House Democratic leaders sparred internally on Monday over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies rejecting the call to move forward for now, according to multiple sources.
Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) — all members of the Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) — one of her key allies and a member of leadership herself — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.
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And in a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) stood up and demanded Trump’s impeachment. Pelosi then countered, “This is not about politics, it’s about what’s best for the American people,” said a member who attended the meeting.
While Pelosi and her top Democrats argue that a majority of Democrats don’t want to impeach, she is under heavy pressure from some of her most hardline members to move more forcefully against Trump.
Several members and aides said an impeachment inquiry resolution could be introduced in the House Judiciary Committee in the next several days, spurring more Democratic debate over how to respond to Trump.
The latest Democratic battle over impeachment began after the White House formally declared that former White House Counsel Don McGahn — a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — would not attend a Tuesday hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
The White House decision to block McGahn’s appearance infuriated some Democrats, who said it was the last straw following Trump’s refusal to honor other Democratic subpoenas.
Cicilline said he supports impeachment inquiry if McGahn doesn’t show tomorrow.
“I think if this pattern by the president continues, where he’s going to impede and prevent and undermine our ability to gather evidence to do our job, we’re going to be left with no choice,” Cicilline said about initiating an impeachment inquiry. The Rhode Island Democrat insisted that simply beginning an inquiry doesn’t mean that there will be a formal vote to impeach Trump.
“It’s a means where we can collect that information… We need to have the ability to gather the evidence,” Cicilline added.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, is also in favor of an impeachment inquiry if McGahn doesn’t appear on Tuesday.
“If McGahn doesn’t show tomorrow, I think we’re at an inflection point,” Lieu said. “If we can’t get information, I think we have to start proceeding down this path.”
Judiciary Committee Democrat are scheduled to meet later Monday night to decide how to handle their response to McGahn’s non-appearance.
“We have a Judiciary Committee discussion later on today, I don’t want to prejudge that,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “But the situation is becoming more serious by the minute.”
Trump and White House officials have blocked Democrats attempts to obtain the president’s taxes and a record of his personal finances; an unredacted version of the Mueller report, as well as testimony from Mueller directly; more information of Russian interference in the 2016 election; and internal documents on Trump’s immigration and environmental policies, among other issues.
The Trump administration has refused to honor the Democratic subpoenas, with Attorney General William Barr failing to even show up for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller report. The Judiciary Committee then voted to hold Barr in contempt.
Democrats won a legal victory on Monday when a federal judge ruled against Trump’s attempt to prevent the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from obtaining Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the committee was not entitled to the records and would immediately appeal.
Yet impeaching Trump, or even beginning an impeachment inquiry against Trump, is a huge risk for Democrats. Pelosi and her allies complain the anti-Trump fervor is overwhelming Democratic messaging on their agenda, and claim that most of the rank-and-file is against the move.
Democratic leaders also fear that impeaching Trump in the House, only to see him acquitted by the Senate, would strengthen his hand in 2020.
But there is a growing chorus of pro-impeachment Democrats, and they’re being egged on by outside groups that argue Trump needs to be removed from office.