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 TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview 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 RaskinEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Oversight panel to subpoena Trump officials next week over deportation deferrals Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort MORE (D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia 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: Clinton's attack on Gabbard will 'drive many people into the arms' of Trump Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria pullout MORE (R-Mich.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 EshooOvernight Health Care: Public's view of drug companies sinks to record low in poll | NYC declares end to measles outbreak | Health advocates fear Planned Parenthood funding loss could worsen STD crisis Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Planned Parenthood ousts its president | Harris releases drug pricing plan | House Dem drug plan delayed until after recess Democratic chair: Medicare negotiating drug prices not moving before August 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 PhillipsDemocrats eye Pompeo testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to hit gas on impeachment Democrats take Trump impeachment case to voters 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 ButterfieldDemocrats see whistleblower report as smoking gun Democrats dread Kennedy-Markey showdown in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy 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 JeffriesLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings House chairman: Pompeo not complying with impeachment inquiry Sunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight 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: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship FTC Democrat raises concerns that government is 'captured' by large tech companies Democrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe 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. LieuTestimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense Lawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Democrats eye Pompeo testimony 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 PocanTop progressive calls for Pompeo's salary to be withheld over Sondland's blocked testimony Democrats take Trump impeachment case to voters Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt MORE (Wis.); Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroLawmakers argue for national Latino museum The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight to take center stage at Dem debate The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren, Sanders overtake Biden in third-quarter fundraising 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: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Trump criticizes Fox, which 'isn't working for us anymore' Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor MORE and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Lawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Hispanic voters push campaigns to address gun violence MORE (Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.  

A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing Barr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday 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 SpeierTestimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense Sondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy Equal Rights Amendment and Justice Ginsburg's 'hope' comments MORE (Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteA dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal FDA under pressure to move fast on vaping Lawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits 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.”