Two senior Democrats pushed back against rushing to talk of impeaching President Trump, citing the need to gather “facts” first.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “knocked down growing calls” from Democrats for impeachment during a town hall this week, according to the Washington Examiner.
“In other words, again, if you are talking about impeachment, you are talking about what are the facts. Not that I don’t like him and I don’t like his hair and — what are the facts?” she said.
“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 are just participating in more hearsay,” she added.
Similarly, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-WA), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, on Wednesday warned against “rushing into” impeachment talk.
“That’s not something that we should be rushing into or rushing to suggest,” Schiff told CNN’s New Day, according to The Hill.
He said the impeachment process would be a “wrenching experience” for the country, and it was important to get answers first.
“What was the president’s intent? Was he trying to shutdown a legitimate prosecution? Was he doing it because he was worried the trail may lead back to him? These are profound questions we need to answer before we get too far down the path of what are the consequences if the proof turns out to be there,” he said.
Their views disappointed some Trump critics, including one Gizmodo writer who unleashed a string of expletives on Twitter and called Schiff a “loser” and Democrats “f-cking worthless.”
Calls from the left for impeachment reached a fever pitch on Tuesday after the New York Times reported that Comey had written a memo documenting a meeting he had with Trump where the president had allegedly asked him to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Democrats have cried “obstruction of justice,” despite legal experts saying it is not likely to meet that bar.
Author and professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law Elizabeth Price Foley wrote in the New York Times that Trump’s statements do not constitute an obstruction of justice.
Section 1510 of Title 18 of the United States Code addresses obstruction of criminal investigations. It is a narrow statute, criminalizing only willful acts “by means of bribery” that have the effect of obstructing the communication of information about crimes to federal investigators.
Even assuming Mr. Comey’s memo is accurate, there is no indication that President Trump willfully attempted to bribe the F.B.I. director. As the Supreme Court stated in United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California, “for bribery there must be a quid pro quo — a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act.”
There is no evidence of a quid pro quo. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Trump intended an implied offer of continued employment in exchange for Mr. Comey’s dismissal of the Flynn investigation, it would be implausible for Mr. Comey to construe it as such.
But even if one adopted an unprecedentedly broad conception of bribery, Mr. Trump’s purported statement still would not violate Section 1510. The statute is designed to preserve the free flow of information, prohibiting only acts that obstruct investigators’ access to information. Bribery of a potential witness, for example, is behavior prohibited by Section 1510. But telling the F.B.I. director that someone is a “good guy” and expressing the hope that an investigation will cease does not obstruct the free flow of information.
The White House has disputed the content of the memo and has pointed to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s remarks last week when he said, “there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also questioning why Comey didn’t say anything to them if he thought Trump had done something improper.
“That’s a perfectly appropriate question for us to ask the director… it’s more than fair. In fact, it will be necessary to ask the director to answer that question,” Schiff said later Wednesday on CNN’s Situation Room.
“Certainly, the director could always share those concerns with the committees in Congress, the relevant committees, or at the Gang of Eight legal, if the director felt that it was of that kind of sensitivity. So those are questions that we will properly ask the director.”