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 TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE.

Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members MORE, a five-term Florida Democrat, cited the "damning conclusions" contained in former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 PelosiGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union 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 NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution 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.