U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet says he hopes his fellow Colorado senator, Republican Cory Gardner, still has an open mind on impeachment, but he has doubts.
If the vote on President Donald Trump's impeachment trial was held Thursday, Bennet said he would vote to convict and remove the Republican president.
"A compelling case is being put before the Senate, and so far it hasn't been rebutted at all except by the president's middle finger," Bennet said in a phone call Thursday morning with a handful of Colorado reporters.
He said Americans should be clamoring for witnesses and the release of documents related to the trial.
"This has never happened before in the history of the country," he said of an impeachment trial without witnesses or any subpoenaed documents from the executive branch.
He said the evidence that is available shows "the president extorted Ukraine for his own political benefit and has covered it up from the moment he did it until today."
Bennet was asked specifically about Gardner's votes to table witnesses and said those who did so "voted against the interest of the American people and the interest of our democracy.
"I think anybody who voted in that way, whether they know it or not, is helping cover up what Donald Trump has done."
A spokesman for Gardner declined to respond to Bennet. Gardner has kept a low profile on the issue as one of the most endangered Republican senators up for reelection this year, in a state where Trump lost four years ago and remains unpopular, based on early polling.
Bennet said the nation is in a constitutional crisis.
The Democratic senator and presidential candidate said trying to invoke the Bidens and Trump's assertion that Ukraine, not Russia, sought to meddle in the 2016 is "meant to throw us off what Putin did in our elections in 2016, and it is appalling even without the quid pro quo, that President Trump would traffic in that sort of propaganda."
"This is a critical moment in American history, and I think we have a very important issue in front of us," Bennet told reporters.
He said Trump's defenders should be aware of their place in history, because eventually the truth in the documents and witnesses withheld from the legislative branch will come out, regardless. Senators will have to answer for why they weren't interested in seeing and hearing that alleged evidence now.
"That will be a shameful day for the people in the Senate who voted to stonewall to help cover up what President Trump has done," Bennet said.
Republican political analyst Kelly Maher, the executive director of the conservative advocacy group Compass Colorado, said Bennet was trying to score political points at the expense of a colleague.
She called it a "sanctimonious shot." Maher said Bennet, as a long-shot presidential candidate, was a hypocrite who lacks credibility on the issue. Gardner has fended off pressure from all sides to state where he stands before the trial.
"Trying to score political points against his colleague flies in the face of the 'above the fray”' brand Senator Bennet is trying to portray," Maher said. "Jumping into the melee might score him a headline, but it reveals that he’s just another partisan politician.
"Senator Bennet has no business wondering aloud if Gardner can keep an open mind when he’s already made his up. Only one of Colorado’s senators has expended the political capital to act with integrity during the impeachment proceedings, and it’s not Senator Bennet."