WASHINGTON ― House Democrats just moved a lot closer to supporting an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, in the wake of a bombshell report that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate one of his 2020 rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who for months has resisted moving forward with impeachment, is holding meetings Tuesday afternoon with Democrats to gauge the mood of the caucus, after a wave of her deputies and first-term members voiced their support for impeachment proceedings in the past 24 hours.
On Monday night, seven first-term Democrats with national security backgrounds published a joint Washington Post op-ed calling for impeachment proceedings to begin if the Ukraine allegations are true. The lawmakers who wrote the op-ed, all of whom flipped Republican-held districts in 2018, are Reps. Gil Cisneros (Calif.), Jason Crow (Colo.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Elaine Luria (Va.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.). Of the seven, only Crow had previously called for impeachment proceedings to begin.
Meanwhile, two of Pelosi’s top lieutenants ― Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and John Larson (D-Conn.) ― issued statements Monday suggesting that Trump’s efforts to pressure a foreign government to give him dirt on Biden could leave Democrats with little choice but to begin impeachment proceedings.
This is on top of a smattering of rank-and-file Democrats announcing their support for impeachment in the past few days. For example, Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.) and Marc Veasey (Texas) just came out in favor of it. And freshman Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who flipped a suburban, GOP-held district where Trump narrowly lost in 2016, said he now supports impeachment, too.
“If the reports are corroborated, we must pursue articles of impeachment and report them to the full House of Representatives for immediate consideration,” Phillips said.
Trump’s alleged request for election assistance from a foreign government is reportedly the subject of a whistleblower complaint that the administration is refusing to hand over to Congress, which violates federal law. Trump himself confirmed on Sunday that he talked to the Ukrainian president about investigating Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while Biden was vice president.
It’s illegal to ask a foreign government for help with a political campaign. And Trump may have done so while withholding military assistance from Ukraine.
Larson said that if Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, doesn’t hand over the complaint to lawmakers Thursday when he testifies in a House hearing, the administration “has left Congress with no alternative but for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, which I will support.”
A more telling indicator of the tidal shift toward impeachment is the uptick in support among the 31 Democrats representing districts that Trump won. Pelosi is presumably most concerned about shielding these Democrats from political blowback; their embrace of impeachment could undermine Democratic leaders’ political justification for opposing the action.
Since the weekend, nine Democrats representing districts that Trump won in 2016 have announced their support for impeachment: Slotkin, Spanberger, Sherrill, Luria, Antonio Delgado of New York, Haley Stevens of Michigan, Angie Craig of Minnesota, Andy Kim of New Jersey and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.
“The president has admitted to soliciting the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival,” Delgado said in a statement. “This, by itself, is an impeachable offense.”
But of the 31 Democrats in Trump districts, that brings the total supporting impeachment to just 11. Another eight of those Trump-district Democrats, who include first-term and some veteran members, are still opposed to impeachment. And 12 Democrats in seats Trump won have kept quiet, and their offices did not respond to requests for comment.
The momentum for impeachment is not overwhelming ― at least, not yet. Democrats will need to cobble together 218 votes if they plan to pass an impeachment resolution on the House floor. For the moment, they have about 170 votes in favor.
Kim, one of those 31 Democrats in Trump districts, said Tuesday that he supports impeachment if Trump did, in fact, pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. Trump himself has already confirmed he talked about Biden’s family with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“By urging the Ukrainian government to take action to influence our Democracy, Trump has violated that power and the trust of the American people,” Kim said Tuesday in a statement. “If the facts are corroborated, that violation, and my understanding of its implications, has led me to come to the conclusion that the President has committed an impeachable offense.”
Later on Tuesday, Cartwright, who represents a northeast Pennsylvania district that Trump won by over 10 percentage points in 2016, announced that he supports impeachment hearings, even if they won’t result in an actual impeachment. He had previously refused to back the measure.
“There have been credible allegations this week that the President abused the power of his office, on the international stage, for his own political gain,” Cartwright said in a statement. “We need to get to the bottom of these serious allegations through comprehensive impeachment proceedings and document production.”
This story has been updated with comments from Kim and Cartwright.