If Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has anything to say about it, the impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday by House Democrats will be short and its outcome in no doubt.
Jayapal, a Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which will be charged with drafting potential articles of impeachment, said “we don’t need to investigate any longer,” arguing Trump has publicly admitted to impeachable offenses.
“The crimes have been committed in clear daylight. People should stop looking for a secret smoking gun. Donald Trump is the smoking gun,” Jayapal said in an interview Tuesday, citing Trump’s acknowledgment he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate potential 2020 campaign rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
“The president has publicly admitted to having a conversation with a foreign leader and telling him he wants an investigation against a political opponent,” Jayapal said, pointing also to news reports that Trump ordered aides to hold back $400 million in military aid to Ukraine before his phone call.
In May, Jayapal became the first member of Washington’s congressional delegation to call for an impeachment inquiry — a stance since joined by the state’s six other House Democrats and two Democratic U.S. senators.
But, in a split reflective of the national partisan divide, none of the state’s three Republican members of Congress has endorsed an impeachment inquiry — though some on Tuesday called for more information about Trump’s conduct with Ukraine.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, the state’s longest serving Republican House member, accused Democrats of a rush to judgment.
“This is yet another example of the hyperpartisan political climate today. Instead of waiting for all the facts, House Democrats are jumping to unfounded conclusions,” she said in a statement.
McMorris Rodgers said she’s pleased Trump “is being transparent” by agreeing to release a transcript of his phone conversation with Ukraine’s president. “I will be reviewing the facts before making any decisions on what’s best for the American people,” she said.
A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers said she supports release of a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s Ukraine dealings. The administration is reviewing the complaint for possible release to Congress, and bipartisan calls for its disclosure have grown. The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday for Trump to release the complaint.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, did not directly address impeachment in a statement Tuesday, but called for additional information to be released.
“Americans deserve the utmost transparency with regard to the recent, serious allegations involving Ukraine. We must find the facts. I support the president’s decision to release the call transcript and believe he should do so as soon as practicable.”
In a follow up statement, Herrera Beutler said it’s “premature to make a judgment on impeachment before anyone has even seen the transcript of the president’s conversation or the whistleblower documents.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, has previously bashed calls for impeachment of Trump as “partisan attacks.” His office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
If the House were to vote to impeach, a trial would be conducted in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Getting a conviction would require a two-thirds majority vote — a hurdle that wasn’t cleared in the impeachments of presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, as each was acquitted.
Still, Democrats who support the impeachment probe say the House has an obligation to act. “We have to do our constitutional duty… we cannot predicate it on what a Republican Senate will do,” Jayapal said.
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, acknowledged in a statement in July the impeachment effort could backfire politically — even giving Trump a greater shot at reelection. “That may be true. What is truer is that nothing less than the rule of law is at stake,” he said at the time.
Democrats should move “very quickly” toward impeaching Trump, Jayapal said, while remaining “strategic” about the most effective charges to lay against him; she said strong cases can be made for obstruction of Congress, violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and obstruction of justice.
Both of Washington’s U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, issued statements Tuesday supporting the House impeachment inquiry.
Murray pointed back to Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, saying Trump’s conduct with Ukraine is inviting similar interference again. “This is gross corruption and a clear threat to our democracy. Anyone who doesn’t speak out is complicit,” she wrote on Twitter.
In 1999, Murray voted against convicting Clinton in his impeachment trial, arguing the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice against him had not been proven sufficiently to warrant removing him from office.