Faint drum­beat to im­peach heard in House

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - By Ni­cholas Fandos NEW YORK TIMES

WASH­ING­TON – On Wed­nes­day, the 264th day of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency, a Demo­cratic con­gress­man from Texas walked onto the floor of the House and pre­sented pro­posed ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against the com­man­der in chief.

Trump has not nec­es­sar­ily com­mit­ted a crime, the con­gress­man said, but he has “un­der­mined” the in­tegrity of his of­fice, “brought dis­re­pute” on the pres­i­dency and “be­trayed” the trust of Amer­i­cans.

Con­gress, firmly in Re­pub­li­can con­trol, barely blinked an eye.

The dy­namic is likely to be­come a lot more fa­mil­iar on Capi­tol Hill as the Trump pres­i­dency and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the pres­i­dent’s as­so­ci­ates grind on. Driven by an an­gry and en­er­gized base and in­su­lated by the surety that Re­pub­li­can lead­ers will block their ef­forts, lib­eral Democrats are turn­ing to one of Con­gress’ most sym­bol­i­cally freighted cud­gels – im­peach­ment – to add ur­gency to their long-stand­ing crit­i­cisms of a pres­i­dent they say is un­fit for of­fice.

But with spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III still pur­su­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the ef­forts lack the weight of a pros­e­cu­tor’s brief – and could be­come the ob­jects of scorn, if not mock­ery.

“I be­lieve that there is sup­port across the length and breadth of this coun­try,” the con­gress­man, Al Green of Texas, said in an in­ter­view shortly be­fore he went to the House floor Wed­nes­day. “I do not take this lightly.”

Green’s pro­posed ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment have com­pany. Rep. Steve Co­hen, D-Tenn., plans to in­tro­duce his own ver­sion in the com­ing weeks. Rep. Brad Sher­man, D-Calif., did so in July. And other Democrats in the House, where im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings must be­gin, say they will not be far be­hind.

“Im­peach­ment is what peo­ple un­der­stand,” Co­hen said in an in­ter­view.

The res­o­lu­tions have no real chance of ad­vanc­ing in the House – a fact that has not been lost on Democrats. Im­peach­ment res­o­lu­tions are typ­i­cally re­ferred to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which serves as the first place for de­bate and in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the pro­posed ar­ti­cles war­rant a full hear­ing by the House. With the Repub­li­cans in firm con­trol of the cham­ber – and the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee gavel – the chance that they would re­ceive any real hear­ing there is next to none.

Thus far, Demo­cratic lead­ers in the House have urged their col­leagues to wait for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to do their work. For one, push­ing im­peach­ment too early could weaken Democrats’ hand if in­ves­ti­ga­tors turn up per­sua­sive ev­i­dence of “high crimes and mis­de­meanors” that could com­pel bi­par­ti­san ac­tion. Too great a fo­cus on im­peach­ment could also dis­tract from Democrats’ at­tempts to put for­ward a strong eco­nomic mes­sage.

“The Demo­cratic Party had best be iden­ti­fied with some­thing more than im­peach­ment,” said Den­nis J. Kucinich, a for­mer Demo­cratic mem­ber of the House.

In 2008, Kucinich pro­posed 35 ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, fo­cused pri­mar­ily on his han­dling of the Iraq War. Kucinich cau­tioned that res­o­lu­tions this time around might not yet be sup­ported.

“There is tremen­dous an­i­mos­ity to­ward the pres­i­dent, and I un­der­stand it,” Kucinich said. “But I don’t know if there is a suf­fi­cient case to war­rant a process as vig­or­ous as im­peach­ment.”

Oth­ers of­fered a dif­fer­ent warn­ing: In ex­cit­ing their own base, which they would need to re­gain con­trol of the House next year, Democrats run the risk of ig­nit­ing Trump’s.

Some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pened to Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton when he was em­broiled in an im­peach­ment fight in the late 1990s. His poll num­bers went up, and Repub­li­cans lost seats in the House.

Re­cent pub­lic polling has found that about 40 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port im­peach­ment, but Bill Bur­ton, a for­mer aide in the Obama White House and Demo­cratic cam­paign op­er­a­tive, said that much of that sup­port was pock­eted in blue-lean­ing dis­tricts.

“There is a grow­ing ap­petite for im­peach­ment in the most Demo­cratic parts of the coun­try,” he said. “But what is good for down­town L.A. is not what’s good for Bak­ers­field.”

Those in­tro­duc­ing the ar­ti­cles say they felt obliged to act. Their ef­forts got a lift on Wed­nes­day when Tom Steyer, a prom­i­nent Demo­cratic donor from Cal­i­for­nia, wrote a let­ter de­mand­ing that law­mak­ers and Demo­cratic can­di­dates sup­port the pres­i­dent’s re­moval.

“I’ve got a very safe district that is very sup­port­ive of im­peach­ment, I be­lieve,” said Co­hen, whose Mem­phis district is ma­jor­ity black. “And if I can’t come out for im­peach­ment, then how can I ex­pect th­ese Repub­li­cans come out for im­peach­ment?”

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