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Anti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump

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Members of a veterans group called Common Defense protest against President Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower on July 25, 2019 in New York City. The group of veterans, many who served in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, want to impeach Trump for the way way he has performed in office. 

A national group of anti-Trump military veterans is joining forces with the organization founded by Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer in pressing Congress to accelerate efforts to oust the president. 

Common Defense, a veterans group founded in 2016 to oppose President Trump, is uniting with Steyer’s Need To Impeach in an effort to marshal more support for from Democrats on Capitol Hill for impeaching Trump.

{mosads}The veterans are highlighting Trump’s dealings with Russians, as outlined in the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as his attacks on minorities and approach to ongoing military engagements to argue that Trump is simply unfit to remain commander in chief.

“We feel that folks who put their lives on the line, particularly those who were combat vets, are just appalled at how Donald Trump’s been proceeding and behaving,” Jose Vasquez, executive director of Common Defense, told The Hill Friday.

“If he was a soldier he would definitely be facing a dishonorable discharge at this point.”

The group, which claims roughly 150,000 supporters, will take its lobbying to Capitol Hill when Congress returns to Washington next month. Vasquez said his organization will target Democrats who are veterans themselves, have large populations of veterans in their districts or sit on crucial committees, particularly the Judiciary panel. 

Veterans, Vasquez said, “have important stories to share and can be persuasive to sort-of build the kind of support that’s necessary.”

As part of the effort, the groups this month are launching a digital and local outreach campaign designed to pressure more lawmakers to get on board. 

In teaming up with Need To Impeach, Common Defense joins the nation’s largest grass-roots impeachment campaign, which was launched in 2017 by Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist and 2020 presidential hopeful, and now has more than 8.3 million signatures on its impeachment petition. Steyer stepped down as the head of the organization when he jumped into the White House race last month.

“We no longer have to wait for any additional evidence,” Nathaly Arriola, Need to Impeach’s executive director, told The Hill, citing Mueller’s testimony before Congress last month.

In its opposition to the president, Common Defense remains a minority voice among veterans, who are older, whiter and overwhelmingly more male than the country at large, according to the Pew Research Center, which cited Census Bureau figures. All are demographics that constitute a bulk of Trump’s base, and exit polls conducted by Edison Research found that in 2016 veterans supported Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by a margin of 60 to 34 percent.

Trump has embraced that support, boasting at campaign rallies and on Twitter of steps he’s taken to boost the nation’s armed services. 

“Best and Newest Military (almost totally rebuilt from the depleted military I took over) in History, Best V.A. in History (Choice), and MUCH, MUCH MORE. Gee, let’s impeach the President,” Trump tweeted last month. Impeachment supporters, he added, suffer from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” 

“Crazy!” he said.

 

 

Common Defense and other impeachment supporters have a decidedly different view, arguing that some of Trump’s actions constitute a clear violation of the military’s own standards for determining someone’s fitness to serve. Vasquez, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Army, hammered Trump for, among other things, “breaking the norms around operational security.”

“Tweeting things about our withdrawal from Afghanistan, tweeting things about Saudi Arabia and what’s going on in Syrian and Yemen. All these things, I think, are just kind of gross misconduct and just really irresponsible on his part,” Vasquez said.

“Having been in the military as long as I was, there’s a way that you conduct yourself,” he continued. “And the way Trump is behaving is just conduct unbecoming of a commander in chief.”

Vasquez ticked off the names of several Democrats the group will be targeting next month, including Reps. Elaine Luria (Va.), a former Navy commander, and Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), an Air Force veteran, as well as Katie Hill (Calif.), Cindy Axne (Iowa) and Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. 

The new alliance arrives as support for impeachment is steadily growing on Capitol Hill. What was once a small band of pro-impeachment lawmakers has ballooned into a small army of supporters, with scores of Democrats endorsing the movement following the release of Mueller’s report and his subsequent appearance before Congress. In all, 122 House Democrats — more than half the caucus — are now on record supporting impeachment in some form, according to a running tally kept by The Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has sought for most of the year to defuse the effort, citing the lack of support among both voters and Republicans. While Trump’s approval rating has remained underwater for the entirety of his tenure — a new NBC–Wall Street Journal poll, released Sunday, found that 43 percent of voters approve of the president — those figures haven’t translated into popular support for impeachment. 

A separate survey conducted last month by The Washington Post and ABC News found that 59 percent of voters oppose the launch of impeachment proceedings, while just 37 percent support that strategy. 

With Pelosi’s support, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has increasingly ramped up the impeachment rhetoric as he seeks to secure disputed documents and witness testimony related to Mueller’s probe. This month, he said his panel has already launched “formal impeachment proceedings.” 

The pro-impeachment groups have welcomed that shift, arguing the importance of allowing voters to see and hear from the various figures in Trump’s orbit who played a role in Mueller’s probe. But the activists are also pressing Democrats to take a long step forward by launching a formal impeachment inquiry.

“We do want an impeachment vote,” said Arriola, who previously served in the Obama administration. 

Pelosi is also fighting to retain control of the House, which Democrats won in 2018 on the wings of moderate lawmakers who flipped Republican seats in conservative-leaning districts where an aggressive impeachment push could alienate some voters — and sink the Democrats’ chances of reelection next year.

Arriola, however, described that argument as “a stall tactic.” 

“We believe that doing the right thing will mobilize the voters, and protecting our democracy is what we elected members of Congress [to do],” she said. “So from our perspective, that’s definitely a false argument.” 

Vasquez delivered a similar message. 

“I understand their concern, but I also think our democracy is hanging in the balance here,” he said. 

“I don’t want to accept that what Trump is doing is the new normal.”

Updated at 9:10 a.m. 
Tags Cindy Axne Donald Trump Elaine Luria Hakeem Jeffries Hillary Clinton Jerrold Nadler Katie Hill Mueller investigation Nancy Pelosi Pew Robert Mueller Tom Steyer

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