‘Having an impeachment inquiry doesn’t change a darn thing…’
(Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call) A Democratic Caucus discussion on oversight matters Wednesday did little to resolve a stewing debate about whether to open an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Most Democrats appeared to leave the discussion holding onto the position they had going in, leaving the caucus still divided on the matter.
“I wish we had two more hours. There’s a lot that still needs to be said,” said California Rep. Jared Huffman, who supports an impeachment inquiry. “It really wasn’t enough time to do justice to a full airing of opinions within our caucus. We have to stop tiptoeing around this subject and start having some candid conversations. It’s reality-check time, in my opinion.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi organized the meeting in a fashion that allowed her to present arguments for House Democrats staying on their current investigative course without her having to stand up and directly confront her members who want to begin impeachment proceedings.
The California Democrat did not speak much at all during the caucus meeting, which she had called, members said. Rather, she let the six committee chairs leading investigations into various matters involving Trump and his associates to speak about their probes and how they’re fighting the administration’s stonewalling.
Trump and his administration’s refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigations is why many members want to open an impeachment inquiry. They argue it will bolster their case in court for obtaining information they’re seeking and may lead to faster document production and witness testimony.
“It’s a way to, I think, elevate the seriousness of what we’re doing in response to the president’s ongoing effort to impede and obstruct and prevent us from getting to the truth,” said Rep. David Cicilline, one of the Judiciary Committee members leading the push to open an inquiry.
The Rhode Island Democrat, who chairs the caucus’s messaging arm, spoke out during the meeting to make that case to his colleagues. Despite differences of opinion on the best vehicle to hold the president accountable, Democrats are united in their commitment to doing so, Cicilline said.
Indeed, the members who spoke against opening an impeachment inquiry did so on the grounds that they felt the other avenues the committees were pursuing to force the Trump administration to hand over information were working.
“Having an impeachment inquiry doesn’t change a darn thing,” senior Judiciary member Zoe Lofgren said during the meeting, according to a source present who took notes.
“Nothing,” Pelosi said in agreement.
“We still have to go to court to get our subpoenas enforced,” Lofgren added. “You know, we are winning those battles now. Unless we want to have no process whatsoever, which cannot be the case for impeachment, we are going to have to go court, get the subpoenas enforced, get the evidence, get the facts for it and then we will see where we are. I think this just muddies the issue and damages us in many ways as premature.”
Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes also argued that the investigating committees’ work meetings the bar for defending the Constitution.
“I don’t in any way feel like we’re being timid,” he said in the room, according to the source. “I don’t stand in front of any crowd and feel weak.”
New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. told reporters after the meeting he also spoke out against opening an impeachment inquiry.
Huffman argued the opposite, saying, “I certainly tried to make the point that all of this activity is not a substitute for our constitutional duty.”
Judiciary member Joe Neguse told reporters that he and his colleagues who support opening an impeachment inquiry need to continue to talk to their colleagues about the committee efforts to date and why they feel its time to pursue this approach.
“It’s important for all of us to engage in these robust discussions,” the Colorado Democrat said. “We’re going to continue to have those.”
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