Tension emerges between Congress, 2020 Democrats on impeachment

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON — Some top Democrats vying for the White House in 2020 are clamoring for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, but many of their congressional colleagues — who would have to manage such efforts — are far more wary.

The same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged rank-and-file Democrats to proceed with caution following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing 10 areas of potential obstruction of justice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren doubled down on her impeachment call.

“If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail,” Warren said Monday at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire.

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At the same event, California Sen. Kamala Harris said Congress should “take the steps towards impeachment.” Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro has also said he’d back such efforts.

The split reflects tensions that could emerge in coming months between Democrats on Capitol Hill and those seeking the party’s presidential nomination. While the White House hopefuls are trying to rally their base with ambitious proposals and bold calls to take on Trump, those in Congress are tasked with the more arduous task of governing.

The dynamic has already been on display with proposals such as the Green New Deal, which many presidential candidates have embraced to prove their progressive bona fides even as it goes nowhere in Congress. But the debate over impeachment is particularly explosive, and Democrats — including those seeking the White House — are divided over whether it would distract from besting Trump at the polls.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said at Monday’s town hall that Congress should do a “hard investigation” to see if the president obstructed justice. But “if, for the next year, 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, Mueller, Mueller, Mueller,” then “what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” Sanders said.

The Democrat-controlled House could begin impeachment proceedings, but the party doesn’t have the votes in the Senate to secure a conviction without Republican support. Another presidential contender, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, sidestepped questions of whether Congress should push forward on the issue, saying at the town hall: “I believe that I am the jury here, so I’m not going to predispose things.”