WESLEY CHAPEL — U.S. Senator Rick Scott enters his second year in Washington with an impeachment trial on the Senate’s doorstep, a looming vote on whether to rein in President Donald Trump’s war powers in Iran and many of his 2018 campaign promises in limbo.
Scott was notoriously media averse as governor when served from 2011 to 2019. But on Monday, the Florida Republican sat down with the Tampa Bay Times before an appearance in Wesley Chapel, where he discussed the impeachment, Iran and the $60 million payout to Boeing’s former top executive.
The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Why shouldn’t John Bolton get the opportunity to testify in the Senate impeachment trial?
We ought to follow the same rules that we had with (President Bill Clinton’s 1998) impeachment. So each side’s going to present their case. Senators have the right to give written questions, which will go through (U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts), and then the chief justice will ask the questions, and then we’ll decide at that time whether anybody’s going to testify.
But the House had this chance. They rushed this through. Every president goes to court to try to stop people from testifying. But (the House Democrats) were so committed, they had to get this done last year, and then they waited on what has been a month since they did it and we still don’t have it. So it’s just a farce.
We might have witnesses but let’s go through the same process we went through with Clinton. What they want to do is they want change the process. Why would you change the process?
Do you have any opposition if during the impeachment trial there becomes a necessity for John Bolton to testify?
I’m not against anything right now. But what I do know is that the House has not presented a case. It’s hearsay. That’s not going to be presentable. They’re the ones who said Trump did all the wrong things. They said this call was so bad and then Trump puts it out, oh, now it’s not about the call. They’re saying that any president that goes to court to stop testimony is obstruction of justice. I think almost every person has done that. Why not all these other people get impeached then? Name the law that they say Trump violated. There’s no law. The is supposed to be high standards, high crimes and misdemeanors. No one can name the law. This is just them trying to either get Trump kicked out of office or trying to hurt Trump’s reelection chance because right now, I think Trump’s gonna win.
Is there anything that Trump President Trump has done related to Ukraine that makes you uncomfortable?
He put it out. The only thing they have is had this call. I read it. I read the transcript. There’s nothing in that transcript.
It was not a word-for-word transcript. There might be pieces of it that haven’t fully come out yet and it was a summary of the call.
Everything so far has been hearsay.
But is there anything? The suggestion that President Trump--
It’s all been hearsay.
So nothing related to Ukraine--
It’s all hearsay. Why would I ever focus on anything that’s just somebody that was there? (President Volodymyr) Zelensky said he didn’t have a concern. (Scott mischaracterized Zelensky’s full remarks. While he dismissed a quid pro quo, he also said, “We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness.”) Trump released the money.
I’m gonna listen to both sides of this when we come to the Senate, but so far, it’s just a bunch of hearsay.
Is there anything about Rudy Giuliani’s role carrying out diplomatic duties on behalf of the State Department while having foreign clients that makes you uncomfortable?
What I tried to do as governor, I always tried to make sure that I had people that are doing things with me that worked in government. But everybody does it different ways. Would you do it that way? I don’t know that I would do it that way. I went in the military, I learned chain of command, I like chain of command.
What do you think about the chain of command including “You have to go through Rudy Giuliani on this issue and, and by the way, Rudy Giuliani has clients that might have other interests”?
I wouldn’t do it that way. Well, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t tweet that way. There’s lots of things that that Trump, (Presidents Barack) Obama, George W. Bush, (George) H.W. Bush, I wouldn’t do it that way. But is it impeachable? We spent all this time on the Mueller investigation. That was supposed to be obstruction. And that wasn’t. There was no collusion. (The Mueller report did not conclude there was no collusion. The report said: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”)
Regarding Iran: You were critical of the House vote on the resolution regarding war powers. Rep. Matt Gaetz voted for it. And he talked a lot about how Congress should be taking back its constitutional duties to declare war and define military objectives. What is your response to what Gaetz said?
None of us want to go to war. Trump has zero interest in going to war. He’s been very constrained with regard to Iran. They shot down the drone. They attacked the ships. They attacked Saudi Arabia. All the support they’ve given Hezbollah. I think I’m no different than most people and none of us want to go to war.
We’re passing this stuff when our troops are getting attacked. They got attacked this weekend. And so what do you think our troops think, or what do you think Iran thinks when we’re passing stuff telling Trump he can’t do certain things? And plus, Trump’s not declaring war. He doesn’t want to go to war. You know, I’m sure that people who are voting for it are concerned like I am that none of us want to go to work, but to take away the power of the President, when you see our troops getting attacked, I wouldn’t be doing that.
But what did you say to someone who’s just you know, we’re, we’re tired of 20 years plus of conflict over there--
I agree. So is Trump. He ran on it.
But we have more troops there now than when he started.
So when he takes troops out of Syria, he gets attacked for that. Right? So whatever this guy does, the Democrats criticize him. Look at Osama bin Laden. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) has been very public, he says, when Biden called him up — Biden didn’t call him before they killed Osama bin Laden — when Biden called McConnell and told him, he said, “Great job.” Name the Democrat that said great job to getting rid of (Iranian general Qasem) Soleimani.
Isn’t this a very different situation?
No. What was Osama bin Laden doing right then? He was holed up doing nothing. And what was Soleimani doing? He’s out there trying to attack our embassies. He just attacked our embassy. He had just left Lebanon. He’s clearly doing everything he can to cause problems for America and our troops are getting shot at. One contractor got killed, three got injured. So yeah, it’s different in that something was happening right now. Nothing was happening with Osama bin Laden right then.
But this is still uncharted water in which a country that we’re not at war with, we have taken out an individual who is associated with their government, a high ranking individual--
And we should have.
What was the imminent threat?
I’ve got classified briefing so I can’t talk about that. I’m very comfortable that the president was concerned.
In the briefing that the senators received was there an imminent threat to embassies discussed?
I’ve had conversations with the White House and with the president and I’ve had classified briefings, so I can’t talk about what it was but I’m very comfortable that there was an imminent threat.
I am all in for killing Soleimani, just so you know. I don’t care what anybody wants to say. That guy was sitting there, he’s killed American citizens. He deserved to die.
Is there a line? What if tomorrow, there’s significant intelligence that North Korea is going to attack American troops in South Korea?
American troops? Then I think we better defend ourselves?
With a preemptive strike?
If we don’t defend Americans, okay, that is an obligation of this president, any president, they better defend American troops. If you’re not defending American troops, you shouldn’t be a commander in chief. We’re going to send these men and women over in harm’s way, they didn’t decide to go over there, we better defend them.
Do you understand why some Americans and people in Congress would have concerns about trusting the intelligence that led to this decision given what came out of Iraq and thousands of soldiers who died based off intelligence that was faulty?
I don’t think any of us want to go to war. None of us want to go to war. But we elect the commander in chief to make the best decision they can with the information that they have. I’m comfortable with the briefings that I’ve gotten that they they did this for right reasons. And this guy is known for having killed thousands of American citizens.
The CEO of Boeing is going to get $60 million in his exit. I’m curious what your thoughts are on that.
I don’t know what his contract was.
Is that okay?
This is a private company. They make their contracts. When the CEO came and testified at (Senate Committee on) Commerce, what I pushed them was on, one, did the people that made the mistake, have they been held accountable, and two, have they made changes? So that’s what was important to me. And that’s been whether the FBI or private company, you know, that’s my expectation.
But a lot of people are frustrated that the CEO who oversaw two crashes that killed 340-plus people is now getting a $60 million payout and the system that allows this frustrates them. So what would you say to their frustrations?
What’s important to me is, ‘Did the company make changes so it’s safe?’
Should anyone at that company be charged with a crime or be investigated?
You have to follow the laws. If there's an intentional violation of law, sure.
When you ran for U.S. Senate one of the things that you talked about was term limits.
That’s hard, I’ll tell you that.
You were very confident on the campaign trail that you would be able to persuade even Mitch McConnell to get on board with this, so where has that idea hit a roadblock?
It’s pretty hard. I have a bill. (Sen.) Ted Cruz’s got a bill. There’s a variety of us who are trying. Here’s my belief about these things: I think you can get things done, but you just have to find the right time to get them done. And so I’ve not been able to get that done yet.
I don’t know. I’m trying. I got out of committee “no budget, no pay" (which prevents Congress from getting paid during a government shutdown). So, trying to get that a vote on the Senate floor. Some of these things, it’s hard to change.