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 Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' 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) 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 testified before Congress before the start of the House’s six-week August recess.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Clyburn threatens to end in-person coronavirus committee hearings if Republicans won't wear masks 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: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director Overnight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says MORE (R.I.), Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap after strong jobs report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (Ill.), Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterFormer Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain says White House's bad decisions have put US behind many other nations on COVID-19; Fears of virus reemergence intensify Overnight Defense: Army now willing to rename bases named after Confederates | Dems demand answers on 'unfathomable' nuke testing discussions | Pentagon confirms death of north African al Qaeda leader Top Democrats demand answers on Trump administration's 'unfathomable' consideration of nuclear testing MORE (Ill.), David PriceDavid Eugene Price189 House Democrats urge Israel to 'reconsider' annexation Partisan divide on annexation complicates US-Israel relationship National service will give thousands of Americans a chance to recover and rebuild their communities MORE (N.C.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Cure Violence Global founder Gary Slutkin says violence and epidemics follow same patterns; Global death toll surpasses half a million MORE (Calif.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott Schneider189 House Democrats urge Israel to 'reconsider' annexation Partisan divide on annexation complicates US-Israel relationship Illinois governor endorses Biden one day before primary 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 DeutchUS lawmakers call on EU to label entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization 189 House Democrats urge Israel to 'reconsider' annexation Partisan divide on annexation complicates US-Israel relationship 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 KrishnamoorthiMilley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets Democrats seek information on Treasury's administration of 'opportunity zone' program Biden campaign rips 'outrageous' Trump comments on coronavirus testing 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. GreenTrump administration ending support for 7 Texas testing sites as coronavirus cases spike The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Miami mayor worries about suicide and domestic violence rise; Trump-governor debate intensifies Overnight Energy: Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns | New EPA order limits telework post-pandemic | Lawmakers urge help for oil and gas workers MORE (D-Texas), who has forced three House floor votes on impeachment since 2017, or Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanHouse passes bill to sanction Chinese banks over Hong Kong security law The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump? Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel 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) EvansBipartisan GROCER Act would give tax break to frontline workers Bipartisan bill aims to help smallest businesses weather the coronavirus crisis The State of the Union on homelessness — proven solutions can't withstand budget cuts 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.”

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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 to pass sweeping police reform legislation Sanders raised over 0,000 for candidates in Tuesday primaries Engel scrambles to fend off primary challenge from left 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.