The 2019 Texas Tribune Festival

Beto O'Rourke calls for Donald Trump's resignation

The Democratic presidential candidate spoke at TribFest about his assault weapon buyback proposal, his presidential prospects and the Democrats' impeachment push.

"The best possible path ... is for this president to resign, allow this country to heal and ensure that we come back together with the greatest, most ambitious agenda we've ever faced," Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said Saturday.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said during an appearance Saturday at The Texas Tribune Festival that President Donald Trump should resign.

"The best possible path ... is for this president to resign, allow this country to heal and ensure that we come back together with the greatest, most ambitious agenda we've ever faced, none of it possible while he remains in office," the former El Paso congressman said during a conversation with MSNBC's Garrett Haake at The Paramount Theatre in Austin.

While the Republican president is unlikely to heed O'Rourke's counsel, the comment underscored O'Rourke's response this week to the launch of an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced the inquiry Tuesday after new revelations about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

O'Rourke has been voicing support for impeachment since his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, and he told Haake that he is "very grateful" Pelosi announced the inquiry and that he is "cautiously optimistic about the path we're on now."

Reminded that the Republican-led Senate is highly unlikely to remove Trump from office, O'Rourke expressed hope that this impeachment process would play out like the one in 1974, when GOP senators — after initially backing a Republican president — went to the White House to tell President Richard Nixon that he no longer had their confidence. O'Rourke also suggested that administration officials concerned with Trump's conduct could tell him it's time to go.

Asked if a President O'Rourke would pardon Trump in that scenario, he gave a one-word answer: "No."

During the interview, O'Rourke continued to defend his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, saying the gun violence epidemic "can't be met by half steps," and he discussed the viability of his consistently low-polling campaign, vowing to "surprise a lot of people."

Asked if he had the resources to make it to the first early voting states — Iowa and New Hampshire in February — O'Rourke responded with confidence.

"I'm in this thing until the very end," O'Rourke said. "I'm in all the way."

At the same time, O'Rourke acknowledged that the competition for fundraising dollars has intensified lately. One of O'Rourke's rivals, Cory Booker, recently suggested that his campaign could be over if he does not raise $1.7 million by the end of the month.

"I could maybe do a Facebook livestream with a kitten and say, 'Now we don't want anything to happen to the kitten, so send your $5, your $10, in now, and Miss Whiskers is gonna be fine," O'Rourke said jokingly.

Still, O'Rourke is not a shoo-in for the November debate, which candidates must qualify for by hitting 3% in four polls — or 2% in two early voting state polls — as well as 165,000 donors. While O'Rourke has met the donor threshold, the polling requirement may be harder for him to achieve, at least based on recent surveys.

After the festival interview, O'Rourke told reporters he has "no problem with the criteria" and feels "pretty confident" he will make the November debate.

While much of the festival interview focused on the presidential contest, O'Rourke fielded a couple of questions on the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Texas. O'Rourke, who has insisted he will not abandon his presidential bid and run for Senate again after his closer-than-expected loss to Sen. Ted Cruz last year, mentioned five of the candidates by name and said all of them are "extraordinary candidates, any one of whom I'm convinced" can beat Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Asked if he will consider endorsing any of the primary contenders, O'Rourke said no.

"I want to make sure there's a true competition," he said. "I don't want to put my thumb ... on the scale."