WASHINGTON – Some Arizona Democrats see it as a real possibility that President Donald Trump will face impeachment proceedings in the U.S. House.
In the wake of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report last month, some House Democrats are stepping up calls to launch a formal effort to oust the president, despite pleas from some Democratic leaders and moderates to tread carefully on the issue to avoid a political backlash.
“I think we should start moving in that direction,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-7th) told the Arizona Mirror on Thursday, when asked how aggressively House Democrats should move toward impeaching President Trump.
“There’s clearly been obstruction (of justice) that has occurred. I do think we have to work to build the public opinion to actually have that support, but I don’t think we’re that far away, and I’m not afraid to actually go down that road,” Gallego added.
He wants House lawmakers to bring Mueller in to testify about his findings and to force Attorney General William Barr to testify. Barr was slated to appear Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, but backed out amid a spat over Democrats’ intention to have committee lawyers question the attorney general.
“At this point I am in support of actually impeaching Barr,” said Gallego. Democrats in both chambers have called for Barr’s resignation after news reports revealed earlier this week that Mueller had written to the attorney general to criticize his March summary of Mueller’s report.
Both Arizona senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally, voted in February to confirm Barr. Sinema, one of three Democrats to break ranks to support Trump’s nominee, requested a meeting with Barr about the discrepancies between his view of the special counsel’s report and Mueller’s, Politico reported this week.
Tucson Democraitc Rep. Raul Grijalva also wants Barr to resign, he told the Mirror Thursday.
Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that impeachment “absolutely” needs to be on the table in the House and that committee oversight should “aggressively continue” its investigations.
He said he’s ready to impeach Trump, based on what he’s seen so far. “But the due diligence in the committees, I think, is still important. And if this pattern continues, that just validates what I’m already feeling.”
‘He was transparent, warts and all’
Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere across the country are urging their Democratic colleagues to move on from the investigation.
“I read the Mueller report,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert. “I see it as the matter being over.”
Some of Trump’s Republican allies have expressed concerns with revelations about Trump’s behavior contained in the report, but they largely say they’re willing to look past his transgressions.
“He could have used privilege to keep those from the public’s eye,” Biggs said. “He was transparent, warts and all.”
The Arizona Republican warned that Democrats risk a political backlash by continuing to pursue the issue. Back in his district, he said, “They’re not talking about this. My constituents are talking about the emergency on the border and they’re talking about healthcare and they’re talking about national spending.”
McSally on Thursday declined to comment on possible impeachment proceedings in the House. “I’m focusing on what we’re doing here in the Senate,” she said.
Democrats, meanwhile, are grappling with opposing interests within their own party.
Gallego said in his district and elsewhere across the country, “there’s a lot of people that want to have some level of accountability. And I think that’s what we’re attempting to do right now, and if that doesn’t succeed, I think we still have other options.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been cautious about impeachment. She penned a letter to House Democrats last month urging her caucus to hold off on impeaching President Trump, The New York Times reported, although she denounced the “highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior” that she said had dishonored the office.
The majority of Americans think Congress should not begin impeachment hearings against Trump in light of the findings in Mueller’s report, according to a poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. But a majority of Americans also think questions about the president’s conduct remain.
But while some Democrats are wary of the politics surrounding impeachment, Grijalva said, “I think the stakes are too high to make that the primary consideration.”