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House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment

House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment
© Greg Nash

House Democrats facing pressure from constituents back home over the August recess are increasingly blurring the lines on where they stand on impeaching President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE.

While about 30 Democrats have announced support for beginning the impeachment process in some form since heading back to their districts for the summer, none have said they'd be ready to vote to immediately impeach Trump when they return to Washington next month.

Only about 20 Democrats are on the record saying outright that they believe Trump should be impeached, according to an analysis by The Hill. But most have long been vocal proponents of impeachment for months, if not years, and well before former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE testified before Congress before the start of the House’s six-week August recess.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month A historic moment to truly honor mothers Britney Spears to discuss conservatorship in court MORE (D-N.Y.) gave many Democrats cover when he said this month that his panel is already effectively conducting an inquiry to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment as it reviews potential abuses of power by Trump, stating in a CNN interview that “this is formal impeachment proceedings.”

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Democrats on the Judiciary panel are also battling in court for grand jury material underlying Mueller’s report, arguing they need the information in order to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

That has led many Democrats to make announcements in recent weeks merely stating that they support the existing investigations, and without actually expressing outright support for impeaching Trump.

More than 130 House Democrats in total — a majority of the caucus — back impeachment in some form, according to The Hill’s whip list. But that is still well short of the number ultimately needed to impeach Trump: 218 votes on the floor, or a majority of the whole chamber.

Still, liberal groups like Indivisible, MoveOn, Need to Impeach and Stand Up America have ramped up pressure on Democratic lawmakers while they are home in their districts for town halls over the six-week break, demanding they back a formal impeachment inquiry.

A number of Democrats who have issued statements about impeachment in recent weeks include lawmakers targeted by the groups, including Reps. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinLawmakers push for increased cybersecurity funds in annual appropriations Biden takes quick action on cyber in first 100 days Senate Intelligence panel working on legislation around mandatory cyber breach notification MORE (R.I.), Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodMcAuliffe holds wide lead in Virginia gubernatorial primary: poll HHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth Lauren Underwood endorses Jennifer Carroll Foy in Virginia governors race MORE (Ill.), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterLawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Lawmakers say manufacturers are in better position to handle future pandemics Lawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack MORE (Ill.), David PriceDavid Eugene PriceSecret Service: Optics of Trump greeting supporters outside Walter Reed wasn't a factor GOP ramps up attacks on Biden's border wall freeze The US has a significant flooding problem — Congress can help MORE (N.C.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoUS tensions with China risk fueling anti-Asian harassment at home Democrats rush to Biden's defense on border surge K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE (Calif.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business MORE (Ill.).

While grass-roots groups have expressed support for Nadler’s actions, they are pushing to get lawmakers on the record about whether Trump’s conduct is impeachable.

"We’re grateful that Chairman Nadler has escalated the fight and used his oversight authority to investigate Donald Trump’s criminal activity. But we’re pushing for every member of the House to support a formal impeachment inquiry so that, when lawmakers return in September, Congress is in the strongest possible position to get answers on behalf of the American people and hold Donald Trump accountable for his criminal conduct,” said Ryan Thomas, spokesman for Stand Up America.

For example, Underwood, a freshman considered particularly vulnerable since she represents a district carried by Trump in 2016, issued a statement last week saying that "the petition Chairman Nadler filed on July 26 clearly states that the Judiciary Committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment, essentially an impeachment inquiry. I support this investigation."

But Underwood made no outright declaration on whether she believes Trump should be impeached, adding, "Let me be clear: no one wins when Congress is compelled to investigate impeachment or bring about articles of impeachment. This is a tragedy for our country."

Langevin similarly affirmed the Judiciary Committee’s actions as he cited feedback from his constituents.

“After careful reflection and interaction with my constituents, I now believe the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions is necessary to gather the evidence Congress needs to make this critical determination,” Langevin said last week.

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That stands in contrast to Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry before the House’s August recess began on July 25, which amounted to urging leadership to take action.

Yet by early August, Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchDemocrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election Republican, Democratic lawmakers urge fully funding US assistance to Israel For a win on climate, let's put our best player in the game MORE (D-Fla.), a Judiciary Committee member, wrote in an op-ed for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that “the inquiry has already begun.”

“In every meaningful way, our investigation is an impeachment inquiry. The Judiciary Committee already has the power to refer articles of impeachment to the whole House,” Deutch wrote.

The Democrats who have expressed support for taking the next step toward impeachment since the August recess began have made clear they haven’t made a final judgment on removing Trump from office.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), for instance, said in a statement on July 29 that “while I am not ready to support articles of impeachment, I am ready to use the full force of Congress to carry out subpoenas that have stalled in the courts. That means the opening of an impeachment inquiry.”

Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiMedical supplies arriving in India amid surge in COVID-19 infections Overnight Health Care: US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries | Biden speaks with Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 surges in India US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries MORE (D-Ill.) likewise said on Monday that “where this investigation leads, we cannot know at this time. Regardless of the outcome, I support Chairman Nadler’s impeachment investigation conducted in accordance with the Constitution.”

That compares to the roughly 20 Democrats who already have made clear they believe Trump should be impeached, like Reps. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenBipartisan lawmakers call for action on anti-hate crime measures House Democrat sits on Capitol steps to protest extremist threat Biden pledges support for Texas amid recovery from winter storm MORE (D-Texas), who has forced three House floor votes on impeachment since 2017, or Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanLawmakers tout bipartisan support for resolution criticizing Iran's government Biden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team MORE (D-Calif.), who reintroduced articles of impeachment against Trump on the first day of the new Congress in January.

A spokesman for Rep. Dwight EvansDwight (Dewey) EvansCornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Six ways to visualize a divided America House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education MORE, for instance, confirmed to The Hill this week that the Pennsylvania Democrat “believes there is already enough evidence to warrant impeachment, in addition to supporting an impeachment inquiry.”

Other Democrats who’ve said outright that Trump should be impeached include the likes of Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Maxine Waters: Judge in Chauvin trial who criticized her was 'angry' GOP, Democrats grapple with post-Chauvin trial world MORE (Calif.), John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats see political winner in tax fight McConnell knocks Kentucky Democrat over support for nixing filibuster Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (Ky.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldThe Memo: How liberal will the Biden presidency be? Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP CBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief MORE (N.C.), Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLiberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Progressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC MORE (Mo.), Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenLobbying world Buttigieg charms Washington with his accessibility Chris Christie joins board of New York Mets MORE (Tenn.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting Lawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty MORE (N.Y.), Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates HuffPost reporter: DCCC will help Dems fend off progressive challengers to 'keep them happy' MORE (Calif.), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Race debate grips Congress Democrats ask Biden to reverse employee policy on past marijuana use MORE (Calif.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSix House Democrats ask Garland to review case of lawyer placed under house arrest over Chevron suit OSHA sends draft emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 to OMB review Imperative that Democrats figure out what went wrong in 2020 MORE (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarFree Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands White House raises refugee cap to 62,500 MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Genetic material from 1993 killing revealed years after another man executed for crime, groups say Advocates warn against complacency after Chauvin verdict MORE (Mass.), Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreLawmakers urge IRS to boost outreach about tax credits for low-income Americans McMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis House approves rules package for new Congress MORE (Wis.), Bobby RushBobby Lee RushExorcising the ghosts of COINTELPRO: Bobby Rush Edition Unleashing an American-led clean energy economy to reach net-zero emissions Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack MORE (Ill.), Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenDemocrats debate fast-track for infrastructure package LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday MORE (Wash.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats push to add drug pricing, Medicare measures to Biden plan House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs MORE (Vt.).

Even those who haven't made a point of issuing statements or are opposed to impeachment entirely at this point say that they support House committees' oversight efforts.

“While I agree with Speaker Pelosi that we don’t need and should not have an official ‘impeachment inquiry’ vote in the House at this time, I have been and continue to be in support of the investigative work that is being done in the House committees,” centrist Rep. Daniel LipinskiDaniel William LipinskiHouse votes to condemn alleged hysterectomies on migrant women Five things we learned from this year's primaries Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates MORE (D-Ill.) told the Chicago Sun-Times this week.

“Right now, I think the best way to remove President Trump from office is voting him out in the 2020 election. This may change as the work of House committees continue, but if the House impeached the president now, it could backfire because the president would be able to say that he was persecuted by the Democratic House but exonerated by the Senate,” Lipinski added.

Lipinski is in a competitive primary race against Democratic challenger Marie Newman, who has called for an impeachment inquiry.

"No more stalling and no more rationalizing; begin impeachment inquiries," she tweeted in late July.