Trump Impeachment Watch
August 9, 2019

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) publicly confirmed Thursday night that his committee is currently engaged in "formal impeachment proceedings" against President Trump, after weeks of saying as much in court filings. Nadler made his comments on CNN, stressing that "it's important not to get hung up on semantics" and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "has been very cooperative" with his committee's investigation, even if she doesn't publicly back impeachment.

When CNN's Erin Burnett pressed him, "So in your mind, you're saying this is exactly the same as what we all call 'formal impeachment proceedings' by another name?" Nadler replied: "This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence. And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now."

Nadler said articles of impeachment have already been referred to the Judiciary Committee, but the committee might write its own articles that "more closely fit the evidence," both evidence growing out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and other possible crimes dug up by the committee's own investigations. As of last week, a majority of House Democrats back impeachment hearings. Peter Weber

July 30, 2019

At least a dozen House Democrats have publicly come out in favor of starting impeachment proceedings against President Trump since former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified last Wednesday, and with the addition of Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) and Dina Titus (Nev.) on Monday, at least 106 House Democrats now back impeachment. That's just a dozen shy of 118 House Democrats, or a majority of the caucus' 235 members, plus Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), a former Republican.

The new flock of impeachment-backing Democrats, The Hill notes, includes centrists like Rep. Derek Kilmer (Wash.), freshmen who flipped GOP-held districts last year — Reps. Mike Levin (Calif.) and Kim Schrier (Wash.) — and a member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (Calif.) leadership team, Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.). Vulnerable Democrats got important and unexpected political cover Sunday when No. 3 Senate Democrat Patty Murray (Wash.) endorsed impeachment hearings; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the No. 4 Senate Democrat, followed suit Monday.

Pelosi does not support pursuing impeachment now, though her opposition appears to be softening and on Friday she endorsed an effort by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) to obtain Mueller's secret grand jury evidence via court order. Nadler explained that "we made clear to the court that we are considering impeachment, along with other options, under our Article I powers." In other words, former White House chief ethics lawyer Richard Painter tweeted Monday, "this is an impeachment inquiry" already.

Still, 218 House votes would be needed to officially launch impeachment proceedings, as well as Pelosi's support, and "Pelosi's resistance to an impeachment inquiry is not likely to be vulnerable to the math of the Democratic Caucus," Politico reports. "My personal view is that he richly deserves impeachment," Nadler told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday. "He has done many impeachable offenses. He's violated the law six ways from Sundays. ... But that's not the question. The question is, can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?" Peter Weber

July 25, 2019

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally testified in public on Wednesday about his investigation into President Trump's campaign, Russian election meddling, and Trump's attempts to quash the Russia investigation. So what now?

In a closed-door House Democratic caucus meeting following Mueller's testimony, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rebuffed House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler's (D-N.Y.) call to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, four sources told Politico. Pelosi reportedly advocated a slow, methodical approach to holding Trump accountable, even as Nadler told inquiring colleagues his committee could initiate impeachment proceedings without a full House vote.

In a press conference Wednesday evening, "Pelosi's opposition to impeachment appeared to soften, although she still won't endorse the idea," Politico reports. Pelosi said if the House moves forward with impeachment, it "would have to be done with our strongest possible hand," preferably after obtaining Trump's financial records and other key information via the courts. "If we have a case for impeachment, that's the place we will have to go," she added. "The stronger our case is, the worse the Senate will look for just letting the president off the hook."

"If you're looking for smoke signals from Speaker Pelosi, you didn't get very many today," pro-impeachment Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told ABC News. "But my sense, just as one member, is that the caucus continues to shift in the direction of impeachment." Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) became the 93rd House Democrats to back impeachment Wednesday; about a quarter of House Democrats are now pro-impeachment, ABC News estimates.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday night that she thinks Mueller's testimony made impeachment more likely, and she thinks Pelosi "is softening to the idea of an impeachment inquiry to begin. Certainly I got that impression listening to her this afternoon. I don't know that the numbers of members are at a critical mass yet, but I do think it's growing." Peter Weber

April 24, 2019

"Let's start at the end of this story," George Mason University law professor J.W. Verret wrote in The Atlantic on Tuesday. "This weekend, I read Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report twice, and realized that enough was enough." Verret explains that he has "worked on every Republican presidential transition team for the past 10 years," including President Trump's, briefly. He was never a big Trump fan and turned down opportunities to work in his administration, he said, but he was never a Never Trump Republican.

Still, "if you think calling for the impeachment of a sitting Republican president would constitute career suicide for someone like me, you may end up being right," Verret writes. "But I did exactly that this weekend." And he explained why:

I wanted to share my experience transitioning from Trump team member to pragmatist about Trump to advocate for his impeachment, because I think many other Republicans are starting a similar transition. Politics is a team sport, and if you actively work within a political party, there is some expectation that you will follow orders and rally behind the leader, even when you disagree. There is a point, though, at which that expectation turns from a mix of loyalty and pragmatism into something more sinister, a blind devotion that serves to enable criminal conduct. The Mueller report was that tipping point for me, and it should be for Republican and independent voters, and for Republicans in Congress. [Verret, The Atlantic]

On MSNBC Tuesday evening, Verret told a skeptical Chris Matthews that "as the hearings proceed forward, as the American people read the Mueller report from Amazon — it's very popular right now — I think the tide's going to turn ... in favor of impeachment."

"We have seen the top lines debated, we have not seen the nitty-gritty," Verret said. "This is nitty-gritty, soap opera–style details. Give the people time to process. I trust they'll do the right thing." Peter Weber

May 17, 2017

A growing handful of Democratic lawmakers have been suggesting it may be time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, especially after he appears to have at least tiptoed up to obstructing justice by allegedly ordering FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, a day after he fired Flynn as national security adviser. Lawyers don't agree if Trump's purported comments to Comey amount to obstruction of justice, the main charge in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment cases. But they do agree that impeachment is the only punishment Trump would face.

Impeachment proceedings are still a long shot, not least because they would have to start with House Republicans, and no Republican in Congress is explicitly using the i-word yet. But they are starting to talk subpoenas and making Watergate comparisons, and people who aren't congressional Democrats are beginning to talk impeaching Trump — an idea the public is apparently warming up to. On Tuesday evening, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin reacted to the report that Trump asked Comey to stand down with "three words: obstruction of justice."

David Gergen, a veteran presidential adviser, went a step further. "I was in the Nixon administration, as you know," he said on CNN, "and I thought after watching the Clinton impeachment, I thought I'd never see another one. But I think we're in impeachment territory now for the first time."

Sen. Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that if the Comey memos are "true and confirmed I think you're getting very close to the legal definition of obstruction of justice." When Blitzer asked if we're "getting closer to the possibility of yet another impeachment process," King said, "reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes, simply because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense."

King was clear that impeachment would have to be for "high crimes and misdemeanors," because "we don't want to get into the situation where we're charging our president based on any kind of political considerations." And Republicans have to turn on Trump for him to be in any real danger. But as a senior official in the Trump administration and campaign said to The Daily Beast, after the last week, "I don't see how Trump isn't completely f—ed." Peter Weber

May 16, 2017

Congressional Republicans have taken some criticism for expressing their "concerns" about President Trump's behavior, as a series of scandals involving Russia and the FBI investigation into his campaign unfold, and leaving it at that. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) played the Nixon card on Tuesday night, while accepting a Freedom Award from the International Republican Institute. "I think we've seen this movie before; I think it appears at a point where it's of Watergate size and scale," McCain told veteran TV journalist Bob Scheiffer, according to reporters at the dinner. "The shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there's a new aspect."

McCain, who's had a strained relationship with Trump, said his advice to Trump would be "the same thing that you advised Richard Nixon, which he didn't do ... get it all out," The Daily Beast's Tim Mak reports. "It's not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment," McCain added. "And the longer you delay, the longer it's going to last."

McCain also criticized Trump for hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office last week — when Trump apparently revealed highly classified intelligence to Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. "I've known this guy Lavrov for 30 years, he's an old KGB apparatchik stooge, and Putin is a murderer and a thug," McCain said. "And to have Lavrov in the Oval Office and be friendly with the guy whose boss ... sent aircraft with precision weapons to attack hospitals in Aleppo, I just think it's unacceptable."

Talk of impeachment and "obstruction of justice" is reportedly starting to percolate on Capitol Hill, after The New York Times reported Tuesday afternoon that fired FBI Director James Comey kept contemporaneous notes indicating that Trump asked him to drop the FBI's investigation of just-fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has set off yet another frenzy of media speculation, but you can watch a calm analysis of what that might mean from The Associated Press' Catherine Lucey below. Peter Weber

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