Impeachment Politics
December 17, 2019

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) may be switching parties over his opposition to impeaching President Trump, but his defection is lonely and fraught as he faces scorn from Democrats in his southern New Jersey district and a cold shoulder from local Republicans, though Trump welcomed him with open arms. Other House Democrats from districts that voted for Trump announced one-by-one Monday that they will vote to impeach the president Wednesday.

"Monday's announcements dealt a blow to Trump and his allies, who had been encouraging Democrats to defect to bolster their depiction of impeachment as a crusade by extremist liberals," The Washington Post reports. "The White House had mounted an all-out effort to pressure the centrists, many of whom faced a blitz of anti-impeachment ads and are risking significant political damage."

At least one other Democrat is expected to vote no on impeachment, but it won't be Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), whose 3rd Congressional District sits next to Van Drew's 2nd District. Kim's district was more supportive of Trump (+6 percentage points) in 2016 than Van Drew's (+4.5 points), notes J. Miles Coleman at Sabato's Crystal Ball.

The greater Trump lean of Kim's district theoretically puts him in greater electoral peril than Van Drew, but it's complicated.

So far, no House Republicans have said they will vote to impeach Trump, though one, Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), quit the party in July over its refusal to hold Trump accountable. Amash is all-in on impeachment, which is one reason some Democrats want him to serve as an impeachment manager in Trump's Senate trial. Peter Weber

November 14, 2019

Senators are expecting the House to impeach President Trump, and Senate Republicans are skeptical they have the 51 votes to dismiss the probable articles of impeachment without a trial. But some GOP senators are privately discussing a way to turn their lemons into lemonade by pushing for "a lengthy impeachment trial beginning in January to scramble the Democratic presidential race — potentially keeping six contenders in Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer," The Washington Post reports.

Senate Republicans discussed the impeachment process at their weekly closed-door lunch meeting Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "had little guidance for his ranks, outside of saying the trial will go on as long as the Senate wants it to run," the Post reports.

Using the trial to mess with the Democratic presidential race "might be a strategy," teased Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), "but I'll leave that up to others. I'm just a lowly worker." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) added that "Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden might like that," since it would negatively affect fellow top-tier candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but the Senate will try to distinguish itself "by doing this right," likely with a trial lasting five to six weeks. The Democratic candidates had expected some quality campaign time before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary.

Sanders acknowledged Sunday that a trial that cuts into the primaries and caucuses "will make our life a little bit more difficult." Warren said Wednesday that adjudicating the impeachment articles is one of a senator's "constitutional responsibilities" and "if the House goes forward and sends impeachment over to the Senate, then I will be there for the trial."

Republicans are split on strategy. Some Trump allies want the impeachment trial dispatched quickly while Republicans facing tough re-election battles next year want to be seen taking the impeachment process seriously. Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

October 24, 2019

On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) led about 40 fellow House Republicans into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) being used to depose witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Some of the Republicans brought cellphones into the secure room, a big no-no.

Their five-hour sit-in, which included a pizza party, delayed but did not derail the testimony of Pentagon official Laura Cooper, who spent about three hours with impeachment investigators after the Occupy SCIF crew left.

The performance was meant to highlight the GOP's attacks on the process House Democrats are using to gather preliminary information, a process that has already produced some damaging revelations about Trump's Ukraine dealings. Here are four odd details from Wednesday's bizarre circus:

1. A third of the occupiers had the right to be in the room already
Despite Republican complaints that this is a secret partisan inquiry, 48 Republicans and 59 Democrats are on the three committees allowed to attend and participate in the impeachment depositions — including 13 of the Republicans who "stormed" the SCIF, by journalist Marcy Wheeler's count.

2. The Republicans reportedly wanted to be arrested
Democrats considered having Capitol Police arrest the unauthorized Republicans, but they decided against it, The Washington Post reports. Nevertheless, some of the Republicans "asked to be arrested," Fox News' Chad Pegram reports, thinking "the optic of being frog-marched out of the SCIF in front of TV cameras" would help advance the "GOP narrative."

3. Gaetz really wanted the footage
"In a 'look-at-me' move that's almost too on the nose, Gaetz also broke House rules Wednesday when his staff handed out expired congressional passes to some uncredentialed reporters and the crew of HBO's The Swamp," HuffPost reports. "The show is following Gaetz's efforts to combat the impeachment process."

4. Trump apparently knew and approved
Trump hosted about 30 House Republicans on Tuesday and told them to be more "tough" in defending him against impeachment, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) said. The "lawmakers shared their plans to storm into the secure room," Bloomberg News reports, and "Trump supported the action." Cooper was the first Pentagon official to defy a directive not to testify, joining State Department and former National Security officials. Peter Weber

October 22, 2019

On Monday, House Democrats blocked a House Republican resolution to censure Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for "conduct that misleads the American people in a way that is not befitting an elected member of the House of Representatives." The 218-185 party-line vote effectively killed the resolution, introduced last week by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to register Republican disapproval of Schiff's handling of the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The resolution had been expected to fail.

Echoing Trump, the Republicans accused Schiff of a "false retelling" of the president's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, following the White House's public release of a partial reconstructed transcript of that call. They also criticized Schiff for saying his committee had no contact with the whistleblower when in fact a staffer had counseled the unidentified intelligence officer to follow the procedures set up for whistleblowers inside the intelligence community. After the voting started, Schiff suggested his Republican colleagues were misdirecting their censorious energies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed that critique in a statement, saying: "What the Republicans fear most is the truth. The president betrayed the oath of office, our national security and the integrity of our elections, and the GOP has not even tried to deny the facts. Instead, Republicans stage confusion, undermine the Constitution and attack the person of whom the president is most afraid." Peter Weber

October 7, 2019

In a call with House Republicans on Friday, President Trump portrayed the House impeachment inquiry as a mixed bag, predicting it will "make Kevin speaker" — give Republicans control of the House after the 2020 election, elevating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — but acknowledging that being impeached is a "bad thing to have on your résumé," Axios reported Sunday.

People who have spoken to Trump in recent days disagreed on whether Trump believes he will be impeached, Axios says, with one source saying Trump thinks he can pressure vulnerable Democrats into voting against articles of impeachment, but most advisers are warning him that impeachment is imminent and Senate Republicans will keep him from being convicted and removed. Trump's comments to House Republicans "perfectly encapsulate how Trump feels about it," Axios reports: "He believes it could help him get re-elected and win back the House. But he doesn't want the history books recording Donald Trump as an impeached president."

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is genuinely bullish on the political upside of impeachment, predicting numerous times that Trump will win a 45-state landslide in 2020 after the Senate acquits him, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports, citing three sources. Mulvaney's landslide prediction "is far from a consensus in Trump's orbit," and polling doesn't support it, Swan says, "but his voice is one that the president hears every day and could bolster how Trump views the political dynamics of impeachment."

Meanwhile, the "torrent of impeachment developments has triggered a reckoning in the Republican Party," The Washington Post reports, "paralyzing many of its officeholders as they weigh their political futures, legacies and, ultimately, their allegiance to a president who has held them captive" and "whose orders are often confusing and contradictory." Read more about how congressional Republicans are trying to survive impeachment at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

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