Democrats Can’t Decide Why to Impeach Donald Trump
It will be up to the Judiciary Committee to make that case—to decide what allegations to pursue and what, if anything, to discard. “Right now we’re in the exploration and investigatory phase, so we need to look at everything. But that has to be winnowed down to a compelling case,” said Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a Democrat who came out in support of impeachment proceedings last month.
Republicans have characterized the Democratic investigations as a fishing expedition undertaken by a party disappointed by the conclusions of the Mueller report and the former special counsel’s underwhelming performance during his testimony before Congress in July. “Their first effort at impeachment seems not to have worked. So now they’re looking for another path to impeachment,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. “They have been determined to impeach this president at all costs since he was elected regardless of the Constitution.”
Unsurprisingly, Democrats do not take the GOP critique seriously. “Give me a break,” Raskin said in an interview. “The only reason we’re dealing with a profusion of investigations is because we’re dealing with such a profusion of crimes. It just never ends with Donald Trump.”
Yet lawmakers who have not come out for impeachment remain concerned that the party, in its zeal to respond to activists seeking a confrontation with the president, will conflate issues that represent mere policy differences with crimes that warrant investigation. “There are a lot of people unhappy with a lot of the things that the president is doing, and they’d like to sort of put them all in a basket and deal with it by way of impeachment,” Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania told reporters after a town hall in her district last month. The Democrat has said she is “not there yet” on impeachment. “I tend to be fairly pragmatic and process-oriented, and a lot of the things that people are unhappy with are not necessarily impeachable offenses, you know?” she added.
For now, the main debate among pro-impeachment Democrats seems to be whether there’s a stronger case in the president’s alleged corruption and violation of the emoluments clause, or whether the Mueller report still provides the best and most obvious evidence of impeachable offenses.
“I think the gravest concern we all ought to have is his bromance with Vladimir Putin, his attempt to truncate an ongoing criminal investigation of Russian interference with the election,” Connolly said. “That is very serious business.
“I don’t think we’re limited to the Mueller report, but the Mueller report—and Mueller himself virtually said so—is a roadmap to impeachment,” he added.
Other lawmakers said that while they find the obstruction allegations against the president to be both powerful and impeachable, the examples of Trump’s profiting off the presidency are occurring in public view and, therefore, make for an easier sell to Americans. There’s “overwhelming evidence” against Trump in Mueller’s findings, but the emoluments violations constitute “corruption, plain and simple,” said Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Unlike many of the allegations in the Mueller report, the Democrat added, “these are areas where the public has actually seen the conduct that is the subject of the investigation. They’ve seen the president engage in conduct in which he’s clearly benefiting himself and his family, so it’s done in plain view.”