House

Trump impeachment calls snowball, putting pressure on Pelosi

Democratic calls for impeaching President Trump snowballed on Tuesday, lending enormous new momentum to efforts to oust the president and posing the toughest test yet for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders grappling with the potential repercussions.

The list of new impeachment supporters spans the ideological spectrum, including liberal holdouts, vulnerable centrists, committee chairs and party icons like Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who endorsed the process Tuesday afternoon in a fiery speech on the House floor.

{mosads}”The future of our democracy is at stake,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to be moved by the spirit of history to take action to protect and preserve the integrity of our nation.”

Pelosi and her leadership team have long rejected the idea of impeaching Trump, wary of the potential blowback against vulnerable centrists at the polls next year.

But recent allegations that Trump pressed a foreign leader to investigate a political rival have sparked an uproar within the Democratic Caucus, leading dozens of lawmakers to jump on the impeachment bandwagon in the last 24 hours alone.

Against that backdrop, Pelosi will huddle Tuesday afternoon with the six committee chairs investigating allegations of wrongdoing against Trump, while a separate meeting of the full Democratic Caucus — unusual ahead of the week’s votes — is scheduled for 4 p.m.

“The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to rein in a lawless President,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, tweeted Tuesday, announcing the 4 p.m. meeting. “We will do our job #ImpeachmentInvestigation.”

Many Democrats now want to go beyond the ongoing investigative strategy long favored by Pelosi and other top leaders.

New reports that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, have supercharged the impeachment push, with a number of moderate lawmakers suddenly changing their tune.

Some of those centrists, like Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), are now supporting votes on articles of impeachment. A larger group of moderates haven’t gone so far, but they’re threatening to endorse impeachment in some form if Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, refuses to release a whistleblower report related to Trump’s conversation with Zelensky when Maguire appears before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Seven Democratic freshmen with either military or national security backgrounds wrote a Washington Post op-ed on Monday warning that the Ukraine episode may be their breaking point on impeachment.

“If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense,” the lawmakers wrote.

The group consisted of Reps. Gil Cisneros (Calif.), Jason Crow (Colo.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Elaine Luria (Va.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.).

Several other freshmen also representing battleground districts adopted a similar position this week, including Reps. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) and Haley Stevens (D-Mich.).

There are other signs of impeachment momentum, too.

A number of Democrats who had previously supported an impeachment inquiry, for instance, are now calling for articles to be drafted — a stark escalation of the process intended to oust the president. That list includes Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and David Cicilline (R.I.), who heads the Democrats’ messaging arm.

“President Trump’s actions to pressure a foreign government into investigating a political rival are an absolute abuse of the powers of the presidency, and this flagrant corruption demands an urgent response from Congress,” Schneider said Tuesday in a statement.

The growing support for impeachment poses a test for Pelosi, the political pragmatist who views the 2020 elections as the Democrats’ best chance at removing Trump and doesn’t want to risk a political backlash that could benefit Republicans at the polls. With that in mind, Pelosi has long rejected impeaching Trump, pointing to the lack of support from both voters and congressional Republicans, who control the Senate.

On Sunday, Pelosi sent a warning shot to the White House ahead of Thursday’s Intelligence hearing.

“If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” she wrote in a letter to House Democrats.

But Pelosi avoided any mention of the “I-word.” And some party operatives are predicting she won’t endorse the shift to impeachment without a stark shift in public support.

Trump, meanwhile, has forcefully denied reports that he leveraged U.S. military aid to compel Zelensky to investigate Biden, while also suggesting it would have been well within his powers to have done so.

“I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly have been OK if I did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put any pressure on them whatsoever,” Trump said Monday.

He doubled down Tuesday morning, saying the Democrats’ push for impeachment is politically motivated “nonsense.”

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a witch hunt. I’m leading in the polls,” Trump said as he arrived at the United Nations annual summit in New York. “They have no idea how they stop me, the only way they can try is through impeachment.”

Some Democrats have floated a proposal to create a special committee to investigate Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The idea was quickly panned by liberal impeachment supporters, however, who warned that it would only delay a process served best by the Judiciary Committee.

“This is an emergency. We don’t have the luxury of time w/ another committee,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday.

“Judiciary has been investigating& putting the pieces together for months,” she added. “Impeachment belongs there.” 

Tags Abigail Spanberger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Antonio Delgado Betty McCollum Brad Schneider Colin Allred David Cicilline Dean Phillips Donald Trump Elaine Luria Elissa Slotkin Gil Cisneros Hakeem Jeffries Haley Stevens Impeachment Jason Crow Joe Biden John Lewis Mikie Sherrill Nancy Pelosi Ukraine Veronica Escobar
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