Steyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation

Steyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation
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ARLINGTON, Va. — Democratic billionaire mega-donor Tom Steyer is bringing his national campaign to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE from the airwaves to in-person town halls across the country.

On Tuesday night, about 100 people attended Steyer’s town hall in Arlington, Va., just a few miles outside of the nation’s capital. The event is part of a series of 30 town halls that kicked off last week in Ohio, a perennial swing state Trump won in 2016.

At his town hall series, Steyer is making an appeal to Americans for what he describes as the “patriotic case for impeachment.” He’s championed that effort with his “Need to Impeach” campaign, urging members of Congress to support impeachment. He’s already spent more than $20 million running ads and his petition has garnered more than 5 million signatures.

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Steyer has repeatedly condemned Trump for “his failure to respond” to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. And he referred to Trump’s latest assault on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE as yet another example of why he’s a “dangerous and lawless president” and why he believes there is ground for impeachment.

“I think over the last week, we’ve seen that the pace of those events has picked up really dramatically and I would expect that increasing pace and escalation would continue,” Steyer told the packed hotel room overlooking the Pentagon.

“We always felt that for people who weren’t convinced, the more that time passed and the more that events transpired, the more right we’d be proved.”

Over the weekend, Trump unleashed a series of tweets attacking Mueller directly, calling the investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia a “witch hunt.” His criticisms have prompted speculation that he could fire Mueller, which has received pushback from even some Republicans.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally takes hard line on immigration in Arizona primary Flake threatens to limit Trump court nominees: report Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Ariz.), who’s a vocal critic of Trump, said on Tuesday he’d support impeachment if the president fired Mueller “without cause.” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate panel advances three spending bills Trump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official MORE (R-S.C.) echoed that sentiment, saying it’d “probably” be an impeachable offense.

Most attendees appeared supportive of impeachment, with many in the audience venting frustrations with Democratic elected officials who haven’t rallied behind the push.

Impeachment hasn’t drawn unanimous support from Democrats on Capitol Hill. House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families Hardline immigration bill fails in the House Pelosi: GOP immigration bill is 'a compromise with the devil' MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse panel approves belated 2019 budget Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges —Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families Dems, health groups demand immigrant children be quickly reunited with families MORE (D-Md.) have cautioned that calls for impeachment are premature. They also argue that calls for impeachment risk turning off more moderate voters in GOP-friendly territory in the midterms.

One attendee asked why a number of Democrats aren’t “protecting democracy” by supporting impeachment.

“It’s considered dangerous for someone to tell the truth,” Steyer said. “They’re saying it’s politically inconvenient for me, and we’re saying … this is an important truth for Americans to stand up for.”

When asked about what the Democratic Party thinks of Steyer, he bluntly responded that he doesn’t know what the party “means” now that the party is no longer occupying the White House.

“When Barack was president I knew what the party meant. He kind of defined what we were,” Steyer said, referring to former President Obama.

“There are people who are elected officials within the Democratic Party who are trying to figure out how to play poker and that gets in their way of telling the truth because they’ve gotten so out of practice of telling hard truths because they think in the short run it’s not going to pay off.”

Steyer noted that, at previous town halls, he’s been consistently asked why he’s not engaging with elected officials over the matter. The environmental activist said they’re not “soliciting” politicians because they’re more worried about their political futures.

“In all cases, the elected officials are looking at their own ability to get reelected, it comes before your interest, my interest and the interest of the American people,” Steyer said. “Really what we’re trying to do is direct democracy.”

As the town hall wrapped up, an attendee shouted out a questions about Steyer's political future: “When are you announcing your candidacy for president?”

Steyer, 60, who is rumored to be a potential presidential contender in 2020, didn’t engage or acknowledge the question. He has ruled out a run for office this cycle, but is planning to be a significant power player for Democrats in the midterm elections.

Steyer's pledged to spend about $30 million to help Democrats take back the House in the fall. The party needs to win about two dozen seats to regain the majority. That spending will be geared toward voter outreach of millennials in 10 states.

And he announced an additional $7 million investment to turn out young voters in California and Florida, which are both home to a handful of competitive House races that are key to winning back the House. It’ll also be used to help boost Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmakers blocked from entering facility holding migrant children Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Hillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review MORE (D-Fla.) in his closely watched reelection, as well as electing a progressive candidate in Florida’s open-seat governor’s race.