House Democrats battle behind the scenes over impeachment

Greg Nash

The weekly meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday erupted over stark disagreements about how the party should fight President Trump.

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), a leadership ally, stood during the Democrats’ closed-door caucus meeting to denounce Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-Calif.) impeachment push as a selfish maneuver that could hurt fellow Democrats and candidates at home, according to a source in the room.

There must be ”a discussion within the caucus — in a public forum — before we do something that would position our colleagues or our future colleagues,” Capuano said, according to the source.

“Emotions are high. These issues have political implications and government ones.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, also took issue with Sherman’s tactics on Tuesday after the meeting.

“We believe strongly that a discussion about impeachment is not timely,” he said.


Sherman told The Hill that he spoke with Capuano afterward to emphasize that he wasn’t moving forward with a floor vote on impeachment without input from Democratic leaders and colleagues.

“I said, ‘I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not doing anything until I consult with colleagues and leadership,'” Sherman said.

Sherman expects to formally introduce his article of impeachment against Trump either later this week or next. He then wants to give the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee time to decide how to respond.

“I think the Republican leadership is entitled to a few weeks to decide what to do with this article,” he said.

Sherman’s resolution has virtually no chance while Republicans control the House. Sherman said that if he does move forward with forcing a floor vote using a procedure that allows any member to offer a “privileged” resolution, it likely wouldn’t be until after the August recess.

Sherman’s article of impeachment against the president accuses Trump of obstructing justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey last month. Comey had been leading the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including the possibility that Trump’s team had colluded with Moscow to sway the result.

Last week, Comey delivered a dramatic account of his firing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he accused the president of lying about the episode.

Sherman, an 11-term Democrat and senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee who’s known at times for his independent streak, sat directly behind Comey in the packed hearing room.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) has also sounded the impeachment horn. And on Monday, after reports emerged that Trump might fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the election, Green said Trump “continues to validate the reasons why he should be impeached.”

“When dealing with Mr. Mueller, its an insult to even consider terminating him as special counsel and will be obstruction of justice if its done,” Green said in a statement.

But Democratic leaders and their allies have been incensed by the move toward impeachment, arguing that the facts don’t sufficiently support such a weighty tactic — yet — and warning that lawmakers should await more details in the ongoing investigations before launching such an aggressive attack.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has tried in recent weeks to tamp down the talk of impeachment, backed Capuano during Tuesday’s meeting, according to the source present. She argued that the Democrats should focus on bread-and-butter issues like the economy while allowing the various investigations into the Russia-Trump saga to play out on their own terms.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, also criticized Sherman and the other handful of Democrats urging impeachment.

“There is a need for a family discussion before any issue of this magnitude is brought forward,” Crowley told the group, according to the source. “It’s of a courtesy to our colleagues.”

Sherman, the source said, was in the room for the entirety of the criticism.

After the meeting, Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said Sherman and others pushing for impeachment are anomalies within the caucus.

“Any member can introduce any piece of legislation that they want. We are a big-tent party,” she said.

“But again, I believe that I speak on behalf of the leadership and probably the majority of the caucus when I say that people are waiting to see where the investigation leads.” 

–Cristina Marcos contributed

Updated: 3 p.m.

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