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Off Script: Cory Booker


If you sat across from a presidential candidate, how would the conversation go? We've been bringing together voters and candidates to go Off Script. You heard Michel Martin's conversation last week with El Paso residents and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. This week, we head to Vonda's Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in Newark, N.J., for a conversation with Senator Cory Booker.

CORY BOOKER: She does Brussels sprouts in a way that is a transformative human experience.

PFEIFFER: My colleague and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED host Ari Shapiro sat down with the former Newark mayor and two Newark residents, undecided Democratic voters Shanell Dunns and Diana Candelejo. And you should know if you don't already that Senator Booker happens to be dating actress Rosario Dawson because that's where Diana wanted to start the conversation.

DIANA CANDELEJO: Senator Booker, you're a pretty handsome man, and I don't think it's going to get better than Rosario Dawson.


CANDELEJO: So when are you proposing?


BOOKER: Adios, mijo.


BOOKER: I can't announce something like that. She would be, like, mad at me. That would be her saying no. Oh, you come up with a proposal to me on NPR. Should I ever get to that point, I will try to embarrass her and put her on the spot. But I'm not making any - I'm very happily - happy where I am right now. You've got me stammering, for...


PFEIFFER: The conversation quickly turned from romance to more presidential matters. Ari asked Senator Booker for his thoughts on the possible impeachment of President Trump.

SHAPIRO: So indulge us for one moment.


SHAPIRO: As the House is carrying out its impeachment inquiry, you sit in the Republican-controlled Senate. What do you anticipate will happen if and when this reaches the Senate?

BOOKER: It seems every day or every other day there's new breaking news that is damning the conduct of this president. So I know we just had - a recalled ambassador testified for over eight hours. Critical information is going to come out.

SHAPIRO: This is Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.

BOOKER: But she is just one of I would imagine dozens of people who have relevant information about the misconduct of the president - potentially at least two cabinet members, others in the State Department, others in the Department of Justice.

SHAPIRO: But so the question is, when the Republican-controlled Senate gets all of what you describe as this damning information, what do you expect them to do with it?

BOOKER: Again, when Nixon's impeachment proceedings began, the majority of Republicans were in lockstep with their partisan dictates. What happened there and the reason why Nixon resigned was because the more information came out, the more Republicans who were - put party behind their patriotism started making the right decision. So we don't know what's going to happen in the journey from impeachment inquiry to articles of impeachment written up to it coming over for a trial. And my hope is that the full truth comes out.

Now, we have a problem right now because we have a president who is stonewalling, who is not - who's saying he's not subject to the checks and balances and the oversight as prescribed by the Constitution. That alone could be an impeachable offense. So much of this is going to play out in the courts as well while we're going on parallel tracks of interviewing incredible patriotic people like the ambassador we just mentioned who was given orders not to come but obeyed a congressional subpoena. This is all going to play out. I can't predict how it will end.

SHAPIRO: There are polls that show a majority of Americans would prefer that ultimately President Trump's fate be decided at the ballot box. That opportunity will be in just over a year from now. Why not let voters make the decision?

BOOKER: I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I didn't swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution unless there's an election coming up. This is someone who is violating the Constitution potentially. This is someone who is doing things that are unacceptable, that the long arc of history will look back and say, what did the United States Senate, what did the Congress do when a president of the United States was acting more like a dictator or a totalitarian, authoritarian leader than someone who is subject to the checks and balances as designed by our founders?

So politics be damned. I have a job to do, which is to hold the executive accountable, and we should be doing that. This election's going to come. I don't know what the state of things is going to be. But when - in this moment in history, the right thing to do is not just to sit back and say, OK, Mr. President. Do whatever you want - because these are ongoing crises.

So I - it is unacceptable to me to think that I'm just going to wait 13 months until there's an election and not do my job. No. We - I was elected by the people of the state of New Jersey to do a job. I'm going to get the job done.

PFEIFFER: We'll have much more from our conversation with Senator Cory Booker across NPR this week. It's part of our Off Script series. You can watch the full conversation and see other voter chats with candidates at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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