U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet told a town hall audience in East Denver on Friday that the evidence that has emerged so far in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump appears to support removing the Republican from office.
Colorado's senior senator, a Democrat, told the crowd of more than 300 attendees that everything he has seen so far backs up the allegations made by a whistleblower that prompted the investigation that could be headed to a trial in the Senate, where Bennet and his 99 fellow senators will act as a jury.
One of 17 Democrats seeking the nomination to run against Trump in next year's election, Bennet added that the president's own statements have confirmed suspicions that he used his office to seek political favors from Ukraine that could benefit his re-election bid.
"If the facts don't change, I'm likely to vote to convict," Bennet said at the town hall, drawing applause from the mostly friendly crowd at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church.
Following two weeks of televised hearings that aired testimony before the House Intelligence Committee from diplomats and national security officials, House Democrats have said they plan to turn the spotlight next week to the House Judiciary Committee, which could hear from experts on the impeachment process.
"We have to do everything we can to defeat Donald Trump, and at the back end, we've got to come out and begin to be able to govern again," Bennet said Friday, repeatedly telling the crowd that "the most important thing we can do is get every single person in this country that is eligible to vote to vote."
Although he's held more than a dozen town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire this year as a presidential candidate, the event in Denver was Bennet's first town hall in Colorado since he took questions from constituents at a Granby library 17 months ago.
"It's important in this moment in our democracy to have as candid a conversation as we can, because our democracy is under real risk," said Bennet, who turned 55 on Thursday, after the crowd serenaded him with a few bars of "Happy Birthday."
Since declaring his White House bid in May, Bennet has languished at the bottom of a historically crowded field of Democratic primary candidates, seldom rising above 1% support in polls.
He told reporters after the town hall that he intends to stay in the presidential primary through the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary in early February but has to "do well" in those contests to continue.
Bennet fielded an array of questions from the audience Friday, covering topics including climate change, campaign finance, immigration and Russian interference in American elections.
"We can't act on climate so long as we have a climate denier in the White House," Bennet said.
He said the solution also involves having "an American climate policy like what we once had, an American foreign policy," where Republicans and Democrats agreed with the broad aims surrounding the Soviet Union, the Cold War and support for the European Union — a consensus up for grabs under the current administration.
"We need to create a constituency for change that can support climate action over the long haul," Bennet added.
Describing Trump as "a symptom of the problem," Bennet circled back to an argument he's been making on the presidential campaign trail and in a book he published this summer.
"I don't think Donald Trump is the essential cause of all our problems, though in my view, he's made matters much, much worse," Bennet said after telling the crowd that Americans have suffered for decades from an economy that "has only worked for the people at the very top."
Throw in the rise of the Tea Party and a group of congressional Republicans bent on "immobilizing Washington," plus the influence of "a few billionaires" who can paralyze lawmakers by merely hinting that they'll finance a challenger less willing to compromise, and you've got a broken political system, Bennet said.
"People ran out of patience, and I understand that," he said. "The American people responded to that, in part, by sending a reality TV star to Washington to blow things up."
Bennet said that's what he hears from people he encounters who voted for Trump after twice casting ballots for Democrat Barack Obama.
"People say they wanted to blow the place up. I say, congratulations, you've achieved your objective. Now what do we do?"
There aren't any "shortcuts," Bennet said in response to a questioner who asked what Democrats can do to stop the Republican agenda.
"You've got to win purple states. You've got to win a majority in the Senate," he said, listing a handful of battleground states with vulnerable GOP senators on the ballot next year, including Colorado's Cory Gardner.