The Hill:Dem leaders: Cool it on impeachment

June 13, 2017
In The News

Democratic leaders are ramping up the pressure on Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers to abandon efforts to force an impeachment vote on President Trump.

The leaders are worried that an aggressive push for impeachment could both undercut the ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s Russian ties and politicize those probes in ways that might damage Democrats in their districts.

Still, Sherman’s push is forcing Democrats to toe a delicate line, with the party’s liberal base demanding that they oppose Trump at every turn.

Tensions spilled over in a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Tuesday, when Rep. Michael Capuano (Mass.), a leadership ally, warned that forcing lawmakers to go on the record about impeachment could hurt Democrats’ chances at the polls.

There must be “a discussion within the caucus — in a public forum — before we do something that would position our colleagues or our future colleagues,” Capuano said, according to a source in the closed-door meeting.

“Emotions are high. These issues have political implications and government ones.”

A pair of Democratic leaders — Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) — backed Capuano during the meeting, saying the party should focus its energy on issues like defending ObamaCare and creating jobs.

“There is a need for a family discussion before any issue of this magnitude is brought forward,” Crowley said, according to the source. “It’s of a courtesy to our colleagues.”

The message was directed at Sherman, who on Monday unveiled a draft article of impeachment against Trump, saying the president obstructed justice by allegedly pressuring former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump later fired Comey, who was leading the bureau’s investigation into Russian election inference.

Sherman, the source said, was in the room for the entirety of the criticism. He declined to speak.

Sherman told The Hill after the meeting that he has assured Democratic leaders that he won’t try to force a floor vote without their input first.

He made that clear to Capuano in a conversation afterward. “I said, ‘I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not doing anything until I consult with colleagues and leadership.’ ”

Sherman plans to formally introduce the article of impeachment later this week or next, and then will give GOP leaders at least a few weeks to decide how the House Judiciary Committee should respond.  

He predicted that any floor vote, if it happens, likely wouldn’t be until after the August recess.

Under House rules, any member can offer a “privileged” resolution that must get floor consideration within two legislative days. If the majority party rejects it, the lawmaker offering the resolution can still force a procedural vote to serve as a referendum.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee, which would handle articles of impeachment, say the investigations into Russia need to be completed before they consider any form of action.