House

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 Trump.

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 Mueller testified before Congress before the start of the House’s six-week August recess.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (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.”

{mosads}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 Langevin (R.I.), Lauren Underwood (Ill.), Bill Foster (Ill.), David Price (N.C.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Brad Schneider (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.

{mossecondads}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 Deutch (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 Krishnamoorthi (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 Green (D-Texas), who has forced three House floor votes on impeachment since 2017, or Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who reintroduced articles of impeachment against Trump on the first day of the new Congress in January.

A spokesman for Rep. Dwight Evans, 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 Waters (Calif.), John Yarmuth (Ky.), G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), Wm. Lacy Clay (Mo.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (Calif.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Rick Larsen (Wash.) and Peter Welch (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 Lipinski (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.

Tags Adriano Espaillat Al Green Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Bill Foster Bobby Rush Brad Schneider Brad Sherman Daniel Lipinski David Price Donald Trump Dwight Evans G.K. Butterfield Gwen Moore Ilhan Omar Jared Huffman Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler Jim Langevin Jimmy Gomez John Yarmuth Lacy Clay Lauren Underwood Mark Takano Maxine Waters Peter Welch Raja Krishnamoorthi Rashida Tlaib Rick Larsen Robert Mueller Steve Cohen Ted Deutch

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