ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — During a forum at St. Bonaventure University Monday, two former members of Congress traded opinions on the impeachment inquiry that begins Wednesday.

J. Phillip Gingrey, a former Republican congressman from Georgia who served in Congress from 2003 to 15, said that based on the information that has been given, he doesn’t believe Congress has justification for going forward with impeachment.

“I’m not here sitting here tonight saying that there might not be evidence coming forward that would rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Gingrey said. “But I don’t think that President Trump is guilty of anything that would rise to the level of articles of impeachment.”

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As far as defining an impeachable offense, Gingrey said that disliking the president should not warrant a call for impeachment.

“You may not like him, but just because he tweets some awful things on occasion… those are not grounds for impeachment,” he said. “(Trump) was elected in a fair election.”

Loretta Sanchez, a former Democratic Congresswoman from California who served from 1997 to 2017 disagreed. She spoke about her relationship with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and said that Pelosi would not have irrationally called for impeachment.

“If it comes to fruition that Nancy thinks we need to move forward with impeachment, she will move forward,” Sanchez said. “And if she believes that there is not enough evidence and that the people won’t understand what is happening, she will also say ‘that’s enough.' ”

Gingrey and Sanchez agreed that pursuing impeachment is the last thing that many congressional representatives want, as it stops them from being able to work on other legislation.

“We lived through an impeachment,” Sanchez said, talking about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. “When there is an impeachment situation going on, it divides the country, upsets the country and makes the American people very uncomfortable.

“The reason we go to Congress is to create things and be constructive,” she continued. “We do not run for Congress to destroy and un-do things. When impeachment is going on, you cannot do the things you ran for Congress to do.”

Gingrey and Sanchez agreed that the nation is not facing a constitutional crisis.

Sanchez said that when enough information is released to the public, it will be up to them to decide the severity of the president’s actions.

“It’s going to be the American public who will see that information in the light of day and have an opportunity to decide,” she said. “That’s why we need to read and take a look at this for ourselves. Don’t let someone else decide for you what happened in this process.”

“At the end of the day, our country will survive this and ultimately, the right thing will be done,” Gingrey said. “Whether President Trump survives this politically or not, it will be okay. The sooner this is over, the better for our country.”

The event, held in the William F. Walsh Science Center Amphitheater, was part of the “Congress to Campus” program, which was established in 1988 as an effort to provide college students with the opportunity to meet with former members of Congress. Dr. Josiah “Bart” Lambert, an associate professor in St. Bonaventure’s political science department, moderated the forum.

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