Democrats seek distance from impeachment call
WASHINGTON — House Democrats distanced themselves on Tuesday from a longshot bid to impeach President Donald Trump, arguing that multiple investigations should to play out before considering such drastic, politically fraught action.
California Rep. Brad Sherman has told colleagues that he may try to force a vote in the full House if the Judiciary Committee declines to consider a proposed article of impeachment that he’s still finalizing.
Sherman’s proposal, circulated to colleagues along with a letter, states that the president sought to hinder and stop federal investigations by "threatening and then terminating James Comey," the ousted FBI director.
"The evidence we have is sufficient to move forward now. And the national interest requires that we do so," Sherman said in his letter.
Sherman said he’s getting suggestions from colleagues now on how to improve his proposal. He said about a dozen lawmakers have told him they’re supportive of his effort.
But numerous Democrats emerged from a close-door caucus meeting Tuesday opposed, including some of Trump’s harshest critics.
Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky said more time is needed so that people can decide whether there have been impeachable offenses.
"My concern is this: If we don’t allow the discovery of and unwinding of all this so that people come to their own conclusions that there have been impeachable offenses, Republicans will just accuse Democrats of trying to rig the system: ‘Couldn’t win the election outright, so they want to manipulate the process,’" Schakowsky said. "That won’t be helpful for our country. It certainly won’t be helpful for the Democratic Party."
Democratic leaders recognize that any talk of impeachment energizes the Republican base, and that could undercut Democrats hoping for significant gains in next year’s midterm elections.
"It’s a little early. We all know that," said Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
"We believe strongly that a discussion about impeachment is not timely until the facts are fully garnered," said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Sherman’s efforts come after Comey appeared before a Senate panel last week to answer questions about his May 9 firing and other matters. Comey said it was his judgment that he was fired because of the Russia investigation, but he also refused to say whether he thinks Trump broke the law. Sherman said Comey’s testimony was a turning point for him.
Obstruction was an article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon before he resigned and was one of the counts on which the House impeached President Bill Clinton, who was later acquitted by the Senate.
Sherman said he’s under no illusion that his article of impeachment would pass, but "we want to move the ball forward one step."