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Rep. Stephanie Murphy tells town hall in Sanford she doesn't support impeaching Trump right now

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 8/2/2019 By Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel

As more Democrats in Congress support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy told constituents at a Sanford town hall Wednesday that she’s not ready to support the idea – yet.

“I believe impeachment will assuredly consume us all,” the Democrat from Winter Park told the audience of about 100 at the Sanford Civic Center. “And basically grind our nation to a halt. And I think impeachment has a really high threshold."

Just one audience member asked about impeachment. Instead, most of those at the town hall aimed at seniors asked about shoring up Medicare, protecting Social Security and other health care and fiscal issues.

Members of Congress are home for a month-long summer break, and Murphy and many others are holding town halls to hear from constituents.

More than 100 of the 235 House Democrats have come out either in favor of impeachment or starting an impeachment inquiry. The number grew to triple digits in the week after independent counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress, rejecting Trump’s statements that the redacted version of the Mueller Report “completely vindicated” him.

Mueller has said his office couldn’t make a determination as to whether Trump committed obstruction of justice because Department of Justice policy says a sitting president can’t be indicted. But the report does lay out Trump’s “public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, sits on the House Judiciary Committee and supports an impeachment inquiry, while Murphy and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, have been more cautious.

During her opening remarks at the town hall, Murphy said Trump “has said and done a lot of things that I believe are beneath the dignity of the office that he occupies,” a statement that drew applause.

The Mueller Report and his testimony, she said, “has brought to light actions by the president that are deeply troubling, particularly when it comes to obstruction of justice. And I think that there’s growing evidence also to suggest that this president may be using his office to self-enrich himself and his family. And I want to get to the bottom of that.”

But, she said, “We don't need impeachment proceedings to investigate. It is well within our authority as Congress.”

She cautioned that in the impeachment process, the House acts as prosecutor and the Republican-controlled Senate is the jury, and the House would need “clear and compelling evidence” to convince them.

Murphy also had a warning: “We get one shot at this.”

“If we jump the gun too early, and we pursue impeachment before we have all of the facts … If we move forward without all of that evidence and the Senate acquits the president, it makes it much harder to pursue impeachment a second time if we uncover additional information.”

Until then, she said, “While I would like to work with a different president in the White House, I believe that we do that at the ballot box rather than through impeachment.”

Paul Beals of Oviedo said the Trump administration “is stonewalling all attempts to get [information] and running out the clock. If we don’t do an inquiry on this guy, when is the next president ever getting any kind of impeachment inquiry?”

Murphy responded that she can “understand the frustration of people who are like, ‘Just do it already.’”

But it’s designed to be a “painstaking” process, she said, “if we cut any corners, we undermine the legitimacy of the process.''

One provocative question to Murphy, a Vietnam-born child refugee, asked, “I have a personal question. I know your history. I know your stories. … Is ICE coming to your home? Or are you protected?”

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“No, ICE is not knocking at my door,” Murphy said, referring to the controversy over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s raids on undocumented immigrants.

But she said took the question as one about the increasingly bitter rhetoric about immigration and race “that is unhelpful and moving in a different direction from the America I know, the America that welcomed my family, that allowed us to integrate, that allowed us to become proud American citizens.

“We have to have tolerance and some amount of grace for our fellow Americans,” she said. "And right now, we are seeing the highest elected officials tear open this divide. And all it does is make us weaker as a country.”

slemongello@orlandosentinel.com

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