Senate Dems dodge Trump impeachment talk

Senate Dems dodge Trump impeachment talk
© Getty Images

Senate Democrats downplayed — and in some cases pointedly changed the subject — when asked Wednesday if impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE was on the table following the guilty plea of Trump's former longtime lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, and the conviction of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 MORE.

Democrats, including members of leadership and potential 2020 presidential contenders, instead largely directed their focus toward trying to delay Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's September confirmation hearing or passing legislation that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation, neither of which is likely to happen. 


"What I want right now is for us to … wait until this Mueller probe is done before we move forward," Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-N.J.) told reporters on Kavanaugh's nomination when asked about impeachment proceedings. 

Pressed if he thought talk of impeachment was "jumping the gun," Booker added that he had "given … my thoughts" and walked away from reporters. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (D-Mass.), another potential White House contender, similarly declined to address if Cohen's guilty plea or Manafort's conviction warranted impeachment charges for Trump. 

The escalating legal battles against figures in Trump's orbit have ramped up speculation about the president's future, including some who say Cohen's guilty plea could serve as grounds for impeachment

Cohen, among seven other charges, pleaded guilty to one count of making an excessive campaign contribution on Oct. 27, 2016 — the same date he finalized a payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement over an affair Daniels alleges she had with Trump. 

Cohen said he did so at the direction of “a candidate for federal office,” not mentioning Trump by name.

Still, Senate Democrats are shying away from the talk.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters that various actions, including "indictment," should be on the table. 

"The president can be indicted. If he has criminal wrongdoing he should be indicted. The trial can be postponed. I recognize there's a serious legal issue. … Every remedy should be on the table," he said. 

Asked if Trump's direction of the payments — which Cohen claims and the president denies — in order to cover up an affair would rise to the level of an impeachable offense, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Durbin: Trump pressuring acting AG in Cohen probe is 'no surprise' MORE (D-Ill.) called it a "legitimate question," but said he wasn't sure. 

"The obvious constitutional remedy is impeachment. And … I'm not going to speculate on whether this has reached a level of high crimes and misdemeanor involving the president, but we (Congress) are on the threshold of asking critical questions that raise that issue," Durbin said.

But focusing on impeachment could be politically risky for Senate Democrats, who are defending 10 seats in states won by Trump in 2016.

Republicans immediately jumped on the impeachment talk, suggesting they think it would backfire for Democrats to try to make it an issue in the midterm elections.  

Even some of Trump's most vocal GOP critics in the Senate indicated on Wednesday that they didn't want to touch questions about impeaching the president.  

Democratic party leadership down to rank-and-file members downplayed impeachment talk when asked about the possibility by reporters. 

"My position is that we should continue to allow the Mueller investigation to run its course. Let's get the facts. I do think after yesterday, I do think the president needs to testify under oath," said Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, asked if there had been a decision not to highlight impeachment talk. 

Pressed if there was a "downside" to talking about impeachment, Van Hollen reiterated: "I think we should let the Mueller investigation run its course." 

Durbin instead suggested Democrats should focus on the issue of "corruption." 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) gave a speech from the Senate floor on Wednesday discussing need to delay Kavanaugh's nomination in the wake of Tuesday's news. He did not mention impeachment. 

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Dem senator thinks Senate may be able to block emergency declaration Trump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters that she didn't think "we should be talking about impeachment." Meanwhile, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic donors stuck in shopping phase of primary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — CDC blames e-cigs for rise in youth tobacco use | FDA cracks down on dietary supplements | More drug pricing hearings on tap The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks MORE (D-Colo.) added the Senate should focus on protecting Mueller and the FBI. 

"I think that ought to be our objective right now is to make sure Bob Mueller, the FBI, the Department of Justice, these are our law enforcement agencies that the president denigrates, they're doing their job," he said. "We should let them do their work."