Rep. Kelly Armstrong held an open forum with community members at Dickinson State University's Beck Auditorium on Tuesday, Nov. 26, where he addressed the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, among other issues such as drug pricing, farming and immigration.
Armstrong likened the impeachment inquiry to the blue dress/gold dress debate in 2015 in which internet users across the country argued about the color of a dress.
"I think after two weeks of impeachment proceedings, you still have the same thing. Democrats are people who don’t like the president, (they) see a gold dress. Republicans are people who support the President; (they) see a blue dress," he said. "Nothing has changed except you have independents in the middle who see this on their social media feed, and they just don’t care."
Armstrong pointed to recent polling numbers from a national tracking poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico on Nov. 15-17.
Of the 592 independents polled, 251 strongly agreed that the impeachment inquiry is more important to the media than to them, and 114 somewhat agreed. Of the same 592 independents, 249 strongly agreed that the impeachment inquiry is more important to politicians than to them, and 117 somewhat agreed.
Armstrong said he thinks that the impeachment inquiry will benefit Trump politically.
"I think the polling is showing that. I think people in swing states and independents have had enough of it," he said. "It’s going to galvanize the Democratic base ... It’s going to galvanize the Republican base. The question is how (will) it affect swing state voters and independents, and polling from the last week is any indication, it’s not going well."
A member of the Oversight and Judiciary Committees, Armstrong doesn't believe the impeachment process has been fair.
"The process is politically slanted and controlled by (mostly) Adam Schiff, but the Democrats in general," he said. They’re in control. They can do the process however they want, but I can tell the North Dakota voters and the voters in Dickinson and the voters across the country how unfair the process has been."
The Democrats will have less control as the process moves forward, Armstrong said.
"At some point in time, they’re going to have to honor the resolutions about minority witnesses and the president having his lawyer availability when it goes to judiciary," he said. "If they do pass articles, it goes to a Republican-controlled Senate."
Armstrong wants to remind people that the process is a political one, not a legal one.
"My clients in criminal court had significantly more due process rights than the president in the White House ... Process matters because that’s how the truth comes out, but this has never been about finding the truth. It’s about finding a narrative," he said.
Excessive moisture this harvest season led to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring requesting a presidential disaster declaration and receiving a secretarial disaster designation for 47 of the state's 53 counties.
"Southwest North Dakota looks like the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley looks like the Mississippi Delta. There are real issues that are facing our farmers and ranchers from one end of the state to the other," he said.
"The disaster declaration was huge," he said. "Right now, the USDA is processing that information. There’s three things: It allows them to get FSA loans; two, small business loans, and it allows them to be part of the WHIP Plus program (Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity) ... It’s important right now for people who still have everything in the field. Does it make them whole? Absolutely not. Does it cash flow them through the next part of that? Absolutely."
Armstrong said the modifications they made to Chapter 12 Bankruptcy, including allowing for exclusions, should help farmers, too.
"(It) doesn’t keep them from filing bankruptcy, but there are certain protections in farming bankruptcy that family farms get, and it more accurately reflects what a current family farm looks like," he said.
Two national trade deals could also help farmers. Armstrong said phase one of the trade deal with China is important for North Dakota because it deals with a lot of agricultural products.
Armstrong expressed concern about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's doubt that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement would be passed by the end of the year.
"I just get really concerned with a deal like that, that waiting until after the 1st of the year puts us into an election year and puts us through the middle of this whole process ... It's not only important for our farmers and ranchers, it's important for all the business in North Dakota, but it's also a political win for the president, so the longer it drags out, the less likely it is that Democrats are going to give President Trump a political win," he said.