Deutch joins impeachment effort he says has 'already begun'

Deutch joins impeachment effort he says has 'already begun'
© Greg Nash

A senior member of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday joined the growing list of Democrats backing the effort to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE.

Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchGun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence House panel advances anti-gun violence legislation Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE, a five-term Florida Democrat, cited the "damning conclusions" contained in former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski 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 Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE's report on Russian election interference as the basis for jumping onto the impeachment bandwagon.

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"The remedies for presidential misconduct, including impeachment, are in Congress’s hands," Deutch wrote in an op-ed for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

There is plenty of nuance, however, to Deutch's position. While scores of Democrats are clamoring for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden blasts Trump, demands he release transcript of call with foreign leader Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week MORE (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee leaders to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — or even stage a floor vote on official articles of impeachment — Deutch says the panel has effectively started the process already.

"The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole authority of impeachment. Officially launching an impeachment inquiry has never been a prerequisite to using that authority," Deutch wrote. "The Judiciary Committee may refer articles of impeachment to the whole House for a vote at any time."

He's citing changes to the Judiciary Committee rules, adopted under a Republican majority in 2015, granting the panel broad new investigation powers — including the issuance of subpoenas — that make the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry unnecessary as the Democrats dig into Mueller's report.

"No additional step is required," he wrote. "No magic words need to be uttered on the House floor. No vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry is necessary."

With that, Deutch joins other leaders of the Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media MORE (D-N.Y.), in arguing that Democrats have effectively started the impeachment process — a claim they're using as the basis for obtaining Mueller-related documents and witness testimony through the courts.

The strategy appears designed to strike a balance between appeasing the impeachment supporters, who say Trump is unfit for office and should have already been ousted, and protecting vulnerable Democrats from a tough vote heading into difficult reelection races next year.

Even so, a Deutch spokesman clarified Thursday that the Florida Democrat would vote for a formal inquiry if one were considered.

"While he believes that there’s no need for a formal vote to open an inquiry and that we’ve been in one since the Committee started its investigation, he would support a vote to do so," the spokesman said in an email.

Deutch's endorsement brings the number of Democrats backing impeachment up to 114, just four shy of a caucus majority, according to a tally being kept by The Hill.

Updated at 11:26 a.m.