New York, April 23 (IANS) A split Democratic Party has put off impeaching President Donald Trump, with the centrist wing led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi prevailing over the left at a teleconference of members of the House of Representatives to discuss the inquiry report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Laying out the roadmap for following up the findings in the report, Pelosi told the party legislators on Monday that they can investigate Trump without an impeachment and gather information to act against him.
“We aren’t going to go faster, we are going to go as fast as the facts take us,” she said, according to reports.
“We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy.”
The meeting was held with a sense of urgency in the week after the release of the report via teleconferencing because Congress is on a two-week recess and members are scattered around their country in their constituencies or are travelling.
The report of the inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller released by Attorney General William Barr exonerated Trump and his campaign of allegations of colluding with Russia. But the report left open the possibility that Trump may have obstructed justice by interfering with the investigation without coming to a conclusion on that allegation. Some Democrats want to make that the basis for impeachment.
The centrist strategy is to instead demand Trump’s financial and other records that they expect could unearth business and financial wrong-doing that would be more actionable.
Asked if he was worried about impeachment, Trump told the media: “Not even a little bit.”
Democratic Party leadership realises that impeachment is unlikely to lead to an ouster of Trump. While the Democrats have the majority in the House to impeach him – which is basically framing charges – the Senate, where the trial on the charge would be held, is controlled by the Republicans and two-thirds majority will be needed for conviction and removal from office.
The centrists, therefore, feel it will only be a symbolic gesture that could backfire going into the elections next year by distracting from the party’s message on social and economic policies, while also turning off some Republican supporters who voted for Democratic candidates in last year’s midterm elections that gave control of the House to the party.
Healthcare, education, economic inequality, divisiveness and degradation of civic life are seen to have more universal resonance than impeaching Trump.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the party nomination for the presidency and is a leftist, called for the impeachment over the weekend. Others calling for impeachment include Representatives Rashid Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Premila Jayapal – all leftists, whose importance Pelosi dismissed in a TV interview as “that’s like five people”.
But Representative Ro Khanna, who is on the party’s left, said in a TV interview that he did not think Congress is prepared to impeach Trump and would need more time to investigate him.
Democratic Party’s centrist leadership is laying the groundwork for it.
The House Judiciary Committee has called Trump’s former lawyer Donald McGahn to testify before it and provide documents. He is one of the most quoted witnesses in the Russia probe report, which said he pushed back against Trump’s orders to get Mueller dismissed.
That would be a key element for obstruction of justice charge. But as the President’s lawyer, he would have information about other matters too.
Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee which has jurisdiction for chair, gave a deadline of Tuesday for the tax agency to produce Trump’s tax filings from 2013 to 2018. It is unlikely it would meet the deadline and litigation is expected.
Trump’s lawyers filed a case on Monday in a federal court against House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, who has demanded that Trump’s family and business accountants the presidents personal and professional financial records for 10 years.
The House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler has called Mueller to testify before the panel.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)