By Anna Edgerton / Bloomberg News
Progressive Democrats said they want to keep open the possibility of impeaching President Donald Trump after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she doesn’t want to seek to remove the president from office without bipartisan support.
“Public corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice are all different,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Progressive Caucus. “If there are serious patterns in each of these then that to me seems like it would be impeachable, but we don’t know that yet, we haven’t gotten that information yet.”
The latest debate over whether Trump deserves to be removed from office was set off by Pelosi’s comments in an interview with The Washington Post, and reveals a divide among Democrats who say the president needs to be held accountable for actions that are already public and those who want to wait for more evidence of wrongdoing.
Many Democrats say they’re withholding judgment on impeachment until Special Counsel Robert Mueller completes a report on Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Pelosi said in the interview that she doesn’t “think we should go down that path,” referring to impeachment, because it’s “too divisive.” The California Democrat said only “something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” could make the case for removing Trump.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-year Democrat whose progressive views have attracted widespread public attention, said Trump deserves to be impeached for “the dismantling of the federal branch” with political appointees who are unqualified and have documented conflicts of interest. She said she didn’t read Pelosi’s comments as “designed to shut down the conversation.”
“The whole point of our democracy is that if we disagree, we have a responsibility to air out our arguments as to why and to take that into consideration,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview. “There are still a lot of unsettled variables out there.”
Republicans are already predicting that the long-awaited Mueller probe will come up short on evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. They have tried to paint Democrats as pinning all their impeachment hopes on the outcome of the investigation.
Several Democrats have already introduced articles of impeachment, arguing that Trump has already committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” by allegedly obstructing Mueller’s investigation and lying to the public. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, an outspoken first-year lawmaker from Michigan who used an expletive while promising in January to impeach Trump, said she will introduce articles of impeachment by the end of the month.
Most Democrats, however, say their focus is holding Trump accountable. Many lawmakers said they would need to sway public sentiment before beginning impeachment proceedings.
“Our duty is to look at all the evidence, to look at all the investigations, to look at all the reports and do our constitutional duty to see if any of it rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, and I don’t think we should prejudge it,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat. “I don’t think it should be a political determination.”
Jayapal, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said this is the first time Congress has actually “had the ability to get information in hearings,” since the Republican-led chambers didn’t conduct rigorous oversight. Asked about Pelosi suggesting that Trump is not “worth it” to merit impeachment, Jayapal pointed to lawmakers’ oath to uphold the Constitution.
“It’s not about whether or not it’s worth it” to pursue impeachment, Jayapal said. “To me, the Constitution is really worthwhile, and I’m sure that’s what she meant as well.”
With assistance from Bloomberg’s Billy House.