FRESNO, Calif. — Pete Buttigieg said Monday he'd vote to impeach President Donald Trump if he were a member of Congress, telling MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Trump "deserves to be impeached."
At a Hardball town hall in Fresno, California, Buttigieg was pressed on whether he supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's take-it-slow approach to considering impeachment proceedings, whichh has irked many liberal Democrats but that many party leaders believe is politically prudent.
Buttigieg has generally supported a cautious approach by Democrats in the past while saying that since he's not in the House, it would be improper for him to tell Congress what to do.
But if he were in Congress, Buttigieg said, his vote on impeachment would be a yes.
"Yeah, I would," Buttigieg said.
Still, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor argued that a rush to begin impeachment proceedings while Democrats in Congress still have more witnesses they want to interview and more investigative steps to take could be ill-advised.
"It better be an airtight process," Buttigieg said. "There may be some strategic wisdom in following that sequence. I'll leave that to Congress."
By deferring to Congress on whether impeachment proceedings should begin now, Buttigieg is still shopping just short of the positions staked out by many of his 2020 contenders. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., have both argued impeachment proceedings against the president should begin immediately.
In the town hall at California State University-Fresno, Buttigieg also defended his support for a national gun registry, a position first announced on his campaign website last month and one that puts him to the left of many other Democratic presidential contenders.
"If you have to have a license to have a car it doesn't seem that unreasonable that for deadly weaponry we would do the same," Buttigieg said. "Most Americans are fine by this."
But pressed by Matthews on how he would go about registering the millions of guns already in the U.S., Buttigieg expressed newfound flexibility in his position on the gun registry, suggesting that he would be willing to accept a plan that initially grandfathered in guns already sold. He also said that it could be left to states, not Washington, to register guns as long as they meet a national standard.
"Let's at least get it right going forward," Buttigieg said. "We can start on a go-forward basis. At a minimum, if we're not doing it at point of sale, we can begin."
In Fresno, a central California community that's home to a larger percentage of Republicans than the larger cities in the state, people began showing up to the auditorium around 8 a.m. in hopes of getting in to see Buttigieg. One couple told NBC News they had driven in from San Jose and begged for tickets.
Buttigieg's husband, Chasten Glezman, sat in the front row as the South Bend mayor took questions in the town hall.