With Sunday surge, nearly half of House Democrats back impeachment inquiry – POLITICO
Four more rank-and-file Democrats called for opening an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Sunday, inching lawmakers closer to a significant symbolic milestone: a majority of all House Democrats.
Though the steadily climbing total may not move Speaker Nancy Pelosi off of her resistance to opening a formal impeachment inquiry, Sunday’s burst of support suggests momentum behind the effort is growing and accelerating. More than a dozen Democrats — including Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), a member of Pelosi’s leadership team — have newly signaled their support since former special counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress on Wednesday.
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The four who issued their support on Sunday, all from Washington state, bring the total number of House Democrats who have publicly said they’d vote for an impeachment inquiry to 104 — 14 shy of a majority of the Democratic Caucus — with backers of an inquiry promising there are more waiting in the wings.
The lawmakers received a significant endorsement a short time later from Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the third highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate and a close ally of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Murray said in a statement that “as we have learned more about the gravity of the potential threats to our democracy identified in Special Counsel Mueller’s report, it has become clear the House should begin proceedings to determine whether the President’s actions necessitate impeachment.”
Clark’s public call on Friday was the exclamation point in the House, but two other notable moves came that day when Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) announced they supported an impeachment inquiry, as well. Both are among Democrats’ most vulnerable members seeking reelection, the so-called frontliners whom the House Democrats’ campaign arm is working to defend. Five others in that group have previously endorsed an impeachment inquiry.
Pelosi’s resistance to an impeachment inquiry is not likely to be vulnerable to the math of the Democratic Caucus — she has also argued that such a move would be unnecessarily divisive and likely to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, strengthening Trump’s hand ahead of the 2020 election. Rather, she has urged a focus on the House’s myriad investigations of Trump’s conduct, business relationships and personal finances — some of which are tied up in court battles with Trump’s personal lawyers. Those probes, she has said, could form a more complete picture before considering impeachment.
But Pelosi on Friday also endorsed a new Judiciary Committee effort to go to court and seek access to Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence. In its petition to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., which was issued by the House general counsel, the committee argued that it was already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.
Democrats who support an inquiry have also privately argued that reaching a majority of the caucus would be a turning point in their efforts, coaxing more reluctant lawmakers off the sidelines and ramping up pressure on Democratic leaders.
Though Mueller at times struggled with his command of his report last week, his testimony has proven to be a flashpoint for Democrats teetering on the brink of backing an impeachment inquiry. He affirmed that his 22-month investigation uncovered that the president had repeatedly tried to obstruct his inquiry, and he noted that Trump could theoretically be vulnerable to prosecution after his term ends. Democrats have pointed to both exchanges as they’ve announced their positions.
Separately, the prospect of pro-impeachment crowds packing the seats at Democratic town halls — as well as progressive groups threatening to launch paid media campaigns — may help motivate fence-sitting Democrats to declare their support.
The four Washington state Democrats who announced Sunday were Reps. Derek Kilmer, Kim Schrier, Suzan DelBene and Denny Heck.
Other Democrats who have announced support for impeachment inquiries since Mueller testified: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman — who may have helped loosen up the flood of support from neighboring Washington lawmakers — as well as Reps. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.).