By Nolan D. McCaskill
President Donald Trump back to Washington on Wednesday with a call for impeachment hearings.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told reporters that five Democrats have signed on to his resolution to introduce five articles of impeachment against the president.
The Democrats charge that Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey; that he has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by continuing to frequent and profit from his businesses; and that he has undermined the federal judiciary and freedom of the press.
“We’re calling upon the House to begin impeachment hearings,” Cohen said. “It’s not a call for a vote. It’s a call for hearings.”
Cohen added that he doesn’t expect the House Judiciary Committee, which he accused of operating “like a branch of the administration,” to hold hearings but pledged to hold briefings with experts to highlight what he contends are the president’s impeachable offenses.
A spokesperson for the House Judiciary Committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
House Democratic leaders have tried to tamp down talk of impeachment, worried that the push will distract from their efforts to keep the spotlight on unpopular Republican policies and potentially alienate independent voters in frontline districts who might see the idea as little more than a partisan witch hunt.
Democratic leaders think continuously plugging their economic message — something that has so far failed to break through nationally — is the key to taking back the House next year.
“There are a large number of Democrats who believe this president ought to be impeached. We have just made the judgment that the facts aren’t there to pursue that,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday. “And what we want to pursue, we don’t want to distract [from] what is our focus.”
Despite leadership’s position, Cohen was joined by Democratic lawmakers Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Al Green of Texas and Adriano Espaillat of New York at a news conference inside the Capitol. He said Democratic Reps. Marcia Fudge of Ohio and John Yarmuth of Kentucky have also signed on to the resolution and signaled that at least a dozen others may join.
He did, however, acknowledge “political concerns” within the Democratic caucus, highlighting the split in the party over pursuing impeachment in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
Some Democrats “just want Trump to hang himself and think that we don’t need to help him,” Cohen said. “But I think there are a great number of Democrats who think there have been impeachable offenses. I think the majority of Democrats think that, and I know that there are Republicans who think that, too, but they are constrained” by Trump’s base.
As for their own base, some Democrats are betting that the pursuit of impeachment will resonate with voters.
“Everywhere I go in my district… people are calling for this,” Espaillat said of impeachment. “This is not a call in a vacuum. There is a real sentiment in the nation for this to begin.”
Cohen said he spoke briefly to Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer, who has launched a $10 million ad buy calling for Trump’s impeachment, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. He said he also called Pelosi (D-Calif.) immediately after the president’s widely panned response to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August informing her that he can’t stand idly by.
“There are already sufficient facts in the public record that warrant the start of impeachment proceedings in Congress. Given the magnitude of this constitutional crisis, there’s no reason to delay,” Cohen said. “I said after Charlottesville I was gonna bring impeachment charges. I’ve waited three months.”