Democrats are preparing to take the stage on Wednesday and Thursday in the first primary debate amongst the top contenders, and they are likely to field questions on whether they support impeaching President Donald Trump.
So far, the answers from candidates are varied, with some calling for his impeachment immediately and others wanting to wait and see where Democrat-led congressional investigations go. But the pressure for impeachment will be on — with support growing among Democrats.
According to a June 16 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, support among Democrats for impeachment has surged from 30% to 48% over the last month, making the pro-impeachment stance tempting for Democrats.
However, candidates wanting to prepare for a general election may not want to call for impeachment just yet. The poll also showed that a plurality of voters oppose impeachment hearings — 48%. In addition, 44% of independents oppose impeachment hearings.
USA Today Opinion Contributor Peter Funt summarized the varied positions on Wednesday when he wrote, “Who supports impeachment? Democrats all want to appear tough on Trump, but most waffle when it comes to impeachment.”
Here’s where the Democratic candidates appearing in the debates stand on impeachment:
Former Vice President Joe Biden: “Not Looking Forward to an Impeachment Process”
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been non-committal on whether he supports impeachment of President Trump. During a recent interview with the Concord Monitor, he suggested that if the administration stonewalls Democrats’ requests, impeachment proceedings “could come up very quickly.”
“They have a responsibility to move if, in fact, they are unable to get the data that is totally within their power to be able to subpoena before the Congress to make a judgment,” he told the newspaper. “And if they stonewall that, the only other constitutional avenue for them is impeachment.”
At the same time, he indicated he did not favor impeachment.
“I’m not looking forward to an impeachment process, and I really mean it. I think it will be a gigantic distraction on things that we should be focusing on getting done. And the truth of the matter, though, is there is a constitutional obligation. My job is to impeach in a different way: beat him,” he said.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: “House Should Immediately Begin Impeachment Inquiries”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called on the House to begin impeachment “inquiries” immediately, after Trump’s exclusive ABC News interview where he said he would listen to a foreign government that came to him with information about 2020 opponents.
“We have a president who thinks he is above the law. The House should immediately begin impeachment inquiries,” Sanders tweeted.
Even before the interview, Sanders had expressed support for the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment “inquiries” — which he distinguished from “impeachment.”
“That is inquiries, not impeachment, to determine whether or not Trump has committed impeachable offenses,” he said at a campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, according to the Huffington Post.
It is not quite clear what Sanders means by “inquiries.” He has previously stopped short of calling for impeachment proceedings to begin, as he feared doing so could backfire because there is no support in the Senate and could help re-elect Trump to a second term.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “Time to Impeach Trump”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been among the first Democrat candidates to call for Trump’s impeachment.
She reiterated that stance after Trump’s ABC News interview, tweeting that the special counsel report “made it clear” that “Trump welcomed” Russian help and obstructed the special counsel investigation.
“It’s time to impeach Donald Trump,” she tweeted June 12.
Warren was the first of the major Democrat candidates to call for Trump’s impeachment.
California Sen. Kamala Harris: “We Need to Start Impeachment Proceedings”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has called for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Trump, alleging obstruction of justice.
“What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation,” she tweeted May 29.
In April, she had only said, “Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.”
Harris has more recently said she would bring charges against Trump after he leaves office. According to the Associated Press, Harris said if she wins, her Justice Department “would have no choice” but to pursue an obstruction of justice case. Harris’ comment raised concerns over politicizing the Justice Department, according to the AP.
South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg: Trump “Deserves” Impeachment
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN), like Biden, has been non-committal on whether he believes President Trump should be impeached.
The mayor said he believes Trump “deserves” to be impeached, and that if he were in Congress he would vote to impeach Trump, but he has stopped short of calling for impeachment proceedings to begin and for Trump to be impeached.
Buttigieg gave a wishy-washy answer to the Atlantic on June 12, telling editors and reporters: “The more we separate the concept of impeachment from the concept of removal from office and talk about this as a process…the more likely it is that Congress will find that its greatest contribution to the rule of law may well be in creating that process.”
Buttigieg also told the Atlantic he would support a future criminal investigation into President Trump, but that he would be wary of actively directing the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump.
“To the extent that there’s an obstruction case, then yes, DOJ’s got to deal with it,” he said. However, he added, “A lot of this could go back to the U.S. attorneys after he’s president…You don’t have to go out of the DOJ. And the less it’s done out of the DOJ, the better, because the further away it is from the political body, the better.”
Beto O’Rourke: “Enough Evidence Now…to Move Forward with Impeachment”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) supports beginning impeachment proceedings and has suggested that Trump “invited” Russian interference.
“There must be consequences, accountability, and justice. The only way to ensure that is to begin impeachment proceedings,” he tweeted May 29, after a press conference by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“As Mueller reiterates there were ‘multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election.’ Trump calls it a hoax. He invited these attacks, obstructed the investigation into them & told Putin there will be no consequences for launching a concerted attack on our political system.”
O’Rourke had originally deferred to Congress on impeachment.
According to the Dallas Morning News, he told reporters in April, “I’m going to leave that to those members of the House who as they review those findings can make that decision. … But ultimately at this point I believe that this is going to be decided in November 2020.”
He first shifted his stance towards impeachment in early May. “We’re finally learning the truth about this president. And yes, there has to be consequences. Yes, there has to be accountability. Yes, I think there’s enough evidence now for the House of Representatives to move forward with impeachment,” he told the paper.
As a member of Congress, O’Rourke voted twice against beginning impeachment hearings against Trump.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: “Congress Has a Legal and Moral Obligation to Begin Impeachment Proceedings”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) came out in support of Congress beginning impeachment proceedings after Mueller gave his public statement in May.
“Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” Booker tweeted.
“This Administration has continued to stonewall Congress’s oversight. Beginning impeachment proceedings is the only path forward,” he added.
Booker had previously said it was premature to discuss impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies and before members of Congress see his unredacted report.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I Would Support Impeachment Proceedings Beginning Now, But…”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-ME) came out in favor of impeachment proceedings after Trump’s ABC News interview, but also expressed support for investigations leading up to them.
“I would support impeachment proceedings beginning now, but I also understand that they may want to be doing investigations leading up to it and I think they should be given the time to do that,” Klobuchar said on CNN’s “New Day,” according to The Hill.
The stance was stronger than her previous positions, which were even more ambivalent.
She previously said, according to The Hill, that she would not take a position on the issue, since senators are meant to be jury on impeachment.
She also said that she saw impeachment as “one way to investigate and hold this administration accountable if the White House keeps stonewalling,” according to Politico.
Massachusetts Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “Time for Republicans and Democrats to Begin Impeachment Hearings”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-MA) called in May for impeachment hearings to begin, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave a press conference that appeared to call on Congress to begin investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.
According to The Hill, Gillibrand said in a statement:
The White House has repeatedly stonewalled Congress’ ability to take basic fact-finding steps and make an informed decision. Combined with the fact that Robert Mueller clearly expects Congress to exercise its constitutional authority and take steps that he could not, it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead.
Gillibrand had previously said she would wait until the public heard from Mueller, or that impeachment should be “left on the table.”
Former Secretary Julián Castro: “Time to Begin Impeachment Proceedings”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX) told MSNBC that it was “time to begin” impeachment proceedings.”
“Congress has a constitutional duty to hold Donald Trump accountable if he broke the law. Robert Mueller’s report made it abundantly clear: the ball is now in Congress’s court—it’s time to begin impeachment proceedings,” he tweeted May 29.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: “They Should Begin Impeachment Proceedings”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supports beginning impeachment proceedings, after previously downplaying talk of impeachment. He said he changed his mind after Trump’s ABC News interview.
“What happened the other day changed my mind because that was treason,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on June 14. “It was an invitation to hostile foreign governments to find information on American leaders and give it to Donald Trump to help Donald Trump.”
“I heard that and I said, ‘That’s the last straw. They should begin impeachment proceedings,” he said.
Just a week earlier, he said on Fox News, “I think there’s too much talk about impeachment…I think there should be a lot more talk about what we can do for working people.”
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan: “He Obstructed on Multiple Occasions — We Have a Responsibility”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has called for impeachment proceedings to begin, after previously deferring the issue to the House Judiciary Committee.
During a CNN town hall in early June, he said, “When you think that the president has committed crimes — and I’ve read the Mueller report and think he obstructed [justice] on multiple occasions — we have a responsibility.”
He cited his change of mind to Mueller’s May 29 press conference. “I wanted to know that answer,” he said, according to The Hill, “and the answer I got a couple days ago was yes, he would have.”
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Impeachment Proceedings “Would Tear the Country Apart”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) stands out among her Democrat colleagues in that she staunchly opposes impeachment proceedings against Trump.
According to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by journalist Michael Treacy, Gabbard said impeachment would “tear the country apart.”
“The whole reason the Mueller investigation started was to investigate collusion,” she said in an interview with Treacy. “[The special counsel] was very clear in his report that there was no evidence found that collusion took place.”
California Rep. Eric Swalwell: “We Must Begin an Impeachment Inquiry”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) supports impeachment proceedings against Trump, after first deferring to House leadership and saying that the House “should not rush into impeachment.”
However, he joined other Democrat colleagues after Trump’s ABC News interview.
“Congress has no choice: we must begin an impeachment inquiry against @realDonaldTrump,” he tweeted. “He has invited the Russians to again sabotage our elections. And he has obstructed (& obstructs) justice.”
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang: Goal “Should Be Focusing On Getting Him Out of the Office in 2020”
New York City entrepreneur Andrew Yang has been lukewarm to the idea of impeaching Trump, and instead favors beating the president att the ballot box, putting him at odds with most of his 2020 colleagues.
Yang called Trump’s remarks during the ABC News interview “simultaneously both shocking and unsurprising.”
And it certainly lends credence to the fact that he was both open [to] that sort of thing during the 2016 election. So it’s very distressing to the American people. The goal, though, should be focusing on getting him out of the office in 2020 as fast as possible and that’s what I’m working towards,” he said during a Fox News interview on June 13.
He also opposed Harris’ idea to pursue charges against Trump after he leaves office.
“If you look around the world, one pattern that America should seek to avoid is prosecuting past leaders and presidents and imprisoning them,” he said. “That’s something that America has never fallen into and that’s the way I would hope that we proceed with me in the White House.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: Trump Impeachment Is “Inevitable”
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) supports impeachment proceedings beginning, after previously backing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’s approach to impeachment by investigating and gathering evidence first before starting any proceedings.
“I have a lot of trust in Nancy Pelosi. She’s done incredible Herculean things. I loved working with her. But I do believe that eventually Congress is being forced by the president to force them into impeachment mode and I’ll be supportive of that when that happens,” he said on MSNBC on June 12.
“He’s forcing the Congress. It is regrettable, but he is forcing the hand every single day he refuses to follow the U.S. Constitution and I think that is inevitable.”
Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney: “We Should Trust Nancy Pelosi With Impeachment”
Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) said he favors Speaker Pelosi’s strategy in not calling for impeachment proceedings until more evidence is gathered.
“My view is we should trust Nancy Pelosi on this. First of all, Nancy Pelosi is one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s totally skilled,” he said during a June 13 interview on MSNBC.
“I’m not saying the president shouldn’t be impeached. I’m saying we should follow Nancy Pelosi’s lead. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s leading the House toward intense investigations and oversight which is their job. And her view — which I agree with — is this will take us where it takes us based on what we learn,” he added.
Delaney even criticized his fellow candidates: “I really don’t think it’s helpful right now for a bunch of 2020 candidates to be questioning the judgment of the person who in my opinion is defending our democracy right now, and I think she’s doing a terrific job.”
Marianne Williamson: Impeachment Talk “Has Everything to Do with Politics”
Marianne Williamson, a self-help author, has expressed doubt over launching impeachment proceedings, characterizing it as a political move.
“Really rich when candidates talk about impeachment as though ‘This is about doing the right thing and politics should have nothing to do with it!’ You do realize their even saying that has everything to do with politics, right?” she tweeted on May 30.
When asked about Pelosi’s view that impeachment right now would not be advantageous while some think it is just the right thing to do, she tweeted, “And I totally understand the quandary. I sit within it myself.”
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: Mueller “Laid the Responsibility Clearly at the Doorstep of Congress”
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) came out in support of beginning impeachment proceedings after Mueller made his public statement on May 29.
Previously, he had been careful to call for impeachment, according to Colorado Public Radio.
“I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress,” Hickenlooper said of Mueller. “I do think we have an obligation to follow where the facts lead.”
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet: “What We Need to Do is Beat Him”
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who is retiring from the Senate this year, has cautioned Congress against beginning impeachment proceedings.
He said, according to USA Today, that he believes Congress should investigate further before opening an impeachment inquiry, and warned that any effort to impeach Trump will likely fail without support in the Senate.
“It is very important that we take a page out of history and do what they did with Watergate, which is to make sure the American people understood really what was at stake,” Bennet said during a CNN townhall on May 30.
“If we go down the road tomorrow and impeach President Trump, we’re actually giving him a favor.” He said the best way to get Trump out of office is to beat him in 2020.
“I think we should investigate him if we believe that that’s what called for by the rule of law, and in the meantime what we need to do is beat him to make sure he’s just a one-term president,” he said.