WILMINGTON, Del. — On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC to discuss accountability for President Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol Building and the need to swiftly confirm President-elect Biden’s foreign policy and national security team. 

On the impact of impeachment proceedings on key Cabinet confirmations, Senator Coons said, “I'm going to be working with my colleagues to make sure that we find a path towards accountability for President Trump and those who supported this unprecedented challenge to the certification of a free and fair election while also trying to advocate for the prompt confirmation, particularly of the vital national security and foreign policy nominees that will make up the core of President-elect Biden's Cabinet.”

On recent shifts in U.S. foreign policy by the outgoing Trump administration, Senator Coons said, “This is just another example of ways in which core Trump loyalists are not being helpful as we should be in the midst of a transition to a new secretary of state, a new secretary of defense, a new executive branch. The designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization in Yemen as well, which just happened, is going to significantly complicate humanitarian relief in Yemen, a nation that is suffering through one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet right now. I had urged Secretary of State Pompeo, the outgoing secretary of state, not to take that action, and this is just one of several ways in which the actions of this last week may well cause challenges or problems for the incoming administration that are not helpful.”

Full audio and video available here. A transcript is provided below.

Q: Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who is arguing in The New York Times column today that the world is watching and the president needs to resign – like, now. Senator Coons, thank you very much. First of all, what do you think about what Senator Manchin is saying that impeachment is only going to make things worse? 

Sen. Coons: Look, I'm mindful of the vigorous debate that's going on between, how do we make sure that we advance President-elect Biden's nominees and agenda as quickly as we responsibly can while also ensuring there is accountability for this remarkable, tragic, unprecedented assault on the American capital by a mob incited by President Trump. There will be action, I believe, this week in the House that will send impeachment over to us. The minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, is exploring a pathway towards having us promptly reconvene and take this up – something that Majority Leader McConnell has said is not possible but may well be possible under something that was agreed to after 9/11 that allows the majority and minority leader to reconvene the Senate. I'm going to be working with my colleagues to make sure that we find a path towards accountability for President Trump and those who supported this unprecedented challenge to the certification of a free and fair election while also trying to advocate for the prompt confirmation, particularly of the vital national security and foreign policy nominees that will make up the core of President-elect Biden's Cabinet. 

Q: In fact, the vote also might be the first defense secretary not confirmed before January 20th in recent years because there has been a policy of doing that. But wouldn't impeachment, as Senator Manchin says, get in the way of that?

Sen. Coons: It depends how we proceed with impeachment and whether or not it is done quickly or slowly, whether or not it is the only matter that the Senate deals with, or we can possibly split our days. But, look, let's not get ahead of ourselves, Andrea. What I said in my editorial, which has been repeated by many Republicans and Democrats, is that President Trump should resign. Failing that, the responsibility for this falls on the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet. They have the power to remove him immediately and prevent us from having to go through this exercise. If they refuse to do so, if they won't take responsibility for these actions last Wednesday, then Congress has to consider its alternatives. And I do think it's important that our caucus leader, Senator Schumer, is calling for us to reconvene promptly and to move ahead with this before we get to the inauguration.
Q: The U.S. Capitol Police who have, by the way, not done a briefing yet, which is remarkable, have revealed that several of their officers have been suspended after Wednesday's riot. How concerned are you that law enforcement might – some of them, some were obviously heroic and some tragically died – but law enforcement may have been involved?
Sen. Coons: Well, that's exactly why we need a prompt and thorough investigation of and accountability for the incidents at the Capitol last Wednesday. We should first stop and reflect on the fact that two Capitol Police officers – Officer Brian Sicknick, who was bludgeoned to death by rioters, and Officer Howard Liebengood, known to me and my staff well as one of the warmest and most engaging and positive law enforcement officers, people of any background, that I've met in my decade in Washington – both of them gave their lives in line of duty deaths associated with this event on Wednesday. And I saw dozens of Capitol Police officers bravely risking their own safety and security to keep us safe, those of us who serve in Congress or work in the Capitol complex. There are also troubling allegations that there may have been some who were not doing their duty. And there are, of course, real challenges in terms of the planning and the preparation that are more urgent than ever, given that the President-elect and Vice President-elect will be sworn in next week on the 20th, and as you were just reporting, that there's now plans for or beginnings of plans for violent demonstrations at state capitals across the country. It is urgent that we get to the bottom of what has happened here while also making certain we respect the members of law enforcement who risked, or in those two cases gave, their lives to keep us safe.
Q: Secretary of State Pompeo is now today accusing Iran, of ties to Al Qaeda. Yesterday, he designated Cuba a terrorism sponsor. The day before they changed policy dating back to 1979 on Taiwan, which could seriously jeopardize Joe Biden's policies towards China. So they're taking steps that will tie his hands on foreign policy as they're going out the door?
Sen. Coons: Andrea, this is just another example of ways in which core Trump loyalists are not being helpful as we should be in the midst of a transition to a new secretary of state, a new secretary of defense, a new executive branch. The designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization in Yemen as well, which just happened, is going to significantly complicate humanitarian relief in Yemen, a nation that is suffering through one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet right now. I had urged Secretary of State Pompeo, the outgoing secretary of state, not to take that action, and this is just one of several ways in which the actions of this last week may well cause challenges or problems for the incoming administration that are not helpful.
Q: To say the least. Thank you very much, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.

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