As the call for President Trump’s impeachment grows from liberal Democrats, key House committee chairmen left the door open for taking the first steps toward removing him from office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi poured cold water on talk of impeachment just last month, but Reps. Adam B. Schiff of California and Elijah Cummings of Maryland signaled Sunday that Democrats are seriously considering pursuing impeachment proceedings, despite the political risks involved and even if the effort fails.
“I think even if we did not win possibly, if there were not impeachment, I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution,” Mr. Cummings, the House oversight committee chairman, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
Since the long-anticipated special counsel report was released Thursday, several prominent Democrats have begun to clamor for House leadership to start the ball rolling on impeachment — including liberal superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and at least two of the party’s presidential hopefuls — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
However, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, another presidential contender, was less enthusiastic than his competitors, calling for Congress to do its own probe before throwing out the I-word.
“There’s a process in place here,” he said. “I trust [Rep.] Jerry Nadler,” referring to the New York Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
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While Mr. Cummings and Mr. Schiff aren’t ready to sign onto articles of impeachment — and noted that Congress has its own investigations to conduct first — they said Democrats may be willing to attempt impeachment even if Republicans or the bulk of the American electorate isn’t completely swayed by the evidence. They argued that doing nothing could “embolden” President Trump, Russian agents, and other actors who intend to interfere with U.S. elections.
In November, Mr. Nadler, whose committee would oversee any impeachment proceedings, warned that a partisan effort could tear the country apart.
In his interview Sunday, Mr. Schiff, the intelligence committee chairman, acknowledged the likelihood of failure, but blamed Republican partisanship for ignoring “without question [acts] within the realm of impeachable offenses.”
“We are, unfortunately, in an environment today where the GOP leadership, people like Kevin McCarthy, are willing to carry the president’s water no matter how corrupt or unethical or dishonest the president’s conduct may be. And in those kind of circumstances, when [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell will not stand up to the president either, it means that an impeachment is likely to be unsuccessful,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, he was open to an impeachment effort.
“It may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless,” Mr. Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Is the best thing for the country to take up an impeachment proceeding because to do otherwise would send a message that this conduct is somehow compatible with [public] office?” he asked rhetorically, calling it “a very tough question” that can’t be decided “overnight.”
Mr. Trump bristled Sunday at the talk of impeachment.
“How do you impeach a Republican President for a crime that was committed by the Democrats? MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted, as he arrived at the White House from a long Easter weekend at his Florida hideaway in Palm Beach.
Mr. Trump let his thumbs do the talking throughout the weekend, ducking several opportunities to answer questions from the press during his stay in Palm Beach.
Instead, he enjoyed time with family at his Mar-a-Lago estate and shuttled to his golf course across town for a round with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, golf pro Lexi Thompson and others.
Walking into Easter services at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea on Sunday, the president ignored questions about his own staff’s role in the Mueller report, though wished the press a “Happy Easter.”
“A lot of great things are happening for our country,” he said, as brass players kicked off the day’s opening hymn inside.
Earlier in the morning, Mr. Trump tweeted that “radical left Democrats” were too focused on investigations and it would cost them in 2020.
Likewise, Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican and a member of his chamber’s Judiciary Committee, said it would be a political mistake for Democrats to attempt to impeach the president.
“There was no collusion. It isn’t there. Not a scintilla of evidence supports that. So it’s time to move on,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
Mr. Mueller’s report did not find sufficient evidence of collusion between the Russian government and Trump campaign officials, but the lead prosecutor did not draw a conclusion on the issue of obstruction, in part, to avoid impeding on Congress’ ability to impeach the president, should it so choose.
All three committee chairman agree that they see “serious and damning” evidence of obstruction in Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report and plan on investigating those charges, as well as his finances and firing of certain officials.
Mr. Nadler denied his committee is already trying to lay the groundwork for impeachment — but he didn’t shut down the possibility.
“I don’t think we’re doing that. We may get to that. We may not,” he said. “As I’ve said before, it is our job to go, to go through all the evidence, all the information we can get and to go where the evidence leads us.”
⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report