‘Seismic change’: Democratic hold-outs rush toward impeachment – POLITICO

And Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears more open to the idea of an impeachment investigation than ever before.

Nancy Pelosi

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and party leaders are ramping up their offensive against President Donald Trump for pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden — with a potential House vote on a resolution condemning Trump as the caucus edges toward impeachment.

Pelosi spent all weekend and Monday working the phones, including reaching out to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, as she sought to take the temperature of the caucus on impeachment. She’s set to meet with the six committee chairmen investigating Trump on Tuesday afternoon to discuss Democrats’ next steps.

Pelosi is expected to make a statement on the issue Tuesday and has seemed more open to the idea of an impeachment investigation than ever before, according to lawmakers and aides.

Democratic leaders have also called a full caucus meeting for Tuesday afternoon, where the discussion is expected to center on their response to the episode, and which comes after a dozen new lawmakers embraced an impeachment inquiry.

Democratic leaders now view a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday featuring Trump’s top intelligence official — as well as a deadline that day for the State Department to turn over related documents potentially implicating the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — as the deciding factor over whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

If the White House doesn’t comply with Democrats’ demands for further information — sparked initially by a secret whistleblower complaint that the administration is still blocking from Congress — the House may move full bore into impeaching the president.

Pelosi has been coming under increasing pressure to embrace impeachment as a growing number of freshman Democrats in swing districts rethink their stance after Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukrainian officials in an an effort to tarnish the former vice president, the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

That includes an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Monday night in which seven Democratic freshmen from swing districts called for “impeachment hearings” for what they said would be an “impeachable offense” if true.

Trump has publicly acknowledged discussing Biden during a call with the Ukrainian president but has defiantly insisted he did nothing wrong. The notion that the president potentially sought foreign interference to harm a political rival and aid his own reelection has led to an explosive and rapidly changing dynamic within the House Democratic Caucus.

Twelve Democratic lawmakers have come out in favor of moving ahead with impeachment — either conditionally or outright — since Monday afternoon. That includes vulnerable freshmen, as well as long-time Pelosi supporters who had previously refused to stray beyond her message.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota became the first centrist lawmaker to announce support for Trump’s ouster if the president did indeed encourage the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival. Phillips was followed quickly by another swing-district Democrat — Rep. Angie Craig, also of Minnesota — delivering a shot of momentum to the caucus’ increasingly vocal pro-impeachment wing.

By Monday night, seven freshmen with backgrounds in national security published a joint op-ed calling the new allegations “a threat to all we have sworn to protect.” The members represent some of the toughest seats in the country: Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. Crow had already endorsed impeachment.

Long-time Pelosi allies, like Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, also said Monday night that they would back impeachment proceedings if Trump does not comply with congressional oversight demands, as did Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).

Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, will appear before the Intelligence panel Thursday after blocking Congress’ effort to learn more details of a whistleblower complaint that Trump allegedly urged the newly elected Ukrainian president to investigate Biden’s son.

Pelosi — who fired her own warning shot at Trump on the matter on Sunday — has for months remained steadfastly against impeachment, buoyed by dozens of vulnerable Democrats who worry it could cost them reelection.

Pressure escalated throughout the weekend. Multiple lawmakers — including freshman Democrats who have so far resisted calls for impeachment — held calls over the weekend to discuss the reports, according to people familiar with the calls.

One freshman Democrat, who declined to speak publicly, described it as a “seismic change in mood.”

Several of the freshman Democrats who are weighing impeachment formerly worked in U.S. national security or intelligence — backgrounds that they believe can bolster the case for impeachment. They think the latest accusations against Trump, which happened while he was president, are a clearer example of violating the presidential oath of office than some other offensives.

Trump’s alleged efforts to dangle military aid to Ukraine to encourage officials to investigate Biden, they say, is easier to grasp that the lengthy obstruction of justice arguments outlined in Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Obstruction is a legal thing, this is a gut thing,” one Democratic aide said, summarizing many moderates’ position.

Pelosi has not commented on the subject since issuing a letter on Sunday warning that the Trump’s administration’s efforts to stonewall Congress from seeing the whistleblower complaint would mark “a grave new chapter of lawlessness.”

At a weekly meeting with Democratic chiefs of staff on Monday, little was said about the Ukraine controversy, and Pelosi aides pointed to her letter from Sunday afternoon as their messaging guidance, according to multiple people in the room.

House Democrats are also intensifying their focus on the Ukraine controversy in other ways.

A trio of committee chairmen on Monday threatened to subpoena the State Department if it doesn’t produce documents they requested two weeks ago related to Trump and Giuliani’s conversations with Ukrainian officials.

Schiff, joined by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until Thursday to inform them whether he plans to comply with their request.

“Seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election undermines our sovereignty, democracy, and the Constitution,” they wrote in a letter to Pompeo Monday afternoon. “Yet the President and his personal attorney now appear to be openly engaging in precisely this type of abuse of power involving the Ukrainian government ahead of the 2020 election.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called for hearings into the whistleblower complaint, as well as a subpoena to bring the whistleblower complaint to Congress “as required by law.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuffed Schumer’s demand and accused Democrats of trying to “politicize” the issue. Other GOP senators have largely sidestepped the latest Trump scandal.

Trump has defiantly insisted he did nothing wrong in his conversation with Ukrainian officials and said he may release a transcript of the call. But the administration has come under fire for withholding military aid for Ukraine at the same time, a move Democrats said was designed to exert maximum pressure on Ukraine and force the country into pursuing the Biden allegations.

Trump himself further inflamed the controversy on Monday, as he appeared to confirm that he had tied U.S. aid to his demand that Ukraine investigate Biden’s son.

“We’re supporting a country. We want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” Trump told reporters before heading into a United Nations event, when asked about what he told Ukrainian leaders.

A day before, the president acknowledged that he encouraged Ukrainian leaders to probe Hunter Biden’s past work in the country.

Several vocal impeachment backers, including those on the House Judiciary Committee, have felt stymied by how little progress they’ve made. Some, like Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Joe Neguse (D-Col.), are calling on top Democrats to shift gears from their litigation-focused strategy and use inherent contempt — Congress’ rarely deployed power to detain or fine witnesses who refuse to testify.

Key cases remain tied up in the courts, including attempts to secure Trump’s financial records, with no guarantee of resolving them before the 2020 election. High-profile hearings have yielded little, including last week’s circus-like testimony of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Progressives, who have for months pushed Democratic leaders to launch impeachment proceedings, have indicated they’re losing patience with Pelosi’s slow-going strategy. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called out Democratic leaders for their “refusal to impeach” Trump in a message to her millions of Twitter followers over the weekend.

“It is a deeply serious time, and I think we have a constitutional crisis and I think there is only one remedy at this point,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview Monday. “I think there are many people across the spectrum of the caucus who are feeling that way.”

“At the core of all of this is not the question of what happens if we move forward,” Jayapal said. “It’s the question of what happens if we do not move forward.”

Source: ‘Seismic change’: Democratic hold-outs rush toward impeachment – POLITICO

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