House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment

House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment
© Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders on Tuesday faced fresh calls to move forward with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE's impeachment after former White House counsel Don McGahn skipped his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

The calls to launch an impeachment inquiry are coming from some of the most important voices in the 235-member Democratic caucus — from members of leadership and powerful committee chairmen to key Judiciary members who have jurisdiction over impeachment.

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“We’ve been presented with overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Congress and contempt: What you need to know MORE (D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE’s (D-Calif.) leadership team who also sits on the Judiciary Committee and is a constitutional law professor.

Raskin had previously urged caution on impeachment, but now says an inquiry is necessary.

He and other Democrats are frustrated by the White House’s blanket stonewalling of their investigations, including a spate of subpoenas for public testimony and documents.

“That’s pretty dramatic when the president pulls the curtain down over the executive branch of government and refuses to comply with subpoenas and other lawful demands for information,” Raskin told The Hill.

Democrats also said they were spurred on by 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.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading 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 report.

The caucus is set to debate impeachment Wednesday morning at a closed-door emergency meeting, a gathering that could spur more lawmakers to join the pro-impeachment camp.  

To be sure, scores of Democrats on Tuesday said they backed Pelosi's cautious approach on impeachment and did not think it was time to move forward on the issue.

“We have to drive with the emergency brake on,” veteran Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooPro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment Hillicon Valley: Court rejects Chelsea Manning appeal | Facebook hires lawyer who helped write Patriot Act | Senator seeks details on Russian interference in Florida | Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist | Ex-Obama aide lobbying for Sprint, T-Mobile merger MORE (D-Calif.), a Pelosi loyalist, told The Hill. “I’ve been through impeachment — it tears the country apart."

But others urging caution said it wouldn’t take much to push them over the line.

“I’m not there yet personally, but there’s no question I’m growing more and more concerned,” freshman Rep. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push MORE (Minn.), a centrist Democrat who unseated a GOP incumbent last fall, told The Hill.

“I put what’s in the best interest of the country and our constitutional responsibility first, and I don’t want to see our country go through that, but they are making it awfully, awfully difficult,” he said.

Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldNancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Number of Democrats backing Trump impeachment inquiry rises MORE (D-N.C.) said that he was on the fence when it comes to launching an impeachment inquiry, which would trigger a formal Judiciary Committee investigation into whether Trump should be impeached.

“My constituents don’t understand inaction. And I’ve been trying to tell them that we are not engaged in inaction,” Butterfield, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill. “We are deliberately moving forward with hearings and subpoenas demanding accountability of the executive branch, but I’m pretty darn close” to reaching a tipping point.

McGahn failing to show up “may very well be the tipping point,” he added, “but I’ve got to process it all and see where I am.”

It's not clear those backing impeachment would be able to secure a simple majority — 218 votes — if a roll call was held this week. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE (N.Y.) argued that “the overwhelming majority” of Democrats are focused on kitchen-table, pocketbook issues like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and a major infrastructure package.  

“I disagree with the notion that a growing number of the House Democratic Caucus want to jump straight to impeachment,” Jeffries told reporters.

But the support is clearly building, despite Pelosi and other top leaders’ efforts to contain it.

As of Tuesday, at least 25 House Democrats have stated they support either launching an impeachment inquiry or adopting articles of impeachment against Trump, according to a whip list compiled by The Hill.

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.), who runs messaging for House Democrats, became the highest-ranking member of leadership to call for an impeachment inquiry. Two other leaders who bucked Pelosi on the issue this week are Raskin and Rep. Joseph Neguse (D-Colo.), one of the freshman class’s liaisons to leadership. Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuOvernight 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 Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door MORE (D-Calif.), who helps run Cicilline’s messaging operation, was already on board.

Other key Democrats joining the impeachment push this week include the two Progressive Caucus chairs, Reps. Pramila Jayala (Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanOn The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push MORE (Wis.); 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 (Texas), whose brother, Julián Castro, was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for impeachment; and Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Mary Gay ScanlonMary Gay ScanlonGOP leader, Ocasio-Cortez give boost to lawmaker pay hike GOP leader, Ocasio-Cortez give boost to lawmaker pay hike Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage MORE (Pa.).

Like Scanlon, many of the new impeachment backers serve on the Judiciary Committee, which — even after issuing a flurry of subpoenas — has been struggling to secure the unredacted Mueller report and public testimony from McGahn, former White House aide Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle Hope Hicks agrees to testify before House panel MORE and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarWho are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Who are the House Democrats backing Trump impeachment? Democrats fail to mollify impeachment crowd MORE (Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.  

A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWatergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs MORE (D-N.Y.) personally pressed Pelosi to support an impeachment inquiry, a request she rebuffed, The Washington Post reported.

Other rank-and-file Democrats jumping on board the impeachment bandwagon include Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy | Trump, Macron downplay rift on Iran | Trump mourns West Point cadet's death in accident | Pentagon closes review of deadly Niger ambush Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteBipartisan former EPA chiefs say Trump administration has abandoned agency's mission Congress: Expand access to physical therapy for underserved communities Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider cost benefit analysis of air pollution rules | Interior gets new rules on free concert tickets | Dem challenges EPA for skipping hearing MORE (Colo.), a former top member of the whip team; and Rep. Don Beyer (Va.), who is a top fundraiser for the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“For me the final two straws were Don McGahn refusing to come forward after a perfectly reasonable request for him to appear and then [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin writing us back saying he’s not going to honor the subpoena on Trump’s tax returns when the law is crystal clear,” Beyer told The Hill.

“I was also pleased to have the first Republican come out and say that impeachment is appropriate.”