Members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus are increasing calls for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. It’s a call being echoed by North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman.
Huffman is a caucus member who believes the time to open inquiries into impeachment is now and said the first steps should be to determine just what activities could lead to impeachment proceedings.
“You are going to hear the word ‘inquiry’ a lot from those of us in that camp,” Huffman told the Times-Standard on Thursday. “There is a distinction that needs to be made by even the most ardent impeachment advocates and that’s we need to begin inquiries. Nobody is suggesting we go directly to a vote on the house floor; that’s what the Republicans did in 1998. There were no hearings, no deliberations, they took the Starr report and a got a partisan vote and that’s why it was perceived as a partisan exercise and not a Constitutional action.”
“We need to begin hearings,” he continued. “We need to be in a different posture so we can put these proceedings into the proper context for the American people and also to dispel these frivolous legal arguments from the White House that (Congress lacks) legitimate legislative purpose in the impeachment process. I don’t think that’s a serious argument.”
Huffman identified several areas where he believes the president has flouted the law and committed violations that could lead to formal impeachment hearings.
“I see four areas that should be the focus of impeachment inquiry,” Huffman said. “One is obstruction of justice identified in the Mueller report and that would include any ongoing obstruction. Two, a look into corruption and violations of the emolument clause. Third would focus on conspiracy resulting from the investigation by the Southern District of New York, a campaign contribution conspiracy that extends to his presidency. (Trump) was signing checks for the cover-up as president of the United States, literally in the Oval Office. Fourth, the abuse of power. This gets into the various ways he’s defied congressional authority such as misusing the office of the President to violate his oath of office and overriding his national security advisor to give security clearances to family members.”
While Democrats have started to beat the drum louder when it comes to the possible impeachment of a sitting president, there has been no indication that any members of the GOP are on board other than Rep. Justin Amash. But in private conversations, Huffman said it’s a bit different.
“I spoke with a GOP colleague this week, who, behind closed doors was in full agreement that this man is a threat to our democracy and embarrassment to our country,” Huffman said. “Now mind you, he’s not about to say those things publicly.”
Top Democratic leaders like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer both support a methodical legal approach and have resisted calls to open direct impeachment proceedings. Hoyer is on the record saying inquiries are the best place to start.
“We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest cover-up in American history,” Hoyer told the Associated Press earlier this week, adding that if House inquiries “(lead) to other avenues including impeachment, so be it.”
On Thursday, Pelosi said the “White House is crying out for impeachment hearings” because they believe it will help the president’s re-election campaign.
Huffman said an impeachment process will be slowed down by ongoing legal battles the White House is already fighting but he said the increasingly erratic behavior displayed by the president could begin to sway more House members toward impeachment.
“I have a general sense we’re going to hit some form of threshold and I think it will be soon,” Huffman said. “I think Trump’s tantrum (Wednesday) in the infrastructure meeting moved some Democratic members towards impeachment inquiries. What he is essentially saying is drop everything or I won’t work with you on anything. That’s such an extreme position I think even folks reluctant to join me are a lot closer today.”
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.