Two Twin Cities suburban House members joined a growing group of moderate Democrats on Monday voicing support for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump over allegations that he pressured a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his top Democratic rival.
Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, both freshman Democrats representing metro area swing districts, cited reports that Trump pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, whom the president has accused of corrupt business practices overseas.
“It is clear that the sitting president of the United States placed his own personal interests above the national security of the United States,” said Craig, whose district includes the southern Twin Cities suburbs. “When there is an abuse of power of this magnitude, it is our responsibility to stand up for what is right. This is why I am calling to open impeachment proceedings — immediately, fairly and impartially.”
Phillips, representing the western Twin Cities suburbs, said the president’s actions, alleged in a whistleblower complaint, would be tantamount to “inviting foreign interference in our democracy … that is corrupt at best, treasonous at worst, and puts our rule of law at risk.”
“If the reports are corroborated,” Phillips continued, “we must pursue articles of impeachment and report them to the full House of Representatives for immediate consideration.”
The moves by Craig and Phillips reflected a shift in recent days among moderate Democrats who have been reluctant to join calls for Trump’s impeachment in connection with the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and links between Trump aides and Russian officials.
The push from some centrists and moderates to begin formal impeachment proceedings, the first step for removing a president from office, also has increased pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who remain wary of the political risks heading into the 2020 election.
Currently, more than half the caucus, including several influential members of the party’s leadership, say they back at least opening an impeachment inquiry in the House.
Even if the House voted to impeach the president, it’s unlikely that the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate would follow suit with a trial or the two-thirds vote required convict or remove the president.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans, put out a statement Monday blasting both Craig and Phillips and saying support for impeachment proceedings would cost them their elections in 2020.
Minnesota’s congressional delegation remains split on the issue. Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar have previously called for an immediate official impeachment inquiry. McCollum said the latest allegations involving Ukraine strengthen the case for impeachment.
“President Trump’s explicit use of the Oval Office to pressure a foreign leader to attack his political opponent is unprecedented,” McCollum said Monday.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., came out in favor of impeachment proceedings in June, along with about a dozen other presidential candidates. She cited as the tipping point earlier Trump comments about being willing to listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival.
“The president of the United States has said it: ‘Come on, bring your dirt. We don’t care how clean these elections are.’ And they don’t even care if it is hacked into,” Klobuchar said in a television interview at the time.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who faces re-election in 2020, has said over the summer that it was too early to talk about impeachment.
Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents a rural western Minnesota district that Trump won by double-digits in 2016, has not supported the idea, calling it politically futile.
All three Republican members of the delegation oppose impeachment.
The movement to impeach has intensified in the wake of reports of a secret whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to investigate political rival Joe Biden and the business dealings of his son Hunter. Trump has confirmed that he discussed Biden during the call but says he did nothing wrong. On Monday, he told reporters that he has not decided whether to release the transcript of the call, as Pelosi and other Democrats have demanded. He renewed criticism of Biden, describing both the former vice president and his son as “corrupt.”
Pelosi has not formally endorsed impeachment, saying the House should instead focus on its numerous investigations into the president while they await the outcome of legal challenges against the administration. But she said Sunday that the whistleblower complaint related to the Ukraine matter could usher in a “whole new stage of investigation.”