House Democrats methodically working to build support for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump fear that a rogue move by a Texas Democrat could scramble their best efforts.
It’s unclear whether Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) will seek Trump’s immediate impeachment or simply the launch of an inquiry. But he has promised to force a floor vote on the matter before the House departs for its August recess — either before or after special counsel Robert Mueller’s hotly anticipated testimony on July 24.
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Many of the Democrats backing impeachment proceedings have viewed Mueller’s appearance on Capitol Hill as a potential inflection point that could jumpstart their efforts. Green’s decision could undermine their plans, forcing lawmakers to take a position they may not have been prepared to take.
“It won’t be [productive], but it’s his right to do it,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who supports an impeachment inquiry and said he would ultimately vote for Green’s measure if it hit the floor. “I don’t expect this to actually be the mechanism that starts an impeachment inquiry.”
More than 80 House Democrats support launching a formal impeachment inquiry, and lawmakers expect that number to grow after Mueller testifies before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi still opposes an impeachment inquiry, arguing that it’s too politically divisive and would never lead to conviction and removal in a Republican-controlled Senate.
Green’s vote might also undercut momentum for the impeachment effort after it almost certainly fails on the floor, with a majority of Democrats likely to join all Republicans in opposition.
Like other pro-impeachment Democrats, Huffman has grown exasperated with the glacial pace of the House’s various investigations, subpoena fights and court battles, as the Trump administration continues to resist those probes and stonewall requests for documents and testimony.
“I share the frustration that [Green] and other members have,” Huffman added. “Things are moving far too slowly. There’s not enough tangible accountability for this president at this point. So I can’t fault anyone for being extremely frustrated right now.”
Green indicated on Tuesday that he is dead-set on forcing a vote on impeachment before lawmakers leave Washington in August for a five-week recess, saying in an interview that efforts to dissuade him would be “fruitless.”
“When you’re doing the right thing, you understand there may be those who are critical,” Green said. “But Dr. King reminds us that there are times that you have to do that which is neither safe nor politic nor popular. You do them because they are right.”
Green has forced two impeachment votes, but not since Democrats seized the House majority last year.
The language of Green’s impeachment resolutions have focused on Trump’s racially charged rhetoric, rather than the obstruction of justice allegations against the president as outlined in Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Green said he is renewing his push because of Trump’s racist tweets over the weekend, in which he told four progressive Democratic women of color to “go back” to their countries of origin. The House is voting later Tuesday on a resolution to formally condemn Trump’s comments, which have drawn rebukes from few Republicans.
“A racist, bigoted president should not occupy the White House in the United States of America,” Green said.
Other Democrats who support impeachment proceedings expressed concern on Tuesday that Green’s effort would circumvent the Judiciary Committee, which has the power to launch a formal inquiry.
“It is my hope that if there’s going to be an opening of impeachment that it’s initiated by the committee of jurisdiction,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who sits on the Judiciary panel.
It’s unclear whether Pelosi will try to thwart Green’s effort. The Texas Democrat plans to use a procedural mechanism that allows him to subvert leadership, which usually controls what measures come to the floor.
But Democratic leaders are treading carefully and appear resigned to Green’s intent to push ahead on his own terms.
“I’m not going to try to discourage him,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “He has to do what he thinks is right.”
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.