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Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment

The Hill logo The Hill 7/21/2019 Mike Lillis
Al Green, Steve Cohen are posing for a picture: Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment © Greg Nash Two Democrats vow to press forward on Trump impeachment

House Democratic leaders were successful Wednesday in staving off a bid to impeach President Trump, but the effort is far from dead.

A handful of Democrats added their names last week to the long list of lawmakers now endorsing an impeachment inquiry, growing the tally to more than a third of the caucus.

Rep. Al Green, the Texas Democrat who forced last week's impeachment vote, is threatening to revisit the issue later this cycle. And Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who had introduced articles of impeachment in the last Congress, says he plans to do so again, likely after the long August recess.

"I've been thinking about it the whole year, and I've annotated the last articles we had that had encompassed everything he had done at the time of their filing, in November of 2017, to include what I think are the most important impeachable actions," Cohen told The Hill.

"I suspect by sometime in the fall I'll probably file it, but it depends on his additional, further impeachable behavior, if more is exhibited," he continued. "I expect it will be."

An escalation in the Democratic effort to oust the president could deepen the dilemma facing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team, who have walked a delicate line between discouraging impeachment, which most voters oppose, without incensing a liberal base that's grown increasingly outraged with Trump's behavior - and the go-slow strategy of Democratic leaders.

Pelosi and the party's top brass favor a methodical investigative approach, featuring a series of committee probes into Trump's actions, including those related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"We have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the president may have engaged in," Pelosi said hours before the vote on Green's impeachment resolution. "That is the serious path that we are on."

Still, a growing number of Democrats are backing the more aggressive move to launch an impeachment inquiry, with at least four lawmakers - Reps. Peter Welch (Vt.), Bill Pascrell (N.J.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.) and Rick Larsen (Wash.) - endorsing the effort last week after Trump implored four minority congresswomen to "go back" to their countries.

The announcements brought the tally of Democratic impeachment supporters to 87. And that list is likely to grow after Mueller testifies before both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary panel who supports an impeachment inquiry, noted that Mueller's report spotlighted 10 episodes when Trump potentially obstructed justice, as well as "massive evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals." He's hoping voters will be swayed by the public testimony.

"What we're hoping for is that there will be some public clarity about what is really in the Mueller report," said Raskin, a former professor of constitutional law. "We want some basic public education about it."

Cohen had introduced five articles of impeachment in 2017, which charged Trump with obstructing justice in firing former FBI director James Comey; violating the foreign emoluments clause -- which bars public officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments without Congress's consent -- and the domestic emoluments clause, which bars the president from profiting from his office; and undermining two of the country's central institutions -- the courts and the press -- in ways that threaten the health of the nation's democracy.

The Tennessee liberal, who chairs the Judiciary Committee's subpanel on the Constitution, has held off on reintroducing any impeachment measures since taking that gavel. But he's been keeping close tabs on Trump's actions and adding provisions to his previous articles to include the administration's stonewalling of congressional investigations, as well as some of the race-based episodes highlighted in Green's resolution, including Trump's recent attacks on Reps. Rasida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Cohen said he wants to hear Mueller's testimony, as well as that from other members of Trump's inner circle - including Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, and Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager - before introducing his resolution.

"There are more and more things that come up that need to be included," Cohen said.

Reigniting the impeachment debate in the fall could prove to be a headache for Pelosi and Democratic leaders, who are laser focused on keeping control of the House in 2020, largely by protecting vulnerable lawmakers in swing districts where the issue could pose a liability. Trump, meanwhile, has kept the issue in the public eye by hammering Democrats for conducting a "witch hunt."

"This should never be allowed to happen to another President of the United States again!" he tweeted after Green's resolution failed.

Green's resolution, accusing the president of inciting racial tensions across the country, highlighted the Democratic fissures. Siding with Pelosi, 137 Democrats voted to table the measure, effectively killing it. But 94 Democrats bucked leadership and joined Green - a jump from the 66 Democrats who supported a similar resolution, also sponsored by Green, in January of 2018.

The list of Democrats opposing the motion to table featured several standout names, including members of the leadership team - Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), David Cicilline (R.I.) and Ted Lieu (Calif.) - and the chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.).

Both Clark and Nadler said afterwards that they don't support an immediate move to impeachment, but were simply protesting leadership's decision to table Green's resolution, in lieu of referring it to the Judiciary Committee.

"This is not a change in my position. I just believe that these resolutions should go to the committee of jurisdiction," Clark said. "I still think that our oversight hearings, backed up by the courts, is a strategy that is working and that we should maintain that course. But we're taking no tools off the table."

Nadler, who has reportedly pressed Pelosi behind closed doors to launch an impeachment inquiry, said it's "premature to say"if he would have acted on a referral to his panel.

"I thought it was the wrong motion. ... I thought it should have been referred to the Judiciary Committee," he said. "We're investigating the president, so I've said all options are on the table."

Green, meanwhile, said he was encouraged by the growing support, versus the two measures he brought to the floor in the last Congress, and vowed to force votes on another resolution this cycle - if no one else does.

"The process isn't over," he said after Wednesday's vote. "I've said all along this is not something I desire to do. But if it is not done by someone, then I will.

"The president, at some point, will be impeached."

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