Liberal activists are increasingly agitating for President Trump to be impeached after this week’s successful prosecutions of his personal lawyer and former campaign chairman, putting Democratic leaders in a tough spot.
Tom Steyer’s “Need to Impeach” campaign announced a new round of ads, and Hollywood types took to Twitter to wonder why the latest developments — a guilty plea by the president’s former lawyer and a conviction for his former campaign chairman — aren’t enough evidence for leaders to get on the impeachment train.
“Whether we like it, want it, or oppose it, the November election will be about impeachment,” tweeted Rep. Al Green, the Texas Democrat who has already forced several failed impeachment votes.
His party’s leaders are determined not to be baited into a fight they don’t want, but they also need to fan the flames of antipathy feeding the impeachment push to keep their voters engaged through the election.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said this week that impeachment is “not a priority,” and Sen. Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the upper chamber, said it’s premature to go down that route. He said Congress needs to wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to air his findings from the Russia probe, which a Fox News poll this week showed nearly 60 percent of registered voters support.
“We should let the facts come out from the Mueller investigation and then draw the conclusion from those,” Mr. Durbin told reporters Thursday on Capitol Hill.
But the fact that he fielded an impeachment question during a press conference intended to be about his meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh signals the growing interest in the question.
Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of eight counts of fraud, and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to fraud and campaign finance violations. Cohen implicated Mr. Trump in his plea deal, saying the then-candidate directed hush payments be made to a porn actress and a Playboy model.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said that makes Mr. Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in a crime.
And while he hasn’t called for impeachment, that kind of rhetoric fuels demands from his base.
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore put the moment in Nixonesque terms, retweeting a photograph of a ticket to the impeachment proceedings for President Richard Nixon, which went unused after he resigned.
“Trump’s impeachment ticket will also go unused — unless everyone who sees & shares this tweet commits to spending 1 (or every) weekend in Oct in a House dist. we can flip!” Mr. Moore said.
Mr. Steyer said Mr. Trump must go: “We’re getting down to brass tacks, but 58 constitutional scholars have agreed for months: He’s more than met the criteria for impeachment.”
The public, however, isn’t there yet.
A Fox News poll taken in the days leading up to this week’s legal developments found just 40 percent of people believe the special counsel’s probe will find evidence that makes impeachment and removal likely.
And a Quinnipiac University Survey released this month found just 36 percent of voters would like Democrats to begin the impeachment process against Mr. Trump if they take over the House, compared to 58 percent who oppose the notion — including 59 percent of independent voters.
Mr. Trump said Thursday that he was miffed by all the impeachment buzz.
“I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “I’ll tell you what: If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only presidents to be impeached by the House, a process that requires only a majority vote. Neither of them were convicted and removed by the Senate, where the Constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority.
Republicans and their allies have pounced on the impeachment push, demanding vulnerable Senate Democrats pick a side in the debate — and risk alienating pro-Trump voters or the liberal base.
The National Republican Senate Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, released a radio ad Thursday warning that a vote for Sen. Jon Tester in Montana “is a vote to put liberal Democrats in control where they will work to impeach President Trump.”
In Indiana, Republican Mike Braun’s campaign said Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly’s silence on the issue “affirms he is open to impeaching President Trump.”
The attack against Mr. Donnelly came after Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat who voted against earlier impeachment efforts against Mr. Trump, signaled in an interview with Fox59 in Indianapolis that he will support the effort if Democrats win the House.
“Having a sitting U.S. president listed as an unindicted co-conspirator, to me, meets the test, meets the standard,” said Mr. Carson, Indiana Democrat.
Mr. Green said he expects more of those conversions among his colleagues.
“I think it is becoming increasingly clear that the president will have two options — one, he can resign from office or two, he can face impeachment,” Mr. Green said on Democracy Now. “Impeachment is something the Framers of the Constitution provided for a time such as this and a president such as Trump.”
• Alex Swoyer and Gabriella Munoz contributed to this article.
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