“I believe the (House) Judiciary Committee should begin impeachment inquiries,” Sanders said at a campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, on Thursday. “That is inquiries, not impeachment, to determine whether or not Trump has committed impeachable offenses.”
Sanders, one of more than 20 candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, previously had stopped short of calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. His position had been that he feared opening impeachment proceedings could help re-elect Trump to a second term.
During his remarks on Thursday, which went mostly unnoticed by national media, Sanders again made the case that impeachment could backfire because of lack of support in the Senate ― among Democrats as well as Republicans ― for convicting Trump on impeachment charges and thereby removing him from office.
“It may well be that Donald Trump wants to be impeached because he knows that in the Senate … there are 47 Democrats and not all of them today would impeach Trump,” he said.
The Constitution requires two-thirds support from the 100-member Senate for any impeachment charge that passed the House via a majority of its 435-members.
“The challenge will be to walk down two paths simultaneously,” in dealing Trump’s conduct in office, Sanders said. “We cannot make ordinary Americans think we have forgotten that they are working longer hours for lower wages, that they can’t afford health care, that their kids can’t go to college, that climate change is a huge issue,” Sanders said.
A growing number of lawmakers have called for impeachment proceedings following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential obstruction by Trump of that probe, including over 50 House Democrats and a number of presidential candidates.
In his statement on Wednesday, Mueller reiterated that his office’s decision not to charge Trump with any crimes did not amount to an exoneration. He cited the Department of Justice’s long-standing policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted on federal charges as the reason his office did not consider that option.
But Mueller alluded to impeachment, noting that the Constitution “requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has so far resisted calls for impeachment, stating after Mueller’s press conference on Wednesday that Congress would continue to investigate the president and hold him accountable for “his abuse of power.”
“The Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy,” she said. “The American people must have the truth.”
Pelosi’s position has been echoed by other top Democrats in the lower chamber. But House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) appeared to go further than the speaker during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Asked by host Jake Tapper whether he believes impeachment proceedings will begin in the House “at some point, but just not right now,” Clyburn responded: “Yes, that’s exactly what I feel.”
Clyburn noted that the House has “got all of these committees doing their work” and “having hearings” on various allegations of misfeasance by Trump.
Still, Clyburn called for patience and urged Democrats to take their time “and do this right” in their investigations of Trump.