Several Democratic Lawmakers Raise Trump Impeachment After Comey Memo

May 17, 2017
Originally published on May 17, 2017 8:31 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The reports that President Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn has a small but growing number of Democrats in Congress talking openly about a drastic step.

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AL GREEN: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America.

SHAPIRO: That's Texas Democrat Al Green speaking on the House floor this morning. Many Democrats don't believe that's the right focus at this time. Republicans who control the majority certainly aren't on board. NPR's Scott Detrow reports from the Capitol.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Even before he took office, big chunks of the progressive base were demanding the impeachment of Donald Trump.

TOM JOHNSON: Right now tonight, I want them to come out and say Donald Trump needs to be impeached, and we are going to fight to impeach Donald Trump.

DETROW: That call came from Tom Johnson, one of many activists who showed up outside the Supreme Court to protest just days into Trump's administration. But top Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have been quick to distance themselves from that sort of talk. In early February, she said, sure, she views Trump as a disaster.

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NANCY PELOSI: Who has acted in a way that is strategically incoherent, that is incompetent and that is reckless. And that is not grounds for impeachment. When and if he breaks the law, that is when something like that would come up.

DETROW: Over the last few days, more rank and file members have started to say that moment has now arrived - first the firing of Comey, the man who was overseeing an investigation into Trump's campaign, then reports Trump spilled highly classified information to Russian officials. California Democrat Maxine Waters said her party is being too timid.

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MAXINE WATERS: We don't have to be afraid to use the word impeachment. We don't have to think that impeachment is out of our reach.

DETROW: A few hours after she spoke, more reports, this time that Trump had directly pressured Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Texas Democrat Al Green is one of many Democrats saying that's obstruction of justice.

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GREEN: We cannot allow this to go unchecked. The president is not above the law.

DETROW: But to be clear, this is not what party leaders are calling for.

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JOSEPH CROWLEY: I'm not afraid of the I-word. It's independent, independent commission, independent investigator.

DETROW: House Democratic Chairman Joseph Crowley says Democrats need to focus on finding all the facts before they think about anything else. He and other leaders instead began the longshot process today of trying to force a House vote on an independent investigation. Adam Schiff agrees with that approach. The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says pushing for impeachment should be the last step taken.

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ADAM SCHIFF: The country has to believe that the seriousness of the conduct is such that this president cannot continue in office. It cannot be perceived as an effort to nullify the election by other means.

DETROW: Then there's this political reality. Democrats just don't have much say over the matter. Republicans control the House, and right now, most Republicans still back Trump. But today, the Senate judiciary committee and the Senate intelligence committee both requested that the FBI turn over those memos Comey allegedly wrote about his conversations with the president. If the documents materialize, the full picture of what did or didn't happen may become much more clear. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.