U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal called this week for the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, saying that “there are serious, impeachable offenses” outlined in the Mueller Report.
So far, Jayapal’s Washington colleagues in Congress do not agree.
The rest of Washington’s Democratic congressional delegation, while they had harsh words for Trump and his administration’s refusal to cooperate with House investigations, stopped short of calling for the start of the impeachment process.
Jayapal, the lone member of Washington’s 12-person congressional delegation who sits on the House judiciary committee, where an impeachment inquiry would begin, said that if the administration continues to defy House subpoenas and block former aides from testifying, then more and more House members may conclude that impeachment is their only recourse. A majority of Democrats on the committee support launching an impeachment inquiry, Jayapal said.
“This administration has made it clear that they are going to stonewall every step of the way, they do not believe in checks and balances, they believe the president is above the law, they do not believe Congress is a coequal branch of government,” Jayapal, D-Seattle, said in a phone interview. “They could stop us from moving to an impeachment inquiry right now if they wanted, they could let Don McGahn testify.”
The administration on Monday directed McGahn, the former White House counsel and a key witness in the Mueller Report, to disregard a subpoena ordering him to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Trump has vowed to fight all subpoenas issued by the House. But twice this week, federal judges have refused to block House subpoenas seeking financial records from both Trump’s accounting firm and banks that did business with him.
“If you have one branch of government disregard the authority of the other branches of government, you are taking away those checks and balances,” Jayapal said. “It really is the difference, if you do that, between a dictatorship where one person holds all the power, and a system of democracy where three branches are accountable to each other.”
But Washington’s other Democratic members of Congress are more hesitant than Jayapal. None want to open an impeachment inquiry right now; all advocated a similar course to that charted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — allow House investigations to continue, but hold off on any push for impeachment.
Washington’s three Republican members of Congress — Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse — have generally called for moving on from investigations after the release of the Mueller Report.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, came the closest to joining Jayapal, tiptoeing right up to the edge of calling for an impeachment inquiry.
“We need to prepare to begin impeachment proceedings, but we are still conducting our full investigation,” Smith said. He said the most important thing now is to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify to Congress “so that the American people have an understanding of exactly what his report found.”
“With that critical information, a firm understanding of Mueller’s findings, and clear evidence of wrongdoing, I think it’s likely I would be prepared to move forward with an impeachment proceeding,” Smith said.
Rep. Rick Larsen was most explicit in saying that he opposes an impeachment inquiry.
“The character of this president is not unimpeachable, but Congress’ goal is to look at the conduct of the president,” Larsen, D-Everett, said. “The committees are making progress using the powers of Congress to do appropriate oversight of the president and his administration.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell said House investigations must continue but declined to answer questions about beginning an impeachment inquiry. “Witnesses need to testify and must not be allowed to impede the investigations and oversight,” Cantwell said.
Sen. Patty Murray said that what we learned from the Mueller Report “could not be more serious or concerning,” but stopped short of calling for an impeachment inquiry.
“I understand why there is growing frustration in the House about stonewalling from President Trump on questions critical to our ability to hold people accountable,” Murray said. “As we continue gathering the facts, all options must be on the table.”
Rep. Suzan DelBene said she was “beyond frustrated and concerned” at the president’s refusal to comply with subpoenas, but referenced the House’s recent court victories.
“I expect these legal victories to continue as Congress exercises our constitutional oversight responsibilities,” DelBene, D-Medina, said. “However if the administration continues its obstructive actions by defying court orders, then that leaves Congress with few options and may make impeachment unavoidable.”
Rep. Kim Schrier said she was “furious” that the president was not complying with requests for information and that House investigations are critical.
“Once we get a clear sense of what happened, nothing is off the table,” Schrier, D-Sammamish, said. “I stand by my earlier statement that the fastest way to remove the president from office is to vote him out in 18 months.”
Rep. Derek Kilmer said Trump’s refusal to supply documents and information “is not acceptable,” but did not directly address questions about an impeachment inquiry.
“Congress will continue to fulfill its responsibility and duty to safeguard the Constitution, protect democratic institutions from corruption and perform oversight,” Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said. “Members of Congress and the American public have a right to know the facts so that the true merits of the special counsel’s investigation and the administration’s actions can be considered.”
Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said he takes the word of former federal prosecutors who say that the president obstructed justice.
“I don’t know if that will lead to impeachment, as Congress is still investigating,” Heck said. “But the president does himself no favors by doubling down on his obstruction and continuing to stonewall investigations that Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct.”