House Democratic leaders on Tuesday faced fresh calls to move forward with President Trump
‘s impeachment after former White House counsel Don McGahn skipped his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
The calls to launch an impeachment inquiry are coming from some of the most important voices in the 235-member Democratic caucus — from members of leadership and powerful committee chairmen to key Judiciary members who have jurisdiction over impeachment.
“We’ve been presented with overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin
(D-Md.), a member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi ’s (D-Calif.) leadership team who also sits on the Judiciary Committee and is a constitutional law professor.
Raskin had previously urged caution on impeachment, but now says an inquiry is necessary.
He and other Democrats are frustrated by the White House’s blanket stonewalling of their investigations, including a spate of subpoenas for public testimony and documents.
“That’s pretty dramatic when the president pulls the curtain down over the executive branch of government and refuses to comply with subpoenas and other lawful demands for information,” Raskin told The Hill.
Democrats also said they were spurred on by Rep. Justin Amash
(R-Mich.), who became the first House Republican to say Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct” after reading special counsel Robert Mueller
The caucus is set to debate impeachment Wednesday morning at a closed-door emergency meeting, a gathering that could spur more lawmakers to join the pro-impeachment camp.
To be sure, scores of Democrats on Tuesday said they backed Pelosi’s cautious approach on impeachment and did not think it was time to move forward on the issue.
“We have to drive with the emergency brake on,” veteran Rep. Anna Eshoo
(D-Calif.), a Pelosi loyalist, told The Hill. “I’ve been through impeachment — it tears the country apart.”
But others urging caution said it wouldn’t take much to push them over the line.
“I’m not there yet personally, but there’s no question I’m growing more and more concerned,” freshman Rep. Dean Phillips
(Minn.), a centrist Democrat who unseated a GOP incumbent last fall, told The Hill.
“I put what’s in the best interest of the country and our constitutional responsibility first, and I don’t want to see our country go through that, but they are making it awfully, awfully difficult,” he said.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield
(D-N.C.) said that he was on the fence when it comes to launching an impeachment inquiry, which would trigger a formal Judiciary Committee investigation into whether Trump should be impeached.
“My constituents don’t understand inaction. And I’ve been trying to tell them that we are not engaged in inaction,” Butterfield, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Hill. “We are deliberately moving forward with hearings and subpoenas demanding accountability of the executive branch, but I’m pretty darn close” to reaching a tipping point.
McGahn failing to show up “may very well be the tipping point,” he added, “but I’ve got to process it all and see where I am.”
It’s not clear those backing impeachment would be able to secure a simple majority — 218 votes — if a roll call was held this week. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries
(N.Y.) argued that “the overwhelming majority” of Democrats are focused on kitchen-table, pocketbook issues like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and a major infrastructure package.
“I disagree with the notion that a growing number of the House Democratic Caucus want to jump straight to impeachment,” Jeffries told reporters.
But the support is clearly building, despite Pelosi and other top leaders’ efforts to contain it.
As of Tuesday, at least 25 House Democrats have stated they support either launching an impeachment inquiry or adopting articles of impeachment against Trump, according to a whip list compiled by The Hill.
Rep. David Cicilline
(D-R.I.), who runs messaging for House Democrats, became the highest-ranking member of leadership to call for an impeachment inquiry. Two other leaders who bucked Pelosi on the issue this week are Raskin and Rep. Joseph Neguse (D-Colo.), one of the freshman class’s liaisons to leadership. Rep. Ted Lieu
(D-Calif.), who helps run Cicilline’s messaging operation, was already on board.
Other key Democrats joining the impeachment push this week include the two Progressive Caucus chairs, Reps. Pramila Jayala (Wash.) and Mark Pocan
(Wis.); Rep. Joaquin Castro
(Texas), whose brother, Julián Castro, was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for impeachment; and Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Mary Gay Scanlon
Like Scanlon, many of the new impeachment backers serve on the Judiciary Committee, which — even after issuing a flurry of subpoenas — has been struggling to secure the unredacted Mueller report and public testimony from McGahn, former White House aide Hope Hicks
and others in Trump’s orbit. Those Judiciary members are Rep. Veronica Escobar
(Texas), Cicilline, Neguse and Raskin.
A day earlier, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler
(D-N.Y.) personally pressed Pelosi to support an impeachment inquiry, a request she rebuffed, The Washington Post reported.
Other rank-and-file Democrats jumping on board the impeachment bandwagon include Rep. Jackie Speier
(Calif.), who is close to Pelosi; Rep. Diana DeGette
(Colo.), a former top member of the whip team; and Rep. Don Beyer (Va.), who is a top fundraiser for the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“For me the final two straws were Don McGahn refusing to come forward after a perfectly reasonable request for him to appear and then [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin writing us back saying he’s not going to honor the subpoena on Trump’s tax returns when the law is crystal clear,” Beyer told The Hill.
“I was also pleased to have the first Republican come out and say that impeachment is appropriate.”