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 TrumpCNN's Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding 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 RaskinDemocrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems, GOP dig in on police reform ahead of House vote MORE (D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats seek to use spending bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol West Virginia governor issues order for wearing face coverings indoors The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Supreme Court's unanimous decision on the Electoral College 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 AmashDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Michigan candidate's daughter urges people not to vote for him in viral tweet Can Trump break his 46 percent ceiling? MORE (R-Mich.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 EshooDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Why drug costs for older Americans should be capped in pandemic's wake Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse 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 PhillipsIn the next COVID-19 bill, target innovation and entrepreneurship Small businesses receive much-needed Paycheck Protection Program fixes House passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program 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 ButterfieldHouse passes police reform bill that faces dead end in Senate Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel House to pass sweeping police reform legislation 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 JeffriesReparations bill gains steam following death of George Floyd Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups 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 ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower says California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' | EPA won't defend policy blocking grantees from serving on boards | Minnesota sues Exxon, others over climate change DOJ whistleblower: California emissions probe was 'abuse of authority' Hillicon Valley: Apple's developer dispute draws lawmaker scrutiny of App Store | GOP senator blocks bill to expand mail-in and early voting | Twitter flags Trump tweet on protesters for including 'threat of harm' 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. LieuMilley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Trump campaign touts 4M online viewers for Tulsa rally Trump mocked for low attendance at rally 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 PocanSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary Why Veterans Affairs workers don't trust the Trump administration MORE (Wis.); Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Hispanic Caucus formally endorses George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Technical difficulties mar several remote House hearings 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 ScanlonDemocrats introduce resolution condemning acts of violence against the press Behind every gun law is a mom marching for her children COVID-19 is no excuse for Attorney General Barr to skirt the rule of law 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 HicksCuomo turned down Trump invitation to participate in April press briefing: report Trump shakes up White House communications team Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.  

A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks 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 SpeierProtests force military reckoning on race Air Force documents acknowledged 'persistent' racial bias in justice system HHS watchdog says actions should be free from political interference MORE (Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteShort-term health plans leave consumers on the hook for massive medical costs, investigation finds White House shifts focus from coronavirus Administration rolls back pollution standards amid a global pandemic 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.”