No. 2 House Dem: Too early to talk impeachment

No. 2 House Dem: Too early to talk impeachment
© Greg Nash

President Trump’s erratic behavior poses a danger to national security, the second-ranking House Democrat charged Tuesday, but it’s too early to talk about impeachment.

“If the facts warrant, there will be time to talk about that,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, told reporters in the Capitol. “But we need to get the facts first.”

The comments reflect the desire of Democratic leaders to tamp down talk of impeachment, even as some rank-and-file Democrats begin to call for that very step.

“Both Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and I have said … that we need to find the facts,” Hoyer said. “Jumping [to] impeachment is a very serious matter, obviously … one of the most serious matters in a democracy — and it ought not be taken lightly, it ought not to be taken politically.” 

The impeachment issue poses something of a dilemma for Democratic leaders. On one hand, they want to tap the energy the Trump-Russia developments are generating among their base. On the other, they don’t want to politicize the issue in a way that might undermine the Republicans’ support for pursuing an investigation — something that must be maintained for the probe to continue.

“It ought to be taken on very substantial facts,” Hoyer said. “That’s what happened in Watergate.”

Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenWhy fear should not blind us to the promise of AI: A healthy dose of optimism Trump at rally says impeachment an 'attack on democracy itself' Democrats raise stakes with impeachment vote MORE (D-Texas) on Monday became the first Democrat to give a full-throated endorsement to the notion of impeaching Trump. He said a failure to do so “would cause some Americans to lose respect for, and obedience to, our societal norms.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), another harsh Trump critic, has also floated the idea.

Hoyer’s response was a simple one.

“I think it’s too early,” he said, “to talk about impeachment.”

Hoyer called on GOP leaders to join Democrats in expanding the investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election by creating an independent, outside panel to lead the investigation. On Wednesday, the Democrats will launch a discharge petition on that proposal — a procedural move designed to force a floor vote even agains the wishes of GOP leaders.

“The chaos, the incompetence, the confrontation and the conflict of interest that have been displayed during the first five months of this administration, I think, are beyond anything that … our country has experienced, certainly in my lifetime,” Hoyer said. “And it is dangerous. It has got to be extraordinarily disconcerting to our allies, and extraordinarily disconcerting to the American people.

“It is past time when Republican leaders need to stand up for their country and not for their party and president,” Hoyer said.

Trump’s decision last week to fire FBI Director James Comey has been universally denounced by the Democrats, many of whom are accusing the president of obstructing justice by ousting the figure leading the investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Those criticisms mushroomed on Monday, after The Washington Post reported that Trump had disclosed highly sensitive intelligence about ISIS to Russian officials during a White House meeting last week. 

The White House responded quickly Monday evening, with national security adviser H.R. McMaster reading a brief statement to reporters accusing the Post story of being false.

“I was in the room, it didn’t happen,” McMaster said.

Tuesday morning, however, Trump appeared to confirm the Post story in tweeting that he updated the Russian officials on the fight against ISIS.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

The inconsistency wasn’t lost on Hoyer.

“It seems that the president contradicted McMaster,” he said.