Con­gress­man takes on Trump

Rep. Brad Sher­man hopes the long-shot ef­fort sends a mes­sage to the White House.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Chris­tine Mai-Duc chris­tine.maiduc@la­times.com

Rep. Brad Sher­man is the first in Congress to cir­cu­late ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against the pres­i­dent.

The “I-word” has been on the tongues and in the tweets of sev­eral of Cal­i­for­nia’s House Democrats. Rep. Jackie Speier has said im­peach­ment is “re­ally the only way we can go” if the facts show Pres­i­dent Trump ob­structed jus­tice in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted a photo of his week­end read­ing: a re­port on the im­peach­ment process. Rep. Max­ine Waters led a chant of “Im­peach 45!” at the re­cent L.A. Pride Pa­rade.

But only one mem­ber of Congress has ac­tu­ally be­gun the pro­ce­dure: Brad Sher­man, an 11-term Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Los An­ge­les’ San Fer­nando Val­ley, has drafted and cir­cu­lated ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment.

Sher­man’s move puts him at odds with House Demo­cratic lead­ers, who have tried to quell talk of im­peach­ment to keep the fo­cus on the econ­omy, health­care and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s sus­pected in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The im­peach­ment pro­posal, which Sher­man re­leased this month, ac­cuses Trump of try­ing to thwart the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor Michael Flynn and threat­en­ing for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James B. Comey, who was head­ing the in­quiry.

Pass­ing the mea­sure will be nearly im­pos­si­ble un­der a Repub­li­can-con­trolled House, and then it would take a two-thirds vote of the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate to re­move Trump from of­fice.

Sher­man has said he has “no il­lu­sions” that the pro­posal will pass any­time soon, but he has other goals.

“I think that the pres­i­dent’s ap­proach to gov­er­nance is a threat to the repub­lic,” Sher­man said in an in­ter­view last week. “I’m cir­cu­lat­ing the ar­ti­cles to try to move one step closer in the process and also, hope­fully … push the White House to say we’ve got to move to­ward com­pe­tence.”

In a let­ter to col­leagues, Sher­man said he wants the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee to con­sider his pro­posal. But he has also said he’d be will­ing to use a pro­ce­dural move to bring it to the House floor “after con­sul­ta­tion with col­leagues and lead­er­ship.” Such a tac­tic could force Democrats into an on-there­cord vote on im­peach­ment that many of them con­sider pre­ma­ture.

In a closed-door meet­ing of House Democrats, Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Fran­cisco said it was “a big deal to talk about im­peach­ment,” and she be­lieved Trump would “self­im­peach,” ac­cord­ing to a per­son with knowl­edge of the meet­ing. An­other col­league said such moves were “self­ish” and could put House Democrats at po­lit­i­cal risk. (Rep. Al Green, a Demo­crat from Texas, has also said he will draft ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, but has not re­leased them.)

As House speaker, Pelosi fought the failed ef­forts to im­peach Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney dur­ing their se­cond terms.

Only two pres­i­dents have been im­peached — An­drew Johnson and Bill Clin­ton — and none have been re­moved. Democrats used Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment to fire up their base and made record gains in the House in 1998.

“I do think the is­sue of im­peach­ment is a very pro­found is­sue, one that strikes at the core of our democ­racy,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) at a news con­fer­ence after the closed­door meet­ing, adding that many in the cau­cus agreed “fur­ther dis­cus­sion” is nec­es­sary be­fore a mea­sure like Sher­man’s makes it to the floor.

Sher­man says no other mem­bers have signed on to sup­port his pro­posal, and he has as­sured Pelosi he won’t ask for a floor vote on im­peach­ment with­out con­sult­ing the Demo­cratic cau­cus.

Lieu, who rep­re­sents Tor­rance and sits on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, doesn’t in­tend to co-write Sher­man’s mea­sure. Lieu’s spokesman said the con­gress­man be­lieves that “aside from declar­ing war, im­peach­ing a pres­i­dent is the gravest ac­tion mem­bers of Congress can take and it should never be the first op­tion.”

The im­peach­ment ef­fort is a bold move for Sher­man, who is viewed as a lo­cally fo­cused politi­cian. He has spent most week­ends at rib­bon cut­tings, com­mu­nity fes­ti­vals and other low-key events in his dis­trict, earn­ing him a loyal fol­low­ing and re­elec­tion by 72% of vot­ers in Novem­ber.

Un­like Lieu, who has made a hobby of sub-tweet­ing the pres­i­dent, and Waters, dubbed “Aun­tie Max­ine” by mem­bers of the Trump “re­sis­tance,” Sher­man has not been a loud critic of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I think he’s tak­ing some­thing of a risk,” said Parke Skel­ton, Sher­man’s long­time po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor. “Brad is will­ing to strike an in­de­pen­dent route when he feels very strongly about some­thing.”

Sher­man’s strong stance could hint at his fu­ture am­bi­tions.

A poll re­leased in Jan­uary os­ten­si­bly of­fered an early glimpse of the stil­lun­set­tled 2018 race for Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor. It also f loated Sher­man’s name as a pos­si­ble can­di­date for U.S. Se­nate if Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein chooses to re­tire, and put his num­bers ahead of state Se­nate leader Kevin de León’s.

The Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling sur­vey was paid for by Jef­frey Haines, a long­time Sher­man donor who has contributed more than $30,000 stretch­ing back to 1998.

Sean Clegg, a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant for Lt. Gov. Gavin New­som, a Demo­cratic can­di­date for gov­er­nor in 2018, said the hy­po­thet­i­cal U.S. Se­nate field used in the sur­vey ap­peared some­what “ar­ti­fi­cial.”

“Is this an in­di­ca­tion of in­ter­est by Brad Sher­man or his sup­port­ers of a can­di­dacy for Se­nate? It sure looks like it to me,” Clegg said.

Sher­man said that the only seat he’s run­ning for right now is his own, and he in­tends to urge his con­stituents to vote for Fe­in­stein, who has not an­nounced whether she’ll run for re­elec­tion in 2018.

Glenn Koenig Los An­ge­les Times

DEMON­STRA­TORS show sup­port for Rep. Brad Sher­man out­side his Sher­man Oaks of­fice Fri­day. Sher­man has drafted and cir­cu­lated ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, putting him at odds with House Demo­cratic lead­ers.

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