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 TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE, making him the highest-ranking member of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBottom Line Immigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values Trump's intel moves spark Democratic fury 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 ClarkJeffries: Trump budget is a 'declaration of war on the American dream' Senate acquits Trump, ending impeachment saga Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements 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 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 ClintonBloomberg called Warren 'scary,' knocked Obama's first term in leaked audio Trump trails Democratic challengers among Catholic voters: poll Sanders under fire from Democrats over praise for Castro regime 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 NadlerThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify 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."