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 TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg 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 RaskinHouse Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation Maryland Rep. Raskin endorses Warren ahead of Iowa caucus Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders MORE (D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president 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 AmashSanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (R-Mich.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading 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.

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 EshooHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight Health Care: Health insurers urge Supreme Court to take ObamaCare case | Lawmakers press Trump officials to change marijuana rules | Bloomberg vows to ban flavored e-cigs if elected 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 PhillipsHouse votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment First-term Democrats push Amash as impeachment manager: report 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 poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate Democrat makes case for impeachment in Spanish during House floor debate Democrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps 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 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 (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 CicillineHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Smaller companies testify against Big Tech's 'monopoly power' Living in limbo may end for Liberians in the US 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. LieuDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism Paralysis of nations is empowering cities 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 PocanSanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa Sanders announces Iowa campaign swing with AOC, Michael Moore The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (Wis.); Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power Warren campaign hires two top Castro staffers Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants 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 ScanlonOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' Lewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon Four House Judiciary members say they will 'move forward' with impeachment 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 HicksTrump must be removed — for more than reasons offered in impeachment 2019 in Photos: 35 pictures in politics Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe MORE and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Michigan governor to give Democratic response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.  

A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump defense team signals focus on Schiff Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats Nadler calls Trump a 'dictator' on Senate floor 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 SpeierSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Poll: 69 percent of Americans say they are watching impeachment closely The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate MORE (Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Energy: Critics question data behind new Trump water rule | Groups seek more time to comment on Trump environmental rollback | EPA under scrutiny over backlog of toxic waste cleanups Democrats demand plan as EPA hits largest backlog of toxic waste cleanups in 15 years Overnight Energy: Trump issues rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections | Pelosi slams new rule as 'an outrageous assault' | Trump water policy exposes sharp divides 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.”