Senate Dems dodge Trump impeachment talk

Senate Dems dodge Trump impeachment talk
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Senate Democrats downplayed — and in some cases pointedly changed the subject — when asked Wednesday if impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate 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 ManafortFormer White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report Mueller investigating Russian payments made by Trump Tower meeting organizers: report Cohen questioned for hours in Mueller probe about Trump's dealings with Russia: report 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. 

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"What I want right now is for us to … wait until this Mueller probe is done before we move forward," Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle 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 WarrenMore Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 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 DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment 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.  

"I think that would be a big mistake. Let it be an election about impeachment," said GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (S.C.) asked about Democrats potential focus on impeachment. 

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 Dems to Trump: Reverse cuts to Palestinian aid Overnight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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 DuckworthDems should run as economic progressives, says ex-Obama strategist Democrats must reconcile party factions to raise blue wave odds Senate Dems want DOJ review of Giuliani's work for foreign entities MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters that she didn't think "we should be talking about impeachment." Meanwhile, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem 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."