Dem clamor for impeachment swells as McGahn refuses testimony

The chorus of House Democrats calling to launch impeachment proceedings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE is growing louder amid heightened White House stonewalling in the face of numerous probes into the administration.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE (D-Calif.) has, for years, sought to dampen talk of impeachment, fearing the backlash from a public that's not yet on board with ousting the president. And her message has resonated widely within a Democratic Caucus that's overwhelmingly supported her more cautious investigative approach.

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But those same probes have been dogged by the administration's refusal to turn over documents and allow witnesses to testify before committees, particularly in relation to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's sweeping report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The latest episode came this week when former White House counsel Don McGahn announced he would follow the White House's urging and defy a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to appear Tuesday before the panel.

For a number of Democrats who have been treading carefully into the impeachment debate, McGahn's recalcitrance seemed to mark the end of their rope.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Pelosi: Congress will block Trump's arms sales to Saudi Arabia MORE (D-R.I.), the head of the Democrats' messaging arm, broke from Pelosi's no-impeachment strategy Monday night in calling for the launch of an impeachment inquiry into Trump if McGahn did not testify Tuesday — and McGahn did, in fact, skip the hearing. And as scores of Democratic lawmakers filtered out of a closed-door caucus meeting in the Capitol basement Tuesday morning, many said the time has come to launch formal proceedings to oust Trump.

"Nobody gets elected to Congress, nobody runs for Congress, with the idea that, 'I want to go there and start an impeachment.' But I think that's what it's come to," said Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTrump's border funding comes back from the dead House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee. "Obviously, all of us respect [Pelosi's] perspective and her opinion. But I think, individually, each of us have a perspective of our own. And I think it's time to start [impeachment]."

Others echoed that message, with some calling impeachment proceedings "inevitable."

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"I think it's time, I do," said Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthWho are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Who are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health MORE (D-Ky.), who is chairman of the Budget Committee and a de-facto member of Pelosi's leadership team. "I think the sheer disregard for provisions of the Constitution [providing] checks and balances is enough reason to begin the inquiry — formally.

Democrats will hold a caucus meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss their oversight and investigations of the Trump administration, offering an opportunity for a longer discussion on impeachment. 

"I think there's a growing understanding that ... the impeachment process is going to be inevitable. It's just a question of when, not if," Yarmuth added. "And if it happens this summer, that's fine. If it goes into the fall or next year, I think that's probably too late."

Democratic leaders are also facing new pressure to consider impeachment now that Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashMcCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump McCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump Amash responds to Trump Jr. primary threat with Russia joke MORE (R-Mich.) has repeatedly said in recent days that Trump should be impeached for obstruction of justice.

Amash on Saturday became the first GOP lawmaker to say the president engaged in "impeachable conduct." He later stood firm by those remarks amid a backlash from fellow Republicans.

It's unclear just how many Democrats are eager to launch impeachment proceedings against the president, and Pelosi still has plenty of backing in the caucus she's controlled since 2003.

At a leadership meeting Monday night, her top lieutenants — House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe case for congressional pay raises Approve USMCA before it's too late Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress MORE (D-Md.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — both joined her side when Cicilline spoke up in support of launching an impeachment inquiry. And many rank-and-file members also support her more cautious approach.

"We need to show the American public that we have whatever evidence there is, and make a decision based on that," Rep. Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.) said going into Tuesday's caucus meeting.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, is also not ready to launch impeachment — yet.

"I think we're getting very, very close to that point," Cleaver said. "I'm not there yet, but I think every time someone refuses to testify, every time the president blocks another civilian who's not working for the federal government from testifying ... then more and more people are saying, 'You know, he's pushing us to the edge.' "

A crucial factor in the debate, Cleaver argued, is having Pelosi on board.

"The Speaker needs to be there," he said. "You don't elect a leader and then run off and leave her."

Yet others seem more than ready to do so.

Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenCongress should make Interior's Bernhardt 'manage the land to stop climate change' The Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than Sweden: study The Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than Sweden: study MORE (D-Texas), who's emerged as the face of the impeachment push in the House, said he's been encouraged by Cicilline's new support for the effort, and predicted the issue will soon come to the floor.

"I am convinced that there will be a vote on impeachment, and I am convinced that people are starting to conclude that it should be sooner rather than later," said Green, who has been threatening for months to force a vote. "My hope is that somebody else will [force the vote]; but if nobody else does, I will."

Green then went to the House floor, where he called for Democratic leaders to launch impeachment proceedings immediately.