More Democrat lawmakers are lining up behind impeachment of President Donald Trump despite Robert Mueller’s dud of a testimony last week and a recent poll showing support for impeachment among Democrat voters has slipped.
This week, House Democrats reached at total of 118 who now support impeachment or some kind of impeachment “inquiry.” Before the Mueller hearing, 95 House Democrats backed impeachment.
Right after the Mueller hearing — which Democrats had hoped to be a boon to impeachment efforts, only a handful more signed up.
However, just before leaving for August recess, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) — who is facing a primary challenger to his left — launched what he said was an impeachment “inquiry.”
The inquiry is not actual impeachment proceedings, but an inquiry to look into whether to launch impeachment proceedings. He and others are hoping to use the opening of the inquiry to gain leverage when battling the Trump administration in court to obtain grand jury material from the Mueller report, as well as subpoena former Trump officials.
The opening of an impeachment inquiry is a win for House Democrats who favor impeachment and leadership who oppose actual impeachment proceedings. Pro-impeachment Democrats feel they are making progress towards impeachment, and House leadership can say they support those members without actually launching formal impeachment proceedings.
However — it could be a lose for Democrats overall. Polls show that impeachment is unpopular among the electorate and support has even slipped among Democrats.
A recent Hill-HarrisX poll showed that support for impeachment among Democrats voters slipped four percentage points after the lackluster Mueller hearing, where he failed to deliver any damning soundbites.
A separate Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that the Mueller hearing had little impact on voters’ views about impeachment, and a plurality of voters still oppose it.
A spate of recent polls shows that impeachment is not a popular option among Americans. The Washington Post reported on July 23 (emphasis added):
A Washington Post-ABC News poll published this month found that 37 percent of adults supported beginning impeachment proceedings, while 59 percent opposed the move.
In an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll published this week, support among registered voters for launching impeachment proceedings was lower than in the Post-ABC poll, at 21 percent. But that poll also offered a choice of continuing to investigate Trump that was supported by an additional 27 percent of registered voters. Fifty percent said Congress should not hold hearings.
Meanwhile, an Economist-YouGov poll this month found that 36 percent of adults support efforts in the House to impeach Trump, while 45 percent were opposed.
Despite the lack of popularity among the general electorate for impeachment, the increased support among Democrats in Congress will only increase pressure on House leadership to back actual impeachment proceedings — something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi staunchly opposes.
Pelosi has opposed impeachment in order to protect vulnerable moderate Democrats in red and purple districts who are crucial to keeping control of the House, and to avoid distracting Democrats from the 2020 elections. She has also been wary of history.
After Republicans launched impeachment proceedings against then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 despite little public support, Clinton’s approval rating actually went up and Republicans suffered a historical defeat in the midterm elections that year.
“The parallels to today are instructive, and not at all encouraging to today’s would-be impeachers,” wrote James P. Pinkerton, a former Reagan and George H.W. Bush official and contributor to Fox News in a Breitbart News op-ed published Thursday. He wrote:
The ’98 midterm results were a clear signal from the voters to the GOP: Worry about something else, other than Bill Clinton. Yet weirdly, even after the ballots were counted, Republicans slogged ahead anyway. The GOP House voted to impeach in December 1998, and then the battle went to the Senate, where, in February 1999, the GOP failed to win a majority for conviction, to say nothing of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.
So while there’s never a way to predict the future, it does seem that, once again, the pro-impeachment party is likely to get burned.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) — who is also facing a primary challenger to his left and came out in favor of impeachment this week — predicted that Pelosi will change her mind.
“That’ll change,” he told the New York Daily News in a recent interview. “I think more and more members are going to decide that the role of Congress right now, the proper role, is impeachment.”
Some Republicans are goading Democrats to try to impeach Trump.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Thursday on Fox News, “I would say to the Democrats — if that’s what you think you want to do, go for it. I mean, quit talking about it, go for it.”
Trump could also be inadvertently goading Democrats into impeachment.
His ongoing fray with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has fueled further calls for impeachment. Cummings attacked conditions at the southwest border, prompting Trump to attack conditions in Cummings’ own district.
Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who has authored articles of impeachment against Trump, tweeted Sunday, “The President’s shameful comments about Congressman Cummings make it evident that his bigotry is not going away. We can no longer tolerate it and condemnation by the House of Representatives clearly wasn’t enough. We must impeach.”
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) announced her pro-impeachment stance after Trump’s fight with Cummings, saying in a statement: “Throughout his life and presidency, Donald Trump has proven himself unfit to serve. He has no respect for the rule of law, has put kids in cages, regularly tramples on the Constitution, and uses racist words, acts and policies to divide our country.”
The Trump-Cummings fight could also put more pressure on the Congressional Black Caucus to back impeachment. So far, most of its members have deferred to Pelosi on impeachment.
So far, the Democrats who have come out since Mueller’s testimony have all come from either safe or “likely Democratic” seats, according to list of pro-impeachment Democrats on Axios and a list of competitive seats on the Cook Political Report. Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) — who recently left the Republican Party and became an Independent — is the only vulnerable lawmaker who has come out in support of impeachment.
While Democrats have reached the threshold of a majority of their caucus — they are still 100 votes away from gaining a majority in the House. And even if they reach that threshold, they will hit a brick wall in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority of seats.
Still, the Republican Party appears poised to capitalize on any momentum towards impeachment.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel framed impeachment as part of the Democrat agenda during opening remarks at the RNC Summer Meeting.
“Democrats have gone all in on a radical, socialist agenda of higher taxes, government takeover of health care, open borders, abolish ICE, sanctuary cities, and impeachment,” she said Friday.
The New York Republican Party on Friday highlighted the unpopularity of impeachment in a recent tweet after Engel’s announcement.
President @realDonaldTrump is the duly elected President and Mueller's report found no collusion, no obstruction.
The Democrats' moves to impeach him is an outrageous abuse of power that will be rejected by the American public.https://t.co/AhJ2v9LxZJ
— New York GOP (@NewYorkGOP) August 2, 2019