Some Dem chairmen have changed tune on Trump impeachment

House Democratic chairmen who cast votes in favor of impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE while Republicans controlled the chamber now say it’s too soon to hit the gas on starting impeachment proceedings. 

The senior Democratic lawmakers, who voted in favor of impeachment articles from Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenThe Memo: Will Iran crisis sideline impeachment process? Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely GOP set to make life difficult for Democrats on impeachment MORE (D-Texas) in the last Congress, are largely toeing their leadership’s line of caution, saying committees should move forward with investigations of Trump.  

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The committee leaders who voted in favor of Green's impeachment articles in 2017 and 2018 either once or both times include Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request MORE (N.Y.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Democrats sound election security alarm after Russia's Burisma hack MORE (Miss.), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.), Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonFive environmental fights to watch in 2020 Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention What has EPA been hiding about formaldehyde? MORE (Texas), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (N.J.), Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.) and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Engel and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersGearing up for a chaotic year on K Street Maxine Waters: Republicans 'shielding' Trump 'going to be responsible for dragging us to war' Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (D-Calif.) are both leading investigations of Trump; Waters is notable in having called for Trump’s impeachment before and after the release of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s report.

Engel, who backed impeachment in separate votes in 2017 and 2018, echoed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Democrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Texas AFL-CIO endorses Cuellar's primary challenger MORE (D-Calif.) during a conference call earlier this week with Democrats.

Engel said that Democrats “should be cautious” with impeachment, according to a source on the call, while explaining how his panel is investigating Russian interference.

“We need to look at this bizarre relationship between Putin and Trump,” Engel said during the call.

He added that he’s directing staff to inform foreign governments that do business with Trump hotels that they may be contributing to a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which is an issue that progressives like billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerYang qualifies for New Hampshire debate stage Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Poll: 68 percent of Democrats say it 'makes no difference' if a candidate is a billionaire MORE have cited in calling for impeachment. 

Johnson, who also voted in favor of Green’s impeachment resolution, took a similar tack.

“Impeachment is a sacred constitutional responsibility entrusted to Congress. I am committed to continuing to conduct oversight into the president’s conduct and wrongdoing as well as serving as a check on the president. This is what House Democrats were elected into the majority to do, and this is what we will do while Senate Republicans repeatedly show that they are willing to look the other way,” Johnson said in a statement. 

McGovern deferred to the Judiciary Committee but didn't rule out the prospect of impeachment.

"He trusts Chairman [Jerrold] Nadler’s leadership on this issue. But given Special Counsel Mueller’s report and the president’s continued stonewalling of Congressional oversight requests, he doesn’t believe any options should be taken off the table," McGovern spokesman Matt Bonaccorsi said.

Two members of Democratic leadership who, like Green, are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, at one point or another supported the efforts. Green alleged in his articles of impeachment that Trump was inflaming racial tensions in America.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) voted in favor of Green's articles of impeachment in 2017 but joined other Democratic leaders the second time in voting to table them. The votes forced by Green drew the support of 58 Democrats the first time and 66 a month later, but the majority of his colleagues joined leadership in rejecting the efforts.

“His vote in 2017 was to express his disapproval of the president on the record,” Clyburn spokeswoman Hope Derrick said.

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House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesJeffries, Nadler showcase different NY styles in Trump trial Hakeem Jeffries tells Senate in impeachment proceedings they should subpoena Baseball Hall of Fame after Jeter vote Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), voted to table Green's articles the first time but voted in favor of them in January 2018 after Trump came under fire for deriding protections for immigrants from “shithole” African countries.

Democratic chairmen face some pressure to back Pelosi, who has argued it would be unwise to move forward with impeachment given the likelihood that the Republican Senate would not convict Trump. Pelosi also remembers how impeachment boomeranged on House Republicans in the Clinton era.

Most of the calls to move forward on impeachment have come from liberal members of the Democratic caucus. Pelosi is worried impeachment could be used by Republicans against many of the vulnerable Democrats who won swing districts in 2018.

Waters is one committee chair who backed Green’s call for impeachment when Democrats were in the minority, and has kept her position in the majority.

In the wake of Mueller’s report, she said she still supports impeachment. 

“Mueller kicked the impeachment ball to the Congress. The Constitution gives the responsibility to Congress to impeach an unfit president — 'high crimes and misdemeanors.' What more do we need? #impeach45,” Waters wrote in a series of tweets this week. 

She also made a point of noting that impeachment is in House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler to miss a day of impeachment trial due to wife's cancer treatment Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff MORE's (D-N.Y.) court, writing that “Dems divided. The impeachment resolution must start with & be taken up by the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Nadler is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.”

Nadler, as well as Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE (D-Md.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffWhite House spokesperson: Media's 'obsession' with impeachment 'won't let up' Trump rips Chuck Todd for 'softball' Schiff interview Democrats, Republicans tussle over witnesses as vote approaches MORE (D-Calif.), did not vote in favor of Green's efforts.

Thompson, meanwhile, notably retweeted a message from Green last week calling for impeachment. A spokesman for Thompson did not return requests for comment.

Other committee leaders who voted in favor of Green's articles in the past avoided mentioning the word impeachment at all when reacting to the release of Mueller's report and instead joined calls for the full, unredacted version of the special counsel's findings. Both Pallone and Velazquez cast doubt on Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments MORE and said they wanted to see Mueller testify before Congress.

Grijalva, meanwhile, indicated that impeachment isn't a realistic option compared to asking voters to make the decision whether to oust Trump.

“Election time is when you beat Trump,” Grijalva told Politico.

Green told The Hill that he's waiting to see what the Judiciary Committee does next before forcing a third vote on impeachment, which he’s threatened since February. 

Green has cosponsored articles of impeachment from Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanTrump-Pelosi trade deal creates strife among progressives The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing MORE (D-Calif.) arguing that Trump obstructed justice by firing James ComeyJames Brien ComeyCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight MORE as FBI director as well as a resolution from Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants MORE (D-Mich.) calling on the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Trump has committed impeachable offenses. But Green has yet to unveil a new impeachment resolution of his own this year.

“I'm going to give the committee an opportunity to act,” Green said in a phone interview. “But if the committee doesn't act, I'm not going to let my record show that a president who was unfit, who has obstructed justice, is above the law.”

Green said that he's not lobbying colleagues on impeachment, saying that “under these circumstances, it is better to stand alone than not stand at all.”

Scott Wong contributed.