedings that divide the nation, to wishing Republicans were more intent on holding Trump accountable.

“I can’t tell you how it’s going to go,” Levin told the crowd, adding that “truth has to matter, honesty and integrity have to matter.”