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 Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 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 ManafortTrial of ex-Obama White House counsel suddenly postponed Top Mueller probe prosecutor to join Georgetown Law as lecturer DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 BookerSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 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 WarrenSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 HollenSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency Fed to launch real-time payments system in 2023 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 SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' 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 DuckworthOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault Overnight Defense: General accused of sexual assault to get confirmation hearing | Senate to vote Monday on overriding Saudi arms deal veto | Next Joint Chiefs chair confirmed | Graham tries to ease Turkey tensions MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters that she didn't think "we should be talking about impeachment." Meanwhile, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report 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."