On Friday, October 18, the congressman appeared on CNN and said there was “clear” evidence of a quid pro quo based on acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s own description of events. Asked whether he was ruling out voting for impeachment, Rooney replied, “I don’t think you can rule anything out until you know all the facts.” He also added, “I’m very mindful of the fact that back during Watergate everybody said, ‘Oh, it’s a witch hunt to get Nixon.’ Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt. It was absolutely correct.”
Rooney’s remarks—in particular, his unsolicited comparison of Trump to Nixon—left his colleagues slack-jawed. House Republicans, having received hair-on-fire emails from staffers alerting them to the comments, tip-toed through the Capitol to avoid reporters asking for comment. Video of the little-known congressman’s interview rocketed around Twitter and turned official Washington on its head for a matter of hours, fueling immediate speculation that a broader revolt might be brewing. Here, at last, was a Republican lawmaker openly entertaining the prospect of impeaching a Republican president.
It hardly could have played better for Trump. The headlines wrote themselves. As Rolling Stone declared, “GOP Congressman Open to Impeachment on Friday, Retires on Saturday.”