Phillips draws large crowd for town hall after week of impeachment hearings

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips speaks to constituents at a town hall gathering on Saturday in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Close to 300 people filled a college auditorium in Brooklyn Park, Minn., on Saturday for a town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips.

The freshman Democrat, who represents the 3rd District in the western Twin Cities, drew a largely friendly crowd after a week of impeachment hearings in Washington.

Speaking with MPR News ahead of the town hall, Phillips said that while he's not a member of the House Intelligence Committee, he attended as many of the hearings as he could.

"I want to bear witness and see it through the same lens that Americans will be, which is in the opening hearings and with objectivity. And that's my responsibility," he said.

Earlier Impeachment already a campaign issue in Craig’s 2nd District

Earlier this year, Phillips held off on supporting an impeachment inquiry against President Trump for several months; he said the release of the whistleblower's report was a turning point for him.

He said Saturday that the testimony of witnesses this month sets out and corroborates facts that are clear and "distressing."

"We have to make a decision on behalf of not just this generation, but our children's and grandchildren's generation," he said. "What type of behavior will we tolerate in a president? What expectations do we have of a president? And recognize that this is not as much about this specific president as it is about the presidency, checks and balances and the Constitution."

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips listens to a speaker at a town hall gathering on Saturday.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Phillips said he has heard from constituents who oppose impeachment, or those who say the inquiry is coming at the expense of other important issues. He said the House is continuing to pass legislation not related to impeachment, but he expressed frustration that many of those bills are not being considered by the Senate.

"This narrative that somehow Congress is not doing its job, is tied up with impeachment, is simply not true," he said.

Phillips said that while the past week's televised hearings show an intensely partisan atmosphere, that isn't necessarily the case behind the scenes. He cited his involvement with the "Problem Solvers Caucus" that includes 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

"(We) spend an hour a week together at the table. Talking policy. Building bridges with one another. Building trust with one another. And working on important policies that I think, over time, we will see enacted because of what we're doing behind the scenes," he said. "(It) doesn't get a lot of attention, but it's real."

Among the constituents at Saturday's town hall were Mary and Larry Alberts of Eden Prairie. They support impeachment, and Larry Alberts said he feels that national issues are taking precedence.

"To me it's not so much Minnesota issues at this point in time that I'm more interested in; I'm more interested in what's happening at the national level, because there's a lot of a lot of things that are going on which are much more disconcerting to me," he said. "If you can't get the national-level issues right, it'll never even trickle down to the state level."

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