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 John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' 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) 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 testified before Congress before the start of the House’s six-week August recess.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMaloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman House to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members 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. LangevinHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Trump makes social media a player in impeachment Bill introduced to give special immigrant visas to Kurds who helped US in Syria MORE (R.I.), Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodRep. Veronica Escobar elected to represent freshman class in House leadership Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment MORE (Ill.), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterScientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Omar knocks Republicans for appearing to bring phones into highly-classified SCIF room Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (Ill.), David PriceDavid Eugene PriceNorth Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Trump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief MORE (N.C.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoHillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Progressives urge end to mass phone data collection program Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Impeachment inquiry overshadows Trump at UN | Veterans push VA to follow through on reforms | Iranian leader open to changes in nuke deal MORE (Calif.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderHouse Democrat pushes back against concerns that impeachment inquiry could spark political backlash Dem Congressman discusses plan to keep the house blue The Hill's Morning Report - New impeachment battle: Pompeo vs. House Dems 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 DeutchEthics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette Pelosi signs bill making animal cruelty a federal crime Ethics panel extends probe into Tlaib 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 KrishnamoorthiOvernight Health Care: Democratic group to only endorse AG candidates who back abortion rights | Protect Our Care launches seven-figure ad buy to boost vulnerable Dems | California sues Juul House Democratic chairman demands answers from Trump admin on vaping flavor ban Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in impeachment hearing: Five things to watch 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. GreenThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Vindman defends witnesses from 'cowardly' attacks at third day of hearings Trump knocks Pelosi ahead of new impeachment hearings: 'She's CRAZY!' Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings MORE (D-Texas), who has forced three House floor votes on impeachment since 2017, or Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanOn The Money: House passes monthlong stopgap | Broader spending talks stall | Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns | Progressives ramp up attacks on private equity Progressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite 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) EvansOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment 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 WatersOn The Money: House passes monthlong stopgap | Broader spending talks stall | Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns | Progressives ramp up attacks on private equity Federal regulators clear BB&T-SunTrust merger, creating sixth-largest US bank Progressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity MORE (Calif.), John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Kentucky Democrat: McConnell's agenda driven by 'power without a purpose' MORE (Ky.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldNorth Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Black leaders say African American support in presidential primary is fluid North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats MORE (N.C.), Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayMaloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman GOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel MORE (Mo.), Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Boeing CEO gives up bonus over 737 Max crashes Democrat says he voted to recognize Armenian genocide because 'Turkey doesn't seem to respect' US MORE (Tenn.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralOvernight 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 Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense MORE (N.Y.), Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezHouse Democrats offer bill to expand the estate tax House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (Calif.), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires Overnight Energy: Fight between EPA watchdog, agency lawyers heats up | Top EPA official under investigation over document destruction | DOJ issues subpoenas to automakers in California emissions pact Interior suggests ex-client of department head for major contract MORE (Calif.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension Ayanna Pressley introduces extensive criminal justice reform resolution MORE (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension Omar asks court to apply 'system of compassion' in sentencing man convicted of threatening her MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyAyanna Pressley introduces extensive criminal justice reform resolution Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Justice Democrats official denies that progressives struggle with electability MORE (Mass.), Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreA dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes MORE (Wis.), Bobby RushBobby Lee RushHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension 50 Cent meets with Pelosi, lawmakers on Capitol Hill MORE (Ill.), Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenAviation chairmen cite safety, new tech among concerns for the future The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans MORE (Wash.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchImpeachment hearing breaks into laughter after Democrat contrasts it to Hallmark movie Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor Impeachment hearing breaks into laughter after Democrat invites Trump to testify 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 LipinskiDemocratic group to only endorse attorney general candidates who back abortion rights Democrats unveil impeachment procedures The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges 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.