September 17, 2021

Liberals keep foot on the gas on impeachment | TheHill

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After months of calling for President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcConnell challenger McGrath backs impeachment inquiry McConnell encouraged Trump to release transcript of Zelensky call: report Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he was unconcerned about Moscow’s election interference: report MORE’s impeachment, his critics on the left are now agitating for the process to move as quickly as possible.

Democrats are trying to keep up their momentum after the overwhelming majority of the caucus backed launching impeachment proceedings this week in light of Trump acknowledging that he urged Ukraine’s leader to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMcConnell challenger McGrath backs impeachment inquiry McConnell encouraged Trump to release transcript of Zelensky call: report Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he was unconcerned about Moscow’s election interference: report MORE, a potential 2020 rival.

Democratic leaders aren’t offering a specific timeline for impeachment proceedings, which were officially launched on Tuesday, but liberals are pressing to keep a fast pace on allegations they believe are the most clear-cut for the public to understand to date.

Congress is now in a two-week recess, with most lawmakers headed back to their districts, despite calls from progressive activists to cancel the break so they could “immediately” get to work on impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse panel to hold briefing with intel watchdog next week Democrats subpoena Pompeo for Ukraine documents Merriam-Webster defines hyphen and apostrophe after Trump tweet MORE (D-Calif.) said he plans for the panel to work through the recess trying to secure documents and witness interviews. 

The ongoing investigation means that the House is likely still weeks away from drafting and voting on articles of impeachment.

But Democrats feel that the nature of Trump’s actions of withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid while asking for the Biden probe — and underlying documents, including the rough transcript of the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the whistleblower complaint — will be simple to explain to the public and particularly compelling to an impeachment case.

“I think the facts of this are so damning and so clear,” said Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineDemocrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows Trump DOJ under fire over automaker probe Centrist Democrats fret over impeachment gamble MORE (R.I.), the head of Democrats’ messaging arm.

Asked if it’s a priority to move on impeachment before the first votes are cast in 2020, Cicilline replied, “We have to do it much sooner than that.” 

Democrats also want to keep a quick pace now to maintain an upper hand in the messaging war against the White House, after the call transcript and whistleblower complaint they obtained this week fueled momentum for their impeachment inquiry.

“We have to move with all deliberate speed so that the Republican propaganda machine and their obstructionism does not prevent the truth from getting out,” said Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Defense: Trump says he has ‘many options’ on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump’s Scotland resort Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify MORE (D-Md.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcConnell challenger McGrath backs impeachment inquiry McConnell encouraged Trump to release transcript of Zelensky call: report House panel to hold briefing with intel watchdog next week MORE (D-Calif.) said that while Democrats “won’t have the calendar be the arbiter,” the inquiry “doesn’t have to drag on” either. 

“It’s no use to just say by such and such a date, but looking at the, shall we say, the material that the administration is giving us, they are actually speeding up the process,” Pelosi said in an interview on Friday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

For now, liberal activists feel that Democratic leaders are heeding their calls for urgency with the continued committee activity over the break.

“I think there is a shift that has occurred in the last week where the leadership has been more aligned with the grassroots,” said Ezra Levin, a co-founder of Indivisible, one of the progressive groups that signed a letter to Democratic leaders calling to cancel the recess and instead hold hearings, quickly draft impeachment articles and vote to impeach Trump this fall.

Levin said that it seemed “appropriate” for rank-and-file lawmakers to get feedback from constituents while the Intelligence Committee keeps working on the impeachment inquiry. But if the inquiry drags late into the fall, Levin warned, that could change.

“If it’s November and there are no hearings happening, there’s no vote on the horizon, then I think you’ll start to see the grassroots start to get antsy,” he said.

Progressive activists are coordinating grassroots supporters to show up at town halls over the next two weeks, where Democrats are sure to face questions about their impeachment inquiry.

While polls in the last few days have shown that support for impeachment is growing, Democrats are still working to convince a clear majority of the public that Trump should be removed from office.

All but about a dozen Democrats have backed beginning the impeachment process in some form, according to The Hill’s whip list. The holdouts largely hail from competitive swing districts, some of whom will be holding town halls in the coming days, including freshman Democratic Reps. Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornHere are the House Democrats who aren’t backing Trump impeachment inquiry Centrist Democrats fret over impeachment gamble Here are the Democrats who aren’t co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban MORE (Okla.) and Ben McAdams (Utah).

“I think it’s very important that members go home to their constituents and explain what they are thinking,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerNancy Pelosi is ready for this fight Democrats call for House leadership to cancel recess and focus on impeachment Democrats debate scope of Trump impeachment MORE (D-Md.) said while defending the plan to send lawmakers home for recess. “This is a matter of grave importance and the American people need to understand what is occurring.”

Democrats who have long called for impeachment think that other actions by Trump should also be considered impeachable, such as the instances of possible obstruction of justice in former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be ‘more serious’ than what Mueller ‘dragged up’ Lewandowski says Mueller report was ‘very clear’ in proving ‘there was no obstruction,’ despite having ‘never’ read it Fox’s Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE’s report or whether Trump’s promotion of his businesses while in office has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. But some are willing to keep the impeachment inquiry focused on Trump urging the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden if it means moving faster.

“One thing I think, strategically, is that Ukraine and this incident is the issue that has united the caucus on impeachment. So as far as it being the primary article, I think we’re fine about that,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Impeachment fight poses risks to both Trump, Dems Democrats zero in on Ukraine call as impeachment support grows General Motors will pay for striking union workers’ health insurance MORE (D-N.Y.). 

But she added, “I personally would like to see additional articles on there for emoluments, because I don’t want to send the message that this is OK.”

House committees are moving quickly to obtain additional documents and testimony.

On Friday alone, the Appropriations and Budget panels asked the White House to provide documents on the withholding of security assistance for Ukraine while the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump’s special envoy for Ukraine steps down Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon chief says delay in Ukraine aid didn’t hurt US security | Dems subpoena Pompeo for Ukraine documents | House for second time votes to block Trump emergency Democrats subpoena Pompeo for Ukraine documents MORE for documents relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine and instructed him to make five State Department officials available for depositions over the recess.

If the White House stonewalls the Intelligence Committee as with other House investigations this year, Schiff said, “they’ll just strengthen the case on obstruction.”

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Cristina Marcos
The Hill

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