Dem clamor for impeachment swells as McGahn refuses testimony

The chorus of House Democrats calling to launch impeachment proceedings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE is growing louder amid heightened White House stonewalling in the face of numerous probes into the administration.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles California GOP candidate arrested on stalking charges 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 MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by 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 CicillineHouse Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Tempers flare at tense Judiciary hearing on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Amazon alleges Trump interfered in Pentagon contract to hurt Bezos | Federal council warns Trump of cyber threats to infrastructure | China to remove foreign technology from government offices 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 CastroHispanic Democrats demand flu vaccines for detained migrants Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills 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 YarmuthOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Kentucky Democrat: McConnell's agenda driven by 'power without a purpose' 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 AmashGroup of Democrats floating censure of Trump instead of impeachment: report Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump 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 Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles Hoyer predicts impeachment vote next week Pelosi announces support for new Trump NAFTA deal 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. GreenDemocrats reach cusp of impeachment Feehery: Losing faith in the people and the Constitution Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race 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.