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Pritzker ‘sticking by’ call to impeach Trump: Mueller report ‘sad statement’

Democrats across the country may be split about whether President Donald Trump should be impeached following the release of the Mueller report, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said he has seen nothing to change his mind.

“Well, I was right two years ago when I called for his impeachment, and I’m right today. I’m sticking by that,” Pritzker told the Sun-Times.

Pritzker — who will begin his 100th day in office on Tuesday — also said he’ll “work hard to defeat this president in the 2020 elections.”

The billionaire governor, who was one of Hillary Clinton’s top donors in her presidential bids, wouldn’t detail just how he’ll work to “defeat” Trump, or whether he’s already chosen a Democratic opponent to support. But Pritzker showed just how far he’d go to win his own office, putting in a record-setting $171 million of his own fortune to defeat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last year.

During that campaign, Rauner did his best to avoid even mentioning Trump’s name, but Pritzker rarely missed an opportunity — dubbing the president “a racist and a bigot and a xenophobe and a liar” and calling for his impeachment as far back as 2017.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a press conference last week. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“I think that the Mueller report is a sad statement about the current state of the presidency under this president,” Pritzker said on Monday. “That so many people are around the president who lied, that the president himself lies. This is an enormous problem, and I ran a campaign which I didn’t hold back when I talked about my feelings about the president.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged her divided Democratic caucus to hold off on impeachment proceedings, suggesting they focus on other tools to investigate the president.

Asked whether he’s worried about impeachment proceedings, Trump on Monday told reporters, “not even a little bit.”

Pritzker in February was among 36 governors to meet with Trump at the White House. Trump singled out Pritzker, calling him a “friend,” despite the Democrat’s vocal criticisms through the entirety of his gubernatorial campaign.

“Congratulations. It’s a great — you’re going to have — you have such an easy state. That’s so easy. Great state of Illinois. What an easy state. I don’t know. Huh? Have you found it to be easier or tougher than you thought?”

During that February meeting, Pritzker responded, “Well, you’re going to help us out.”

And Trump answered: “I’ll help you out. I help everybody out. I’m going to help you. Congratulations.”

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers, left, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, second from left, Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, third from from right, President Donald Trump second from right, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, listen while then Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, third from left, speaks after a meeting with governors elect in the Cabinet Room of the White House December 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers, left, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, second from left, Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, third from from right, President Donald Trump second from right, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, listen while then Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, third from left, speaks after a meeting with governors elect in the Cabinet Room of the White House December 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The governor on Monday said he’s committed to working with Trump to get the federal resources the state needs, “but I will also work hard to defeat this president in the 2020 elections.”

“I’m not getting involved at this point in the Democratic primary for president, but certainly in the general election, I’m going to work hard for whoever that nominee is,” Pritzker said.

With a little more than three months under his belt, Pritzker has consistently pushed for hot button items to be passed before the Illinois General Assembly adjourns at the end of May. What remains to be seen is whether Pritzker will be able to use his political muster to pass his three key priorities — the graduated income tax, legalization of recreational marijuana and the expansion of gambling.

But when asked what surprised him most during his first 100 days, Pritzker pointed to a duty outside of statehouse politics. He said he “wasn’t anticipating” the number of times he’s had to console families, specifically the families of Illinois State Police troopers who have lost their lives this year responding to crashes, as well as the victims of gun violence.

“I’ve had the opportunity to console those families, to talk to the parents or the spouses of those people, and I think that’s, those are the most difficult times of their lives,” Pritzker said. “And so I guess that I wasn’t anticipating that as such an important part of the job. But I’ve already had to do it too often.”

He touts his major achievements thus far as signing the minimum wage increase, gun dealer licensing and Tobacco 21 bills, a well as introducing his “fair tax” amendment and his budget proposal. He dubbed the minimum wage law as having “the most widespread and most positive impact.”

Pritzker, who is a political newcomer, said he misses the time he’s losing with his family and close friends. But he understands the heavy duty of his responsibilities. The governor’s wake up time? Between 4 and 5 a.m. Pritzker works until his wife or kids wake up, then spends time with them until he has to head out to events or meetings.

“I guess the biggest thing that I miss is, there are time when you just want to go spend some time with your close friends, but you know, the duties of office take you away from that,” Pritzker said. “And certainly the time away from my family — my children and my wife —  that’s lost time. But on the other hand, I’ve had the great, good fortune to be able to actually wake up every day and make a difference in people’s lives.”

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