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 TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' 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 ManafortNew York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement New York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement House panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 BookerThe generational divide of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina 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 WarrenJulián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' O'Rourke unveils plan to support women, minority-owned businesses 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 DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle 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 GrahamElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally 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 HollenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties 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 SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push 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 DuckworthDuckworth on Trump's Vietnam comments: Only 'stable geniuses' think people are 'fans' of war Duckworth on Trump's Vietnam comments: Only 'stable geniuses' think people are 'fans' of war Tackling climate change: How lawmakers are facing environmental injustice MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters that she didn't think "we should be talking about impeachment." Meanwhile, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate 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."