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'It is illegal': Rep. Schrader on why he supports an inquiry but isn't sold on impeachment yet

The Oregon congressman gave his first interview Thursday to KGW's Laural Porter after breaking his silence on impeachment.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Democratic Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader may be supporting the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, but he is not reveling in it.

"It’s going to be tough on the country," he told KGW's Laural Porter in his first interview since announcing his support of the House inquiry. "There’s a reason I’ve waited this long to even call for a serious investigation."

Rep. Schrader was the last House Democrat to make a decision in regards to the impeachment inquiry. 

“It’s not something you come to lightly. Especially in my district," he said, referring to Oregon's 5th Congressional District, which he represents. It covers a broad area from Tillamook County extending east through Salem and into Clackamas County. Since it was created in 1983, it has bounced back and forth between Republican and Democratic control. 

But for Rep. Schrader, his breaking point came on Thursday after both a whistleblower complaint and a memo of President Trump's telephone call with the Ukrainian president were released to the public. 

"After reading the transcript, listening to the president admit to the conversation, reading the whistleblower report here earlier today, seeing bipartisan support for getting all the information out to the American people. It seems like it is actually time to call it what it is: an impeachment inquiry and find out where that leads us at the end of the day," Schrader said.

RELATED: VERIFY: How whistleblowing works and why this one is different

The whistleblower complaint alleges that President Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. 

"And that’s wrong," Rep Schrader said. "That’s just wrong. If I said something like that in my capacity as a congressperson, the ethics committee would have my head. I’d no longer be a U.S. congressperson.

"It is illegal to have foreign influence in our elections," he added. "Let me repeat that: it is illegal."

Rep. Schrader also clarified that he supports the impeachment inquiry, but would not vote to impeach just yet.

"Not with what I know now. Like I said, we’ve got one whistleblower that’s come forward here. He creates a fairly credible case. The inspector general appointed by Trump agreed it was a credible case, so that influences me, frankly," Schrader said.

His late-entry into impeachment talks gave fuel to his 2020 primary opponent, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba. Gamba supported impeaching the president early on and criticized Rep. Schrader for taking his time. 

"Better late than never," Mayor Gamba said Thursday. "I am happy that Congressman Schrader has finally stepped up to support the impeachment inquiry. Oregon's 5th district deserves a representative who is a leader when it comes to preserving the sanctity of our democracy rather than a follower of political expediency."

RELATED: Straight Talk: Milwaukie Mayor Gamba on challenging Rep. Schrader

Rep. Schrader shrugged off the criticism. 

"It’s easy to be armchair quarterback," he said. "It’s a lot tougher when you’re here, represent the people, and make good tough decisions."

At the end of the day, Rep. Schrader said even though impeachment talk is a big distraction, it is part of the job. 

"We do have to do our constitutional duty when certain people think they’re above the law. And that’s just not the way it is in the United States of America

"I hope everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with me and every other member of congress trying to grapple with this tough decision."

From August: Rep. Schrader interview on KGW's Straight Talk