Fourth-ranking House Democrat backs Trump impeachment

Fourth-ranking House Democrat backs Trump impeachment

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), the No. 4 House Democrat, announced Monday that he's supporting an impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE, making him the highest-ranking member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Pelosi on Baltimore's Columbus statue: 'If the community doesn't want the statue, the statue shouldn't be there' MORE's (D-Calif.) leadership team to endorse the process formally. 

Luján, who's leaving the House to run for a Senate seat in 2020, said he was swayed by warnings that Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections has continued heading into the 2020 cycle. 

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Trump, he said, "has failed to act," making the launch of an impeachment inquiry a necessary step "to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable."

"The Trump presidency is creating grave national security concerns," Luján said in a statement. "Not only has he ignored the warnings that our Democracy is being targeted, but he has also actively encouraged Russian interference."

Earlier this month, the number of House Democrats officially backing impeachment ticked up to constitute a majority of the caucus. Luján's endorsement puts the figure at 123, and as assistant to the Speaker, he becomes the highest ranking Democrat to back the process — a distinction previously held by Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid MORE (D-Mass.), the vice chairwoman of the caucus.

The slow drip of impeachment endorsements has put increasing pressure on Pelosi to get more aggressive as Democrats pursue a series of investigations into potential presidential wrongdoing, including conduct related to Russia's 2016 election meddling and the subsequent probe performed by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE

Mueller's report, released in April, found evidence that members of Trump's campaign team welcomed the foreign assistance in gathering "dirt" on Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats MORE, though it did not rise to levels of criminal conspiracy. Mueller also outlined 10 cases in which Trump may have obstructed the investigation.

With Pelosi's endorsement, Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Nadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is leaning on impeachment as a basis for securing information from the administration, through the courts, to guide his ongoing investigations. But Democratic leaders have avoided votes to launch an official impeachment inquiry, citing the lack of support from both voters and Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

Luján, who faces a contested Senate primary, said he was "alarmed" in reading Mueller's report, which revealed behavior "unacceptable ... from any president." He's worried, he said, that Trump isn't doing enough to ensure that the election meddling of 2016 doesn't resurface next year. 

"President Trump's lack of action is jeopardizing our elections, national security, and Democracy," Luján said. "What is evident is that President Trump is abdicating his responsibility to defend our nation from Russian attacks and is putting his own personal and political interests ahead of the American people."