Politics & Policy

House Dem Firebrands Retreat from Impeachment

From left: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib listen to former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, February 27, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
In the wake of the Mueller report, some of Trump’s fiercest critics have turned their attention to nailing him for emoluments-clause violations.

From Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden, the establishment of the Democratic party has long opposed calls to impeach President Trump. They knew it polled poorly. They saw how impeachment proceedings boosted Bill Clinton and Democrats in 1998. But they faced pressure from their progressive base and its cheerleaders in Congress to impeach President Trump.

Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has officially reported that his investigation could not establish collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, the far left of the Democratic party hasn’t stopped talking about impeaching the president. But it is clearly in retreat.

“I think what’s tough is impeachment in principle is something I openly support,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters Tuesday morning. “But it’s also just the reality of having the votes in the Senate to pursue that. And so that’s something that we have to take into consideration.”

When asked Tuesday afternoon if Trump could have obstructed justice absent an underlying crime, Ocasio-Cortez didn’t directly answer the question, but she said Trump could be impeached for his business dealings. “I think that there’s grounds for impeachment even independent of the Mueller report, particularly the emoluments clause,” she told National Review.

Representative Rashida Tlaib, the freshman from Michigan, grabbed headlines at the start of the new Congress with a confident and vulgar claim about President Trump: “We’re going to impeach this motherf***er!” Now she, too, has pivoted away from the Russia investigation. On Tuesday, Tlaib sent a letter to colleagues requesting their support for a resolution asking the House Judiciary Committee to look into whether President Trump has committed any impeachable acts while in office.

At the top on Tlaib’s list of matters for investigation? ”Whether the actions of President Trump and his businesses violate the Foreign Emoluments Clause.”

“Through President Trump’s businesses in the United States and abroad, the president has received payments, regulatory approval, and other forms of direct and indirect financial benefits from foreign governments,” Tlaib wrote. She also urged Democrats to look into what evidence Mueller provided that President Trump had obstructed justice, evidence that Attorney General Bill Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein say is insufficient for an indictment.

Tlaib’s letter is more like the last gasp of a dying movement than a serious rallying cry, as Ocasio-Cortez’s comments downplaying impeachment make clear. So the Mueller report remains, for now, a big victory for President Trump, but it has also helped congressional Democrats settle on a path forward to 2020: Impeachment? No. Investigations? Yes.

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