Talk of Trump impeachment starts on Capitol Hill, but most lawmakers want the facts first

President Donald Trump waves as he walks off Air Force One at Groton-New London Airport in Groton, Conn., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Trump is giving the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In U.S. history only two presidents have been impeached successfully, but in the week since President Donald Trump decided to fire FBI Director James Comey, calls for Trump's impeachment have begun on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday morning, Texas Congressman Al Green took the House floor to officially call for Trump's impeachment. Raising allegations that Trump may have obstructed justice in a federal investigation, Green represents only a tiny fraction of lawmakers. But his demand that the House bring charges against the president has led some members to consider the possibility more seriously.

In just the past 48 hours, two bombshell reports have come out against the White House raising potentially serious legal questions.

On Tuesday evening, a memo drafted by FBI Director Comey was leaked to the press, documenting a conversation where the president reportedly asked the director to drop the FBI investigation of former National Security Adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn. If the reports are true, it would appear that President Trump was attempting to influence a federal law enforcement investigation.

The news of the Comey memo came within the same 24-hour period as another report claiming that the president improperly disclosed highly classified information to members of the Russian government during an Oval Office meeting last week.

So far the Democratic Party leadership in the House has indicated that they will not pursue impeachment charges, but want to wait for all the facts to be revealed.

During a CNN town hall earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she does not "subscribe" to the calls for impeachment and argued instead for providing the American people with some "stability" during the turbulent early part of Trump's presidency.

"What are the facts that you would make a case on? What are the rules that he may have violated? If you don't have that case, you're just participating in more hearsay and that's not the basis of what we need," Pelosi said.

In a discussion with reporters on Tuesday, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer stated that he and Pelosi were on the same page when it comes to impeachment.

"Impeachment is a very serious matter, obviously ... one of the most serious matters in a democracy," Hoyer said. "If the facts warrant, there will be time to talk about that. But we need to get the facts first." Both Democratic leaders made an appeal for stability in light of a chaotic first seven months of the Trump presidency.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, also wants to get all the facts before moving forward, including any tapes, memos or other documentation of President Trump's conversations with Comey.

"There is more information that we need," Castro said when asked if it was too early to discuss Trump's impeachment. "We ought to give the White House and the FBI 72 hours to produce the tapes and the memos, if they exist. If they aren't produced then we ought to subpoena them and move this thing forward."

Answer the question of the day: Who has more credibility, Trump or Comey?


The swirl of investigations and new allegations against the Trump White House is also having an impact on Congress' ability to get their work done, Castro argued.

Other than passing a six-month budget, Congress has not sent the president any major pieces of legislation. The House Republican's health care bill is being rewritten in the Senate and is months away from a vote. And conservative's long-awaited tax reform plan hasn't gotten off the ground in the House.

"It's more than just a distraction here, it has consumed the whole Congress," Castro said of the Trump investigations. "There's nothing else going on."

The numerous congressional investigations into Trump, from alleged collusion with Russia during the election to conflicts of interest, to the latest questionable actions in firing the FBI director, is one of the reasons why American University professor Allan Lichtman supports impeachment.

Lichtman, who has successfully forecast the outcome of the last eight presidential elections, shocked Washington last month when he predicted that Trump will be impeached in his book "The Case for Impeachment."

Already, there is enough probable cause on obstruction of justice to warrant an impeachment investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, Lichtman told Sinclair Broadcast Group. He outlined a number of elements that would be taken up in such an investigation from Trump firing James Comey, to the allegations that he asked the FBI to drop the probe of Gen. Flynn, to the White House's collusion with the head of the House Russia investigation, Rep. Devon Nunes (R-Calif.), to possible conflicts of interest and other suspect actions.

"Only an impeachment investigation, as in Watergate, can bring together all of the allegations," Lichtman said. "Only a Judiciary Committee investigation can bring all of those strands together. Otherwise, you're going to have ten piecemeal investigations going on."

The current Republican majority is something of a guarantee that the House will not launch an impeachment investigation or vote on impeachment charges, though that can change if Republicans lose at least 24 seats in the 2018 midterm elections.

Lichtman pointed to the fact that before President Richard Nixon's impeachment, Republicans were fiercely loyal to the president. That support reached a tipping point, though after Nixon fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, triggering a plurality of the public to support impeachment.

The number of Americans who favor Trump's impeachment is now at 48 percent, according to a poll released this week by Public Policy Polling, a liberal firm. While those numbers represent a majority, its' hard to say they constitute a plurality. In the latest polls, President Trump still maintains the support of 81 percent of Republicans.

@keyframes giq-load {100%{top:0;left:0;border-width:24px;opacity:0;}}

House Republicans had predictably negative reactions to talk from some of their Democratic colleagues and the media about a possible Trump impeachment, particularly members on the Judiciary Committee.

Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie had a one-word reaction to the impeachment talk: "Baloney."

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold rolled his eyes at the mention of "the I-word."

"A lot of it is media spin," he said. "Donald Trump can't catch a break from anybody in the media."

While Farenthold is interested to see the memo Comey drafted after meeting with the president, he doesn't think the situation "is as bad as it's being made out to be."

Rep. Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee said that impeachment is "a ridiculous thing to even think about," arguing that the allegations are fueled by the national media's "hatred" for the president.

"A lot of people in the national media seem to have lost their common sense over this," Duncan said. "All these people are speaking without even knowing what the president said."

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) who serves on the House Oversight Committee, encouraged his colleagues in Congress to step back and let the current congressional investigations into the White House continue.

"People jump from zero to sixty real fast in this debate, they go straight to impeachment," Sanford explained.

He argued that the relevant congressional committees should be allowed to conclude their investigations of Trump and the Russian election interference, and if the results come back looking "hazy" or "smokey" then move to the next step, which is to appoint a special prosecutor. For now, impeachment is many steps down the line.

None of that means Sanford finds relief in the most recent revelations about Trump possibly trying to influence Comey's investigation of his former national security adviser. "If the claims that were laid out last night are true, we're talking felony, which is indeed impeachable," he noted. "There are a lot of different scary scenarios but the important part is to say, lets take a breath and lets be deliberative. the stakes are very very high for all parties concerned."

The message from both sides of the aisle is that the next step to take in the wake of this week's serious allegations against Trump will be for members of Congress to get the facts. Right now that means having unimpeded access to documents that lawmakers are already requesting from the Department of Justice and the White House.

Immediately after the news broke of Comey's memo, the chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting "all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings" that detail communications between Trump and Comey.

Even while expressing some skepticism over whether or not the Comey memo was real, Chaffetz warned, "I have my subpoena pen ready."

Jason Chaffetz Memo to the FBI by Mathew Katz on Scribd

Comey could testify before the House Government Oversight Committee as early as Wednesday, May 24, according to Chaffetz, who sent him a request earlier today. The former FBI director has not yet confirmed.

Senate leaders on the Intelligence Committee also sent a request to Comey, asking him to appear before the committee in both an open and classified setting. Last week, Comey indicated that he would only testify before the committee in an open session. In addition, the Intelligence chairman and vice-chair also sent a request to the acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, requesting access to all the Comey memos detailing conversations he had with the White House and Justice Department on the Russia investigation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also on the hunt for Justice Department documents. The leaders of the Committee sent a letter to McCabe demanding access to all of Comey's memos that describe interactions with Presidents Trump and Obama, and the current and former heads of the Justice Department regarding the Russia investigation or the Clinton email investigation. The committee is expecting those documents by next week.

On Thursday, acting FBI Director McCabe is scheduled to brief all 100 members of the Senate.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off