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 TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE, making him the highest-ranking member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran 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 ClarkThe Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel House passes third bill aimed at preventing foreign election interference 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) 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

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 ClintonThe Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race In 2020, democracy will be decided at the margins Michelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award 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 NadlerHouse to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' 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."