- Rep. Sean Maloney and Rep. Antonio Delgado
The Long Road to Impeachment
Trump has been the subject of several impeachment attempts by Democratic House members. Various articles of impeachment introduced in the House have honed in on his firing of FBI Director James Comey, poor moral leadership after the Charlottesville violence, violations of the Emoluments Clause, attacks on the independence of the judiciary branch and the free press, and failures to condemn white nationalism.
Neither Democratic representative was swayed by any of the previous impeachment attempts, including the three-year Russian collusion saga, which ended anticlimactically with Special Counsel Robert Mueller refusing to either indict or exonerate President Trump for collusion or obstruction of justice.
While Russian collusion lacked the requisite smoking gun to trigger impeachment, new allegations of Ukrainian collusion are much more definitive and may have enough evidence for Democrats to push impeachment into the end-zone.
The impeachment crusade’s new-found invigoration stems from charges that President Trump pressured the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son for alleged corruption, potentially by threatening to withhold military aide if Zelensky didn’t comply.
The administration today released the transcript of the phone call which confirms that Trump tried to persuade the Ukrainian President to investigate Biden, though it doesn’t contain any mention of withholding aid.
Many Democrats who previously bristled at the idea of triggering a divisive partisan battle that, with a Republican majority Senate, would almost certainly result in little more than a pyrrhic victory if successful, have now lined up behind progressive House members in support of impeachment proceedings.
The total number of Democrats supporting impeachment, out of a caucus of 235, is now at 213, plus one independent. No Republicans are backing the effort.
Joining the Groundswell
In his Tuesday statement, Maloney’s attributed his support for impeachment to the current administration’s lack of transparency. “I have a high bar for putting the country through an impeachment inquiry,” he said in a statement. “Unless the Intelligence Committee received the whistleblower complaint and the recordings of any calls—and they dispel these charges—I am prepared to pursue an impeachment inquiry of the President.”
“The old Trump song and dance won’t cut it this time,” he concluded.
Delgado’s statement argued that “our president has placed his personal interests above the national security of our nation” by “[using] the power of the presidency to pressure a foreign government to help him win an election.” More troubling, he said, was that “the President instructed his administration to withhold military aid that Ukraine needed to fend off Russian aggression.”
Delgado says that “having taken an oath of office before God and my fellow citizens” he must conclude that Congress move forward with articles of impeachment.
Maloney and Delgado both represent districts (NY18 and NY19 respectively) that Trump won in 2016, and their support for impeachment, previously a stance taken by House Democrats in mostly safe seats, is not to be overlooked.
Delgado in particular is a litmus test for vulnerable freshman Democrats. In 2018 he unseated Republican incumbent John Faso by just five points, ending nearly a decade of GOP control in the district.
Both Maloney and Delgado tend to vote more moderate than the average House Democrat.
Notably, just hours after these two members came out in favor of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has long resisted impeaching the President based on a belief that it would be politically damaging to Democrats, finally that the House would begin impeachment proceedings.
If two relatively vulnerable swing-district Congressman are backing impeachment, either they believe the moral imperative is too great or they see an opportunity for political gain in a definitive rebuke of the President’s wrongdoing.
Where We Go From Here
Democrats from six different committees currently investigating Trump will determine which charges will be included in articles of impeachment. The charges will then be referred to the judiciary committee. If they pass, they will then be sent to the full House where they need 218 votes to pass.
Afterwards, they will be sent to the Senate, where a trial will be held to determine whether the President committed high crimes or misdemeanors. If two-thirds of Senators vote to convict the President—an unlikely outcome given the Republican majority in that chamber—he would be removed from office.
With Democrats just four votes short, impeachment looks all but inevitable. What happens in the aftermath, however, is far hazier.