Dems walk tightrope on impeachment – The Hill
Democratic leaders have a message for those members of their caucus beating the drum to impeach President Trump: not so fast.
âI would suggest â¦ there needs to be a full investigation first,â Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday. âWe need to get to the facts, and let the facts lead where they may.â
In the eyes of several Democrats, however, the facts already lead to impeachment.Â
The Justice Department on Wednesday night announced it was naming a special counsel to investigate Russiaâs involvement in the 2016 presidential election, a response to longstanding calls from Democrats.Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, a former prosecutor who served a 12-year term at the helm of the bureau, was named to the position by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
Before that news broke, Democrats took steps Wednesday to express their case for impeachment following new reports suggesting Trump tried to block an FBI probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) spoke out at a closed-door House Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday morning to highlight the urgency of removing Trump, whom the Democrats increasingly see as a national security liability.
Almost simultaneously, Rep. Al GreenAl GreenDems walk tightrope on impeachment Overnight Defense: Justice Department appoints special counsel for Russia probe | Fallout from Comey memo continues | Trump admin renews Iran sanctions relief McCain: Talk of impeaching Trump not ârationalâ MORE (D-Texas) took to the House floor to trumpet the impeachment call heâd sounded earlier in the week. He characterized his decision as a âposition of conscience.â
âThere is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the president,â Green said. âThis is where I stand; I will not be moved.â
The impeachment debate is forcing Democratic leaders to walk a fine line in their approach to the ongoing Russia-Trump saga. On one hand, the Democrats want to keep the pressure on the White House and tap the energy the remarkable story is generating among members of their base, many of whom support the impeachment route. On the other, they donât want to politicize their calls for an independent investigation.
âWe have to be circumspect as we look at this tale of horrors,â said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). âBecause we should not give the impression that we are obsessed with removing Donald TrumpDonald TrumpâArt of the Dealâ co-writer: Trump in âsignificant meltdownâ Dems walk tightrope on impeachment Bharara tweets out definition of âbackfiredâ MORE from office â it will only harden his supporters.Â
âBased on what Iâve read and heard, Mr. Trump is in trouble, and he doesnât need any help to get into deeper trouble.â
Top Democratic leaders insist theyâre not putting any pressure on their troops to shy away from impeachment calls.Â
âMembers can come to their own conclusions, and we donât pretend to stand here and speak on behalf of every single individual member of our caucus,â Crowley said.
But leaders are also making clear they donât support impeachment.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this week downplayed any impeachment calls as âa reflectionâ of what a few lawmakers âare hearing in their own constituencies.âÂ
âThey know I donât subscribe to that,â she said during a CNN town hall event.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, said Tuesday that any talk of impeachment is premature.Â
âWe need to get the facts first.â
And during Wednesdayâs caucus meeting, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffDems walk tightrope on impeachment Intel panels: House, Senate Russia probes to proceed Special prosecutor appointment gets bipartisan praise MORE (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, addressed the group in an effort to discourage the impeachment push.Â
âWe ought to keep our focus on finding out the facts in the first instance. And no one ought to, in my view, rush to embrace the most extraordinary remedy that involves the removal of the president from office,â Schiff told reporters afterward.
âIt cannot be perceived as an effort to nullify the election by other means.â
Itâs not the first time Democratic leaders have tamped down the efforts of angry caucus members seeking to impeach a Republican president. In 2006, several Democrats, including veteran Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), launched a bid to impeach then-President George W. Bush over his handling of the Iraq War and the administrationâs warrantless surveillance programs.Â
Pelosi, who was then, as now, minority leader, quashed that effort out of concern that Republicans would use it on the campaign trail to energize GOP voters with warnings that Bush would be imperiled if the Democrats won the Speakerâs gavel. She did, and no impeachment process followed.
Still, Green said Wednesday that, while he hasnât introduced the articles of impeachment that would start the process, âI will do that if it is not done by others.â
He didnât say when.
Before the Mueller announcement, Democratic leaders were pressing ahead with their investigative strategy. On Wednesday, they unveiled a discharge petition on legislation creating an independent, outside panel â similar to the 9/11 Commission â to take the lead in the Russia investigation.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a lead sponsor of the bill, said such a panel might dig up information that eventually leads to impeachment proceedings, though Democrats need to be patient and take the process one step at a time.
âI just want to get the information,â he said. âWill it lead to impeachment? I donât know.â
Thereâs no denying, however, that more and more Democrats are mentioning impeachment since Trumpâs decision last week to fire former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a probe into Russiaâs ties to the White House. And Tuesdayâs New York Times report saying Trump pressed Comey to drop the Flynn probe seems to have accelerated the trend.
âWe are rapidly approaching an impeachment process,â Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said Wednesday.
Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthDems walk tightrope on impeachment House Budget chair to push for Medicaid changes Pelosi: New ObamaCare repeal bill is a âa very sad, deadly jokeâ MORE (D-Ky.) said this weekâs revelation of the Comey memo âwas a game-changer.âÂ
And Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he is getting closer to supporting impeachment with each new development.
âWeâre coming very, very close,â Lewis said.Â
âThe drip-drip just cannot continue,â he added. âWeâve got to save the country.â