- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Democratic leaders have tried to pump the brakes on impeachment, but calls are growing among the party’s rank-and-file members on Capitol Hill and among progressive activists across the county fed up with President Trump.

From polls to petition drives, activists are trying to stiffen Democratic spines in Congress, arguing that voters have concluded Mr. Trump’s behavior in office rises to the level of a firing offense.

“Impeachment is the only way to stop Donald Trump, whose corruption and incompetence is placing our country in greater danger with each passing day,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director for Democracy for America, which announced last week that 65,000 of its members have signed off on a petition calling on Congress to investigate and impeach Mr. Trump.

Members of Congress have also begun to speak out, with Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat, laying out a case for impeachment on the House floor Wednesday.

“I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America for obstruction of justice,” Mr. Green told his colleagues. “There is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States of America.”

Backers cite a long litany of potential offenses, dating back to the presidential campaign and Trump aides’ ties to Russia. But the calls have taken on a new urgency this month after Mr. Trump first fired FBI Director James B. Comey, then faced reports that the president may have asked Mr. Comey to back off investigation of Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

Democratic leaders, while questioning Mr. Trump’s behavior and calling for probes, have tamped down on impeachment talk.

“What I would suggest is that there needs to be a full investigation first,” Rep. Joseph Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, told reporters Wednesday. “We need to get to the facts and let the facts lead where they may, whatever that end result will be. First, establish the facts.”

Maryland’s Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, agreed, saying, “Will it lead to impeachment? I don’t know.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, speaking a day earlier, said his party should tread carefully on impeachment.

“It ought not to be taken lightly. It ought not to be taken politically,” he said.

Outside of Washington, the impeachment question is raging in Democratic races.

In the New Jersey gubernatorial race, front-runner Phil Murphy has been calling for a special prosecutor, and one of his rivals, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, “is in favor of impeachment.”

“He believes that the country deserves answers to critical questions that can only come from an impeachment investigation,” said Greg Minchak, a Wisniewski spokesman.

It is a similar story in the Virginia governor’s race, where Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam this week lined up with those calling for a special prosecutor, and former Rep. Tom Perriello going a step further, saying, “It is incredibly important that we see leaders in Washington start to proceed with impeachment and special prosecutor proceedings.”

History suggests the pro-impeachment forces face an uphill battle.

A number of presidents have faced calls for impeachment, but only two have ever actually been impeached in the House. Neither President Bill Clinton nor President Andrew Johnson were convicted by the Senate, however.

Impeachment requires only a majority vote in the House but a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict and remove from office.

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