U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill read off a question from a constituent at a Jackson County town hall Tuesday that dealt with the prospect of World War III and whether she’d support impeaching President Donald Trump to avert it.
“That’s kind of a repeat question,” the Missouri Democrat quipped before the crowd at the Truman Memorial Building in Independence.
McCaskill fielded multiple questions from constituents concerned about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea and about whether Trump is fit for office. “Why are people’s lives being put in jeopardy?” one of the attendees asked.
McCaskill, who is running for re-election in a state Trump won by double digits, treaded carefully. She acknowledged the legitimacy of her constituents’ fears but avoided making personal attacks on the president.
“I can’t tell you not to worry. ... There’s not a lot Congress can do in terms of changing the rhetoric of our president,” McCaskill said at one point.
McCaskill dismissed the notion that impeachment was a realistic prospect in the GOP-controlled Congress and also said she opposed the hypothetical idea that Trump could be removed from office by the 25th Amendment, which enables the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare that the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.
“I don’t think the 25th Amendment was designed for this situation,” she said.
McCaskill singled out Defense Secretary James Mattis as a “calming influence” on the president and also heaped praised on his chief of staff, retired General John Kelly, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been embroiled in controversy after an NBC News report that he called the president a moron.
“I hope and pray that Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson and General Kelly stay put,” McCaskill said.
Trump and Tillerson have sent mixed signals in recent weeks about whether the U.S. can find a diplomatic solution to increasing tensions with North Korea amid weapons tests.
McCaskill said the civilian cost to bordering South Korea from a U.S. military conflict with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime would be catastrophic.
“I can’t force the secretary of state and the president to speak with one voice,” McCaskill said. “It would be better if they did.”
McCaskill, who has conducted more than 40 town halls this year, said that at all of her town halls “there’s been uncertainty about the president’s demeanor” and “his impulsivity” on the part of her constituents, but she told reporters that she wants to treat Trump with the same respect she gave his predecessors.
“I want to at least hold on to some of the traditions we have in this country about respecting the office even if at times I think the president struggles with that,” she said.