Prior to the Mueller report’s release on April 18, the raging debate within Democratic circles over potential impeachment proceedings against President Trump had not significantly engaged the party’s huge presidential field. But a day after the report dropped, Elizabeth Warren broke the mold:
Like other alert readers, Warren understood Mueller to have essentially “referred” obstruction of justice evidence to Congress to act upon, given his belief that a sitting president was immune from criminal prosecution:
Yesterday after Mueller personally underlined his findings on obstruction of justice and hinted at the implications for impeachment, two more presidential candidates moved into the pro-impeachment camp:
Other candidates reiterated earlier statements on the subject, including Kamala Harris, who endorsed impeachment soon after Warren took that step.
According to an analysis from Axios, eight candidates have now called for the initiation of impeachment proceedings; in addition to the four mentioned earlier, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Seth Moulton, and Wayne Messam have abandoned earlier opposition or gotten off the fence. But seven others are still ambivalent, with Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg emphasizing that it’s a decision House Democrats need to grapple with, and Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, and Eric Swalwell suggesting more investigations of Trump are necessary. Front-runner Joe Biden’s campaign put out a statement that called impeachment “divisive” but perhaps “unavoidable” if the administration continues to stonewall Congress. Bill de Blasio recently played the prediction game, too, suggesting that Trump would likely be impeached without urging House Democrats to go in that direction.
Three other candidates, Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, and Steve Bullock, are still on record as opposing impeachment proceedings, with Bullock yesterday saying that “he’d rather spend the next year-and-a-half talking about issues like health care and taxes.” But nobody’s fretting publicly about the possibility that an unsuccessful impeachment drive could step on the Democratic effort to remove Trump from office in November 2020, though it’s likely they all worry about it privately. Biden’s statement did call beating Trump next year “the surefire way to get him out of office.” But what’s clear right now is that an increasing number of Democratic presidential candidates, House members, and grassroots activists are willing to take the risks involved in impeachment.