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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 TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster 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 Raskin House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE (D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi quashes reports on Jan. 6 select committee Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed On The Money: Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall | Schumer, Pelosi meeting with White House on infrastructure 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 AmashAmash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' MORE (R-Mich.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment Pharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis 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 PhillipsOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe 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 ButterfieldDemocratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack Lobbying world The Memo: How liberal will the Biden presidency be? 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 JeffriesThe antitrust package is a Trojan horse conservatives must reject Democrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic 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 CicillineTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation The antitrust package is a Trojan horse conservatives must reject GOP divided over bills targeting tech giants 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. LieuMove by Catholic bishops against Biden brings howls of hypocrisy Lieu calls Catholic bishops 'hypocrites' for move to deny Biden communion Gaetz, under investigative cloud, questions FBI director 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 PocanThe Memo: The pre-Trump 'normal' is gone for good Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (Wis.); Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTexas walkout sets up epic battle over voting rights Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department USAID 'redirects' El Salvador funds from government to civil society 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 ScanlonHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Democrats introduce bill seeking to protect voting rights of people in subsidized housing 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 HicksUPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause Trump selects Hicks, Bondi, Grenell and other allies for positions Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tests positive for coronavirus MORE and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarAbbott signs bill making concealed carry without permits legal in Texas Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Gun violence: Save the thoughts and prayers, it's time for Senate action MORE (Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.  

A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month 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 SpeierPentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHouse to take big step on eliminating Trump-era rules Nick Offerman testifies before Congress on vaccines: 'Medicine doesn't care who you voted for' Democrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act 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.”