WASHINGTON – Rep. Al Green filed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday night, triggering a contentious vote in the coming days to confront an issue that has bitterly divided the Democratic Party.
The Texas congressman, who notified Democratic leaders of his decision on Tuesday, said the House must impeach Trump for racist remarks suggesting four minority congresswoman “go back” to their ancestral countries as well as other comments made in the past. The four Democrats – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are all citizens; three were born in the United States.
“Donald John Trump has, by his statements, brought the high office of the President of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace and disrepute, has sown discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President, and has betrayed his trust as President of the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States, and has committed a high misdemeanor in office,” Green read from his resolution on the House floor Tuesday night.”
Green’s move will force House Democrats to deal with the issue in the near term because of the privileged nature of the resolution. Under House rules, Democratic leadership can decide to try to table the impeachment articles, effectively killing them for now and risk criticism from the party’s liberal base; refer them to the House Judiciary Committee for possible consideration; or allow the vote to proceed.
If leaders do nothing, Green can force a vote on the impeachment articles in two legislative days.
The move comes as more than 80 members of the House have called for launching an impeachment inquiry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted, however, encouraging her chairmen to keep investigating the president for potential abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
The matter is likely to divide the caucus, which has grappled for months with the question of what to do about Trump. Even impeachment proponents seemed divided about whether it is wise to force the issue now.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he would support an immediate move to impeach the president, even voting against Democratic leaders should they try to refer the matter to committee to sideline the debate.
“In all probability, I’d vote against it, because I’m prepared to vote,” he said of the possibility of leadership moving to table or refer the resolution to committee. “My district wants me to vote for the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump.”
But others, like Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a strong impeachment backer, hesitated.
“We’re trying to keep the caucus together as we respond to the most lawless administration of our lifetimes,” Raskin said. “I’m enough of a political pragmatist to believe that you call votes when you think you can win them, not when you think you can lose them.”
Certain to be wary are moderates and lawmakers from districts that Trump won in 2016 who have long feared blowback for such a vote.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who leads the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, said, “I don’t think that we have completed the process or the investigations that we need to, to take that step at this time.” Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., a freshman from a swing district, said he would vote against the resolution.
“I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t think it’s healthy,” he said of Green’s effort.
Leaders, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois, were resigned to the likelihood that they could not stop the vote, even if they wanted to.
“I can’t control what another member does, so it looks like that’s going to happen and we’re just going to have to deal with that,” Bustos said.
Leadership officials said Pelosi would likely refer the articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee or table them, though her office has not weighed in on the matter. Some Democratic aides, however, worry that Pelosi could struggle to find the votes to refer to the panel because it would take a majority of her caucus. Republicans, according to a senior GOP leadership aide, are not likely to help deliver those votes.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Some have questioned the timing of Green’s move. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to receive testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller next Wednesday, perhaps the most high-profile hearing in decades. Impeachment proponents hoped Mueller would spark new supporters, but they’re not sure Trump’s racist tweets will have the same effect.
Leadership, meanwhile, advanced a resolution condemning Trump’s attacks on their colleagues, alleviating some of the pressure that party leaders were under to respond to the president’s sharp words about the four congresswomen.
House Rule Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a close Pelosi ally, tried to keep the focus on the former, which passed Tuesday night.
“Look, this is an important vote we’re going to have today,” he said. “This is the first time that I can recall that we’re actually . . . condemning the president for his words, which were racist, and it’s disgusting,” he said. “This is not normal. This is so divisive.”
Rep. Cedric Richardson, D-La., said that if Green forces the matter, “I’m going to vote for it.” But Richardson wondered whether it was “the most strategic thing right now without a game plan.”
“I just don’t think that impeachment is going to happen before Mueller testifies, before we gain more evidence and all those other things,” he said.