Rep. Tom O’Halleran talks Trump’s emergency declaration, John McCain and Rosemont Mine
U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-CD1) represents a sprawling district that includes Oro Valley and Marana, Pinal County, Eastern Arizona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and Navajo and Hopi reservations. He recently appeared on the radio program Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel, which airs Sunday afternoons on KXCI, 91.3 FM. This is an edited and condensed transcript of a portion of the show.
What do you make of the Trump administration’s declaration of national emergency to construct a border wall? You voted for a bill to nullify the emergency order.
We have a process in Congress and the president has to abide by that process, just like we have to abide by everything else within the Constitution. We need to recognize that we’re a co-equal branch of government. Just because sometimes any president doesn’t get their way, it doesn’t mean that we go into an emergency response. These are things that have to be addressed in a logical way. And by the president’s own words, he says he could do it at any time, there’s no real need to do it right now. By definition, it’s not an emergency. We have to secure our borders. There’s no doubt about that. How we do that and to what extent we need to secure the rest of America’s security through visa programs and additional work in the ports of entry, whether it’s by sea or land, north, south, east or west, that needs to be a part of a comprehensive package.
What are your thoughts on what you’ve been hearing from President Trump about the late Sen. John McCain?
I’m really disheartened. I’ve written press releases on this issue too many times ... The senator’s death is part of their family issue, not the world’s family issue. The president has to let things go. I’m just totally amazed that this is going on. I take a look at the John McCain’s history. Did I agree with him all the time? No, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an American hero. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be respected for the years and years of public service and his time in the military, and almost six years of being tortured, and helping others while he’s being tortured with them saying, “We’ll let you go because of your father being an admiral,” and him saying, “No, I’m not going to go until the rest of us go.” That alone is an indication of true leadership and the president should acknowledge that leadership and let it go.
Democrats have begun a number of investigations into the Trump administration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said that it’s just not worth it to pursue impeachment because of the way it would divide the country. What are your thoughts on impeachment of the president?
Well, I’ve always said that if there’s an appropriate amount of evidence to impeach that that’s something that we need to consider into the future. Not right now. I’m a former investigator. I didn’t go to the state’s attorney’s office when I was a police officer and go, “Before we find out all the facts, let’s impeach this person.” We need to go through the process of knowing what we’re going to be impeaching somebody for if we are to do that and we aren’t at that level yet until the Mueller investigation comes out, and I’ve been very consistent we shouldn’t even be talking about impeachment until we know the facts as they are presented to the grand jury, if that is the case, or to the American people, which needs to be the case. Everybody in America should be able to have access to this investigative process.
The Rosemont mine has received the final permit it needs to move forward. There are concerns that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers had worries about impact of the mine on the water table here and federal officials were leaning towards not approving this. There are allegations that there were politics involved in the issuance of this permit. Is there anything congress should be doing in this case?
First of all, we should look into it from the standpoint of oversight. If we’ve had two major knowledgeable agencies with the expertise and the technology to be able to understand the issue and they have questions, and we’re still going to move ahead and have the Rosemont mine permitted, that’s problematic.
There was a controversy about one of your freshmen colleagues, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and some comments that some critics took to play to anti-Semitic tropes, and there was a subsequent House resolution condemning hate across the board. I’m just wondering your thoughts on what we’re seeing with Rep. Omar and her comments.
I think they’re not in keeping what we expect of our leadership. We should be trying to bring people together, not separate people. We should be acknowledging the wrongs of the past or things that are going wrong now, but not in a way that demeans other members of the body or the public. We are all Americans. We have the right to our opinions, but there is no room in our society, or in the world for that matter, for hatred. And when she speaks to the issues of hatred, keep it at a balanced approach. I voted for that bill. I would have a preferred two bills, one bill on specifically the Omar issue and the antisemitism parts of it and then the other bill on hate speech and for that matter, any type of violence within our society.