Pete Buttigieg: Americans 'are the jury' in Trump's impeachment trial now

On a special edition of "Meet the Press," the Democratic presidential candidate said it's voters' turn to weigh in on the president's actions.

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By Ben Kamisar

DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that it's been “frustrating” for many in his party to watch the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but argued that those who feel that way should be energized to vote in Monday’s Iowa caucuses and then in November.

“I understand the sense of exhaustion that can come from watching this whole process play out,” Buttigieg said on a special edition of "Meet the Press" on location in this first-in-the-nation caucus state.

But, he said, "if the Senate is the jury right now, we are the jury tomorrow. And however frustrating it is to watch that process, you can't switch it off, you can't walk away, and you can't give up. Because this is actually the year where there is accountability for the president, and for a lot of these senators, because it’s an election year.”

The former South Bend, Indiana mayor joined “Meet the Press” one day before Iowa’s pivotal caucuses, the first contest on the Democratic presidential nominating calendar, and days after Democrats fell short in the Senate in a bid to convince Republicans to agree to call more witnesses in the impeachment trial.

While some of his Democratic presidential rivals have been stuck in Washington for the trial, Buttigieg has been campaigning across the state in the hopes that a strong showing in the Hawkeye state can propel his candidacy forward as the race turns to states like New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and ultimately Super Tuesday.

By Sunday, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in Iowa put Buttigieg in third place behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Buttigieg sought to downplay the differences between his campaign and Sanders’ Sunday, arguing that “the primary process by its nature magnifies these differences.”

“You don’t have to choose between the status quo over here and revolution over here,” Buttigieg said of his campaign.

“We actually have a pretty well-shared sense of values in this party. Even from the progressive left through to independents and some forward-thinking Republicans. But we've got to be ready to galvanize that majority and not let it get polarized.”

But with caucus day around the corner, Buttigieg was clear-eyed as to the importance of the contest to his campaign.

"I need to have a good finish here in Iowa," he admitted. "We know it, and we're working very hard to do that."