Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday that accuses the president of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference.
This is the first time a lawmaker has offered an impeachment article against Trump, and it comes as Democrats have debated whether it is politically wise to press the case for impeachment at this time.
A majority vote in the House, currently controlled by Republicans, is required to impeach a president. Republicans have a 46-seat advantage.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed the move.
“I think that is utterly and completely ridiculous and a political game at its worst,” she told reporters Wednesday at an off-camera briefing.
In filing his impeachment article, Sherman argues that Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May amounts to obstructing justice and “high crimes and misdemeanors” amid the probes of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the election.
He cites Comey’s allegations that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into ousted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s shifting story on why he fired Comey.
“In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the article of impeachment states.
Sherman’s article is unlikely to succeed in the GOP-controlled House, but the California Democrat said he hoped introducing an article of impeachment would serve as a warning to the Trump White House and establish a legislative vehicle in the long-shot event that Republicans endorse forcing Trump out of office.
Sherman so far has only one supporter on his article of impeachment: Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who previously called for Trump’s impeachment on the House floor.
Democratic leaders in the House reacted with caution to Sherman’s move. Most fell back on the argument that Congress should set up an independent commission to investigate Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and possible links between Trump’s team and Moscow.
“Leader Pelosi has repeatedly called for an outside, independent commission to get to the bottom of Trump’s connection to Russia’s interference in our election and to examine ways to protect the integrity of our democracy from foreign meddling in the future,” Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement.
“Recent revelations, coupled with [the] president’s unprecedented campaign of dishonesty and secrecy, give greater urgency to the need for House Republicans [to] bring a vote to the floor immediately to establish an outside, independent commission.”
Introduction of the article of impeachment comes a day after Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., released a chain of emails showing his effort to meet with a Russian lawyer claiming to have damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during last year’s campaign. Some critics charge that the emails are evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an intermediary working to set up the meeting wrote in an email.
Sherman drew ire from fellow House Democrats last month when he began circulating a draft article of impeachment and suggested he might force a floor vote on it.
Democratic leaders and most rank-and-file members aren’t eager to aggressively push impeachment at this point. One leadership ally, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), stood up during a Democratic caucus meeting to say Sherman’s effort could hurt the party.
Pelosi and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) backed up Capuano at the time, saying Democrats should focus on issues like Republicans’ efforts to repeal ObamaCare.
Under House rules, any member can force a vote on what’s known as a “privileged” resolution that argues an issue concerns the dignity and integrity of the institution.
House Republicans could easily reject the resolution if Sherman were to force a vote, but it would put all members on record regarding Trump’s impeachment.
Rank-and-file Democrats generally think it’s premature to start talking about impeachment and don’t want to take positions on it at this stage.
Sherman said he never expected that he would want to elevate Vice President Pence to the Oval Office.
“I served with Mike Pence in Congress for twelve years and I disagree with him on just about everything,” Sherman said in a statement. “I never dreamed I would author a measure that would put him in the White House.”
However, Sherman said, he wants “to begin a long process to protect our country from abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and impulsive, ignorant incompetence.”
Source: Cristina Marcos, The Hill. Jordan Fabian contributed.