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 TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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 MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE testified before Congress before the start of the House’s six-week August recess.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMcConnell locks in schedule for start of impeachment trial Pelosi: Trump's impeachment 'cannot be erased' House to vote Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment to Senate 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: DHS warns of Iranian cyber threats | YouTube updates child content policy | California privacy law takes effect | Tech, cyber issues to watch in 2020 Lawmakers close to finalizing federal strategy to defend against cyberattacks Hillicon Valley: Spending deal includes 5M for election security | House passes bill to bar use of funds for Huawei | Top White House telecom advisor steps down MORE (R.I.), Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Democrats worry party is squandering political opportunity on ObamaCare Overnight Health Care — Presented by Rare Access Action Project — Court ruling reignites ObamaCare fight for 2020 | Congress expands probe into surprise billing | Health industry racks up wins in year-end spending deal 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 PriceDemocrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Trump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria MORE (N.C.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoGOP claims vindication, but Van Drew decision doesn't spark defections Mark Takano keeps using partisan tactics when legislating veterans issues Hillicon 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 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 DeutchBipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette 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 KrishnamoorthiTrump suggests LBJ is in hell: 'He's probably looking down — or looking up' Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns 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 Memo: Will Iran crisis sideline impeachment process? Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely GOP set to make life difficult for Democrats on impeachment MORE (D-Texas), who has forced three House floor votes on impeachment since 2017, or Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanTrump-Pelosi trade deal creates strife among progressives The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing 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 WatersGearing up for a chaotic year on K Street Maxine Waters: Republicans 'shielding' Trump 'going to be responsible for dragging us to war' Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (Calif.), John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthBlue Dogs push Democrats to pass budget Democrats don't expect to do 2020 budget Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (Ky.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldHouse poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate Democrat makes case for impeachment in Spanish during House floor debate Democrats likely to gain seats under new North Carolina maps MORE (N.C.), Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (Mo.), Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira Cohen2019 in Photos: 35 pictures in politics Gabbard under fire for 'present' vote on impeachment Gabbard votes 'present' on impeaching Trump MORE (Tenn.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDemocrats ramp up calls for war powers vote after Iran strike Democrats vow court victories won't slow impeachment timeline 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 (N.Y.), Jimmy GomezJimmy GomezFormer undocumented workers fired from Trump properties attend Biden campaign event House Democrats offer bill to expand the estate tax House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment MORE (Calif.), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDemocrats reach cusp of impeachment Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention MORE (Calif.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface Ayanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia MORE (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Artist paints Michelle Obama, other women as battered in campaign against domestic violence MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Sanders MORE (Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Ayanna Pressley opens up about having alopecia for first time, reveals bald head in interview Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Sanders 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 RushLawmaker calls for hearing into MLB cheating scandal Hillicon Valley: Facebook to still allow misinformation in ads under new rules | New child privacy bill in House | Election vendors support more federal oversight House lawmakers introduce bill to protect children's privacy online 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 WelchProviding more information on the prescription drug supply chain will help lower costs for all Impeachment hearing breaks into laughter after Democrat contrasts it to Hallmark movie Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor 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 LipinskiMore than 200 lawmakers urge Supreme Court to 'reconsider' Roe v. Wade Democratic group to only endorse attorney general candidates who back abortion rights Democrats unveil impeachment procedures 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.