The idea that Congress might impeach President Donald Trump seems to get more plausible with every passing day. Politico reports that some Congressional Republicans have started talking off-record about impeachment, and that the Department of Justice plans to appoint a former FBI director as a special, independent prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation. The revelation that Trump leaned on FBI director James Comey to stymie the Bureau’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia (and then fired Comey), in particular, may offer a specific crime on which to focus calls for impeachment.
But don’t expect Seattle’s congressional representatives to support Trump’s impeachment in the immediate future. For the time being, their goal is to ensure independent investigation into the Russia allegations.
“If true, Donald Trump’s attempt to influence and intimidate the FBI Director James Comey to block an investigation is a textbook definition of obstruction of justice and it would be an impeachable offense,” said Representatives Pramila Jayapal in a press release yesterday. Omer Farooque, a spokesperson for Jayapal, emphasizes the “if” at the beginning of that sentence, and says Jayapal wants more information before committing for or against impeachment proceedings. “She believes we need a thorough investigation…to get all the informaton,” he says. “She wants Republicans to also see that an investigation is becoming more and more. She’s been saying for months that we need an independent investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia.
“Once we have that information, you make a determination based on the severity of it.”
According to a spokesperson in his office, Rep. Adam Smith agrees. He believes that “calling for impeachment before we have a special prosecutor is premature. Allegations that have been made about the President’s actions certainly give rise to the possibility of impeachable offenses, but [Smith] feels this needs to be fully investigated.”
As The New York Times reported today, one of the disincentives for Republicans who might otherwise jump to impeach Trump is Democrats’ enthusiasm for the same. On the other hand, Trump is unprecedentedly unpopular for a new president, and replacing him with the comparatively conventional Mike Pence would only help Republicans’ ability to pass legislation.
There is presumably a tipping point at which congressional Republicans’ propensity to avoid blowback among general voters will outweigh their allegience to party and power (and their fear of blowback from hardcore Trump voters). None stepped forward to defend Trump after news broke on Tuesday that he leaned on Comey. As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote today, “Republicans on Capitol Hill, although they have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to overlook Trump’s misdeeds and falsehoods, are ultimately concerned with their own political futures. For any of them to have come out and backed Trump’s credibility against Comey’s credibility would have taken an act of masochism, or sheer foolishness.
“Does this mean that they are ready to impeach Trump? Of course not.” Neither are Democrats. Both sides are being careful not to appear to be jumping to conclusions—what if more evidence surfaces next week that again transforms the landscape?
Like everyone else, stay tuned.