Fight over liberal push for impeachment divides House Democrats
Posted June 13, 2017 1:42 p.m. EDT
The Democratic divide over whether it's time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump took center stage at Tuesday morning's closed door weekly meeting of House Democrats.
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano stood up to "heavily criticize" the efforts by California Rep. Brad Sherman to being the process for impeachment, according to a Democratic source in the room. He argued the move to publicly push the issue at the time that most Democrats in Congress awaiting the developments in the various probes is hurting the caucus.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed with Capuano. Her public and private position has been the same in recent weeks, urging Democrats to let the investigation unfold and not to get out front of the issue. But she has also strongly criticized the President, calling him "unfit" and his administration "incompetent."
Sherman circulated a letter Monday to House Democrats saying that he had drafted one article of impeachment focused on "obstruction of justice." His letter concluded, "I have no illusions. Articles of Impeachment will not pass the House in the near future. But given the risk posed to the Republic, we should move things forward as quickly as possible."
Texas Rep. Al Green last month made a speech on the House floor arguing that the President should be impeached and Green and Sherman did a joint news conference recently saying it was time to lay the groundwork to charge the President of wrongdoing.
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Capuano called on members to "have to defend their actions before the entire caucus before going alone on something so explosive" and told those in the meeting that getting out ahead could hurt colleagues in the House and candidates running in the 2018 midterms, this source told CNN.
Sherman attended the morning meeting, but didn't respond to the comments during the session. He told CNN that his name was not mentioned specifically, but he did speak with Capuano afterward about Monday's letter. Capuano demanded inside the caucus that there be a "discussion within the caucus -- in a public forum -- before we do something that would position our colleagues or our future colleagues."
Sherman, an attorney, stated in his letter that he believes, "Trump's use of threats to obstruct the ongoing criminal investigations of Michael Flynn" violates a specific statute. He goes on to argue that "violations of that section are a felony. Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation of his campaign's possible collusion with Russia violated the same statute."
He told CNN he personally opposed going down the impeachment path until he reviewed former FBI Director James Comey's testimony, but said after last week, "we've now got sworn testimony of a crime."
He dismissed the idea that there wasn't widespread support for the "I word", saying, "everybody in the country is talking about impeachment. If you were to muzzle all Democratic members the talk about impeachment would not be diminished by one tenth of 1%."
In the meeting, Capuano told members that right now "emotions are high" and that impeachment has both "political implications and government ones."
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of Democrat, echoed Capuano and other leaders, telling those in the meeting, "There is a need for a family discussion before any issue of this magnitude is brought forward. It's of a courtesy to our colleagues."
Asked about Pelosi's position on holding back on impeachment, Sherman said, "she plays a different role" but insisted "I've kept leadership apprised of every step as I've gone forward."
But Sherman conceded to CNN,"I'm an inch out front. I drafted an article."
He said he plans to continue going through the process of building a case for his draft charge of obstruction, filing it on the House floor in order to get it referred to the judiciary committee and then he plans to push for a hearing on it. He did say that based on his colleagues' reactions to his efforts there is not support for trying to bring up a "privileged resolution" to force a vote on the House floor on his charge that the President broke the law.