What 2020 Democrats are saying about impeachment

Some presidential hopefuls called on the House to open impeachment proceedings, while others deferred to Congress

Published April 23, 2019 2:55PM (EDT)


Top Democrats have appeared exceedingly cautious about answering the question of whether they plan to open impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in the wake of the public release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's long-anticipated report.

The release of Mueller's 448-page report detailed the special counsel's nearly two-year investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election. In his report, Mueller did not find that Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, although he disclosed at least ten instances in which the president may have obstructed justice. A threshold of "high crimes and misdemeanors" is set in order to attempt to remove a president from office.

Still, the Democratic Party's leadership has remained hesitant to talk about impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit to impeaching Trump on Monday, and she made clear that the party's near-term strategy was to focus on aggressively investigating the president and see where their various wide-ranging probes lead, while other top lawmakers have demanded the special counsel's unredacted findings and called for further hearings into the matter.

While the decision of whether to launch impeachment proceedings is up to the House of Representatives, the question of whether to impeach Trump entered the 2020 presidential sphere in recent days when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the first Democratic presidential candidate to call on the lower chamber to begin proceedings.

Previously, the crowded field of presidential hopefuls sidestepped the explosive issue — and some still do, with multiple candidates deferring to Congress on the matter. But Warren put down a marker in the wake of Mueller's report — and the rest of the Democratic presidential field is now facing reignited chatter and debate over whether their colleagues in the House should start proceedings to remove Trump from office.

Here's where they currently stand:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: She was the first 2020 candidate to clearly call for proceedings, following the public release of Mueller's report. Warren tweeted on Friday, "The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States."

Sen. Kamala Harris: The California Democrat expressed support for impeachment in a town hall on Monday night, saying, "We have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted, which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice. I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment."

Julián Castro: The former housing and urban development secretary supports opening impeachment proceedings. He told CNN on Friday that it would be "perfectly reasonable" for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Rep. Eric Swalwell:  The gun control activist told ABC News on Tuesday, "We're certainly having a conversation about how we hold this president accountable. I wouldn't say impeachment is off the table." He also echoed calls from top Democrats for Mueller to testify before Congress, saying, "Let Mueller lay it out. Let's hear his voice describe the combat and see where that leaves Republicans and where that leaves the public."

Beto O'Rourke: The skateboarding former Texas congressman has previously called for Trump's impeachment, although he has not addressed the topic since the release of Mueller's report last week.

Sen. Bernie Sanders:  The self-described democratic socialist warned Democrats that pushing for impeachment could cause political blowback for the party. Speaking at a CNN town hall event on Monday, Sanders expressed support for the House's investigations into the president but said he's concerned that Democrats would abandon issues that Americans care most about if they move to impeach Trump. "If for the next year or year and a half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump, and Trump, Trump, Trump and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we’re not talking about health care, we're not talking about raising the minimum wage … we're not talking about combating climate change … and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, I worry that works to Trump's advantage," he said.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg: The chief executive of South Bend, Ind. said on Monday that while he's "made it pretty clear [Trump] deserves impeachment," he would “leave it to the House and the Senate to figure that out."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: The lawmaker from Massachusetts has avoided taking a position on impeachment, arguing senators are meant to act as a jury on impeachment. She said on Monday, "I believe that I'm the jury here, so I'm not going to predispose things. ... What I will say is there are very disturbing things that would lead you to believe there's obstruction of justice."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: The lawmaker from New York criticized Attorney General William Barr's handling of Mueller's report and called for an unredacted version to be released on Thursday. She avoided taking a clear stance on impeachment, telling supporters at a campaign stop in Iowa on Friday, "I want the American people get to hear [Mueller's] words and hear what he says."

Gov. Jay Inslee: The governor of Washington recently told Fox News he believes "impeachment should not be off the table," deferring to Congress.

Sen. Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator said on Saturday, "I do not think it's time to move towards impeachment." He said Congress needs to see the special counsel's entire report "without its redactions” and called on Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: The congresswoman from Hawaii told Fox News on Sunday that Mueller's investigation found "no collusion" between Trump and Russia, adding: “Now is the time for us to come together as a country to put the issues and the interests and the concerns that the American people have at the forefront, to take action to bring about real solutions for them."

She continued, "I don't think that we should defeat Donald Trump through impeachment. I think it's really important for us, in this country, to come together and have the American people vote to take Donald Trump out of office in 2020."

Rep. Seth Moulton: The former Marine who served in Iraq and has a moderate voting record told ABC News on Monday, "I don't think it's a right time to have a vote on impeachment until we get the evidence out there. But we should be having this debate, and frankly, we should have been having it starting last year."

Rep. Tim Ryan: The Ohio congressman who jumped into the 2020 race earlier this month said he does not believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, instead deferring to the House Judiciary Committee. He told CNN on Thursday, "This is very, very, very serious. I believe that the first step is to have Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., continue to open up this investigation to better understand this. We are just getting this document. Let the Judiciary Committee look at this," adding he believes "that's the natural next step and let's see where that leads."

John Delaney: The former congressman from Maryland responded to the release of Mueller's report on Thursday with a vague tweet. He wrote, "The one conclusion that every American should reach from the Mueller report is that we are better than this. We deserve a president free on conflicts, conducting themselves with honor and integrity and possessing a moral compass that guides their actions. We have to win in 2020."

Andrew Yang: The entrepreneur has not revealed his position on impeachment. He recently tweeted, "I am glad that the Mueller Report has been made public. It's important to the American people. My focus is on beating Donald Trump at the ballot box and solving the problems that got him elected in the first place."

Mike Gravel: The two-term former senator from Alaska, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination with the explicit intention of pushing other candidates to the left on the debate stage, tweeted that his campaign "won't be doing tweets about the mueller [sic] report because it's pointless."

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and self-help author Marianne Williamson have not directly addressed impeaching Trump since the release of Mueller's report last week. This article may be updated.

By Shira Tarlo

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