The one-time Arkansas congressman who played a central role in Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings now says the former President’s past behavior should play no part in the 2016 election.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who served in 1999 as one of several House managers during the impeachment, says Clinton’s sexual history has no relevance to the 2016 election — even as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has repeatedly brought it up in attacking Hillary Clinton’s character as the former First Lady runs for the Democratic candidacy.
“It’s been litigated,” Hutchinson said during a visit to TIME’s offices Tuesday. “It was litigated, the judgement was made by the United States Senate, and I think we need to move on from that.”
The Arkansas governor was in New York City to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange and recruit business to Arkansas. He was promoting Arkansas’s computer science initiative, the first mandated comprehensive computer science program in America, which caused enrollment in high school computer classes to jump 300%.
Hutchinson was one of thirteen House Republicans who served as “managers” of the impeachment process, essentially acting as prosecutor for the president’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was acquitted of both charges, but Hutchinson publicly attacked his character and condemned the corrosive effects of the Lewinsky scandal on the presidency.
“The seven pillars of obstruction case were personally constructed by the president of the United States,” Hutchinson said in his opening statements almost exactly 17 years ago. “The goal was to win and he was not going to let the judicial system stand in his way.”
Now Hutchinson says Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals shouldn’t affect his wife’s campaign. “It’s old information,” he said. “So let’s decide this election on Hillary’s record, and on the Republican nominee’s record, and let’s talk about the very important issues that face our country.”
Hutchinson is currently endorsing his predecessor Mike Huckabee in the 2016 campaign, but he says he may have to “take a fresh look” if Huckabee — who is currently polling in the single digits — drops out after early primaries. “The key thing is to elect someone who can expand the base of our party, rather than constrict it,” he said. “That’s how you win against Hillary or any Democrat nominee.”
That does not describe the GOP contender currently leading polls, he added. “I have serious challenges with Donald Trump and his messaging that is going to make it more difficult for us to bring in minorities, Hispanics, into the party and into our voting base in November,” Hutchinson said. “I would be concerned about him carrying the banner for the Republican Party.”
But, Hutchinson added, “he might be our nominee, so I’ll weigh that as time goes on.”
— With reporting by Katie Reilly