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2020 Dems Tiptoe Around Impeachment    05/26 11:48

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic leaders in Congress have argued that 
impeaching President Donald Trump is a political mistake as the 2020 election 
nears. Most of the candidates running to succeed him seem to agree, for now.

   Fewer than one-third of the 23 Democrats vying for the nomination are 
issuing calls to start the impeachment process, citing evidence in special 
counsel Robert Mueller's report they believe shows Trump obstructed justice . 
Most others, including leading contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, have 
found a way to hedge or search for middle ground, supporting investigations 
that could lead to impeachment or saying Trump's conduct warrants impeachment 
but stopping short of any call for such a proceeding.

   The candidates' reluctance, even as more congressional Democrats start 
pushing their leaders in the direction, underscores the risky politics of 
investigating the president for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Impeachment 
matters deeply to the party's base but remains unpopular with most Americans.

   White House hopefuls may win praise from liberal activists by pressing House 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for an impeachment inquiry, but those who fall 
short of insisting are unlikely to take heat from early-state primary voters 
more focused on other issues.

   "People talk about it and people have opinions about it, but health care is 
much more salient to them," Sue Dvorsky, a former head of the Iowa Democratic 
Party, said in an interview. "I just don't see Democratic activists here all 
worked up about impeachment. They trust Pelosi."

   The 2020 candidates are facing pressure from the left to take a harder line 
on impeachment as the Trump administration's stiff-arming of subpoenas leaves 
House Democrats fuming and a growing number of lawmakers urge Pelosi to 
initiate an inquiry constitutionally required to remove Trump from office. Leah 
Greenberg, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, described the 
absence of louder calls for impeachment from the candidates as "a real gap in 
leadership."

   "What we're seeing is, some Democrats would prefer to keep the topic focused 
on places where they're most comfortable and some Democrats would prefer to 
play pundits on this," Greenberg said in an interview.

   Tom Steyer, a California billionaire, has run television ads and held town 
halls across the country as part of a campaign calling for Trump's impeachment. 
He suggested that candidates who haven't yet endorsed impeachment "have a 
political problem telling the truth about this."

   Steyer said that if the public saw televised, unfiltered hearings that 
showed "exactly how bad this president is and exactly who he's surrounded 
himself with and how corrupt he really is," Democrats and Republicans alike 
would "reject that kind of behavior." Steyer declined to enter the 2020 
presidential race himself.

   The administration's blockade of congressional investigations and Mueller's 
report detailing possible obstruction action have yet to push any new 
Democratic candidates off the fence.

   Former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner, said last month 
there is "no alternative" but impeachment if the administration keeps 
stonewalling congressional investigations. But Biden has notably stopped short 
of urging Pelosi to move forward.

   Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's running second in most polls, told CNN 
this past week "it may be time to at least begin the process" which could 
result in impeachment. But he warned in the same interview that Trump could try 
to exact political gains from any impeachment effort. Pete Buttigieg said last 
week that Trump "deserves impeachment," but the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 
stressed that he would defer to Pelosi on the timing for taking any formal 
steps.

   New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told The Associated Press on Friday that Trump's 
refusal to cooperate with Congress amounts to "undermining the Article I branch 
of the government's ability to conduct its constitutional mandates." But he 
gave Pelosi wide leeway. He acknowledged that "she's feeling the frustration 
from Democrats in the House" and said that "should getting cooperation from the 
administration not work, I know she'll increasingly be considering her options."

   Even California Sen. Kamala Harris, who said after the release of Mueller's 
report last month that "Congress should take the steps towards impeachment," is 
emphasizing her pessimism that Senate Republicans would act on impeachment if 
the matter came before them.

   The most vocal pro-impeachment candidates are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth 
Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Obama housing chief Julian 
Castro. Two others, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and California Rep. Eric 
Swalwell, also have supported the start of the impeachment process.

   Moulton and Swalwell are among four candidates could vote on impeachment, as 
current House members. Pelosi and other House leaders have signaled clearly 
that they want to pursue investigations into Trump, including two lawsuits 
where they scored victories this past week, rather than start a consuming and 
politically uncertain impeachment process. If the House did vote to impeach 
Trump, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate to support 
conviction in order to remove the president from office.

   Given the slim likelihood of that, it's no surprise to Democrats outside the 
nation's capital that impeachment isn't gaining steam among the candidates.

   "The people I talk seem to be more interested in what the next president is 
going to do to make their lives better rather than what they think about 
impeachment," New Hampshire state Rep. David Morrill said in an interview.


(KA)

 
 
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