IPSWICH — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton fielded questions from those among 75 people at the Winthrop Elementary School during his 19th town hall gathering this year, though no one asked directly about the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
“Turns out, there are some things going on there that are rather controversial,” said Moulton to nervous laughs, as Democrat who lives in Salem alluded to the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats last week. Moulton was among those who voted to establish the rules for the impeachment inquiry to proceed.
However, Moulton said he and his office are “hyper focused” on issues meaningful to North Shore residents, and the audience agreed, with no one bringing up the controversy in Washington, D.C.
After the town hall, when asked if he worried the impeachment push might mean Democrats would be overplaying their hand amid a presidential race, Moulton, a former candidate for president himself, said the matter was not about politics, but it is a factor.
“My view is that politics shouldn’t matter,” Moulton said. “This is a question of doing the right thing by the Constitution. It’s a time to put politics aside. So, the political concerns are legitimate but they should not guide our decision-making. We should simply look at what is the right thing to do to uphold our constitution. And in the long view, when people look at this 50 or 100 years from now, that’s the only thing that will matter.”
Moulton told the crowd Ipswich Middle School students peppered him Monday morning about what was his job in Congress.
“We have lost touch with the fact that this is a job of public service, and I work for you and not the other way around,” Moulton said. “We work for the American people.”
He said 90% of the questions he got from kids that day were about efforts to keep the right whale from going extinct as the kids are studying the endangered marine mammal. Moulton has sponsored a bill to save them.
“The people in Iowa and Kansas don’t care about our right whales that much. They probably don’t know the difference between a right whale and a wrong whale, but kids in Ipswich really do.”
He said the bill has gained bipartisan support. He also noted that he met with Ipswich officials this afternoon about finding federal money for local road projects, including whether Argilla Road should be raised or made into a bridge.
Moulton fielded questions that touched on Medicare for All.
Moulton said he’s not for it because it will stifle competition, much like only having the post office handle packages.
On the ballooning U.S. deficit, he said few are talking about it. “Not much to be honest.”
On the lack of modern, reliable public transportation and proper funding for it, he said the signs are everywhere.
“Then, you get on the subway, and the thing’s totally falling apart.”
Residents wanted to know about how things can get done in Congress. Jim Stone of Ipswich asked about the notion that the requirement for roll call votes has worked to prevent things from getting done in the name of transparency.
Moulton said there has been a negative side in that members go to their corners when taking votes in committee.
Moulton said there are times when it’s best to take discussions behind closed doors to forge a compromise, mentioning why Democratic lawmakers are taking depositions in private in the investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and whether he was seeking information on his political rival in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid for the country in its fight against Russian separatists.
“There is a reason why this impeachment inquiry right now is not a public spectacle on TV every night, because we are just trying to get to the facts,” Moulton said.
Half of those in on these secret depositions are Republicans, who have been complaining about the process being unfair, he said, referring to a recent incident in which Republican stormed a secure facility in the Capitol where depositions are held.
“So, you don’t need to storm a classified information facility to find out what is going on, you could just ask your friends. But the point is, there is a time and a place for doing things behind closed doors. It’s why grand juries meet in secret.”
After the town hall, Moulton said storming of the secure room “was a violation of national security.” It’s an offense for which someone would get kicked out of the military and brought up on charges, he said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.