Bill Weld says country ‘is never going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief’ unless Trump is removed from office

Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld spoke Sunday during a forum in Nashua. The moderator of the event was Equal Citizens founder Lawrence Lessig (left). Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

NASHUA — William F. Weld called Sunday for the impeachment inquiry against President Trump in the US House to continue and for the Republican-led Senate to remove Trump from office, as the former Massachusetts governor touted his insurgent campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

“The United States is never going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief unless the Senate . . . actually votes to remove the president,” Weld said, adding that under the Constitution, a president who is removed from office cannot serve in an elected position again — “so there will be no clawing back from the crypt.”

Weld, 74, a Republican who ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket in 2016, said that with Trump gone, the GOP could again be the party it was before the former real estate tycoon launched his presidential bid in 2015, “and be like, ‘Oh, did that actually happen, or was that a bad dream?’ ”

And if not?

“I see the party splitting up if Trump is not removed from office,” Weld told the crowd of about 60 gathered at a Courtyard by Marriott.

He said later that he thinks the country needs a viable third party, but he will not run as a third-party candidate if he loses the Republican nomination, and he will not support Trump. He said he does not plan to run again if he’s unsuccessful in 2020, and he would work to defeat Trump.

The discussion was hosted by the nonpartisan nonprofit Equal Citizens, which seeks democratic reforms in the US government, and the organization’s founder, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig.

Speaking to a reporter afterward, Weld addressed the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which Trump had announced in a national address five hours earlier.

Weld said the death of the terrorist leader was good for the nation and a much-needed political win for Trump after weeks of increasingly damning revelations about his administration’s dealings with Ukraine and other nations. But, he said, it doesn’t change the calculus of the 2020 race.

The long-shot candidate said he has gained steam in recent weeks, amid the onslaught of fresh allegations of wrongdoing by the president and his inner circle.

“I’m getting a lot better reception in New Hampshire than I was right after I declared,” he told the Globe. “People are coming up to me, saying, ‘Hey, governor, keep it up! We’re all for you!’ As opposed to me going up to them.”

Voters, Weld said, are simply tired of hearing about the controversial president and his series of scandals.

“Everyone’s exhausted. Trump-Trump-Trump,” he said. “They’d like to get on with their own lives.”

Weld spent much of the discussion addressing Lessig’s questions on voting and campaign finance issues. Weld decried efforts by some members of his party to suppress the black vote and said he supports allowing felons who have served their time to vote, and he’s open to considering voting rights for some incarcerated, nonviolent felons.

He spoke against the influence of large donors in politics and recalled his gentlemen’s agreement with John F. Kerry to limit spending in the 1996 US Senate race, which Weld lost to Kerry, the incumbent.

Weld also said he would support a constitutional amendment to overrule the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which allows unlimited spending on elections by corporations and which led to the rise of Super PACs.

That’s an issue important to Penny Eggleston, 78, of Amherst, N.H., who came to the forum because of her membership in one of its cosponsors, Open Democracy, which works to overturn Citizens United.

Eggleston is a Democrat, she said, but also a moderate, and she liked a lot of what Weld had to say.

“At this point, to get rid of Trump, I would welcome him as president,” Eggleston said of Weld. “I will go for a Democrat, I’m sure. But if Governor Weld was to win, I think he’s great.”

Neha Khanna, a television journalist for NewsX, an English-language news station based in India, who attended the event through a US State Department program, said Weld is flying under the radar in international coverage of the US presidential election.

“We’ve only been hearing about Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and of course, Bernie Sanders,” Khanna said, adding later, “Nobody really talked about what’s going on with the Republican Party. I think most just took for granted that it was going to be Trump. Of course . . . if impeachment proceedings go another way, then all bets are off.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.

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