Group of Democrats launches bid to impeach Trump, defying their leadership
Move likely to annoy Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders
Four Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, despite the opposition of their leadership and the fact it has almost no chance of succeeding in the Republican-controlled House.
The five articles accused the president of obstruction of justice related to the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary and other offences.
"We have taken this action because of great concerns for the country and our constitution and our national security and our democracy," said Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who is leading the effort.
Cohen was joined by fellow Democrats Adriano Espaillat of New York, Al Green of Texas and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois at the news conference on Wednesday. The group said Marcia Fudge of Ohio and John Yarmuth of Kentucky plan to join the effort.
When i see a crime, i call 911, i dont stop to build consensus among my neighbors. If a crime is committed, you convene a grand jury, and in this case that is the House Judiciary Committee and we need to get started. <a href="https://t.co/jaogQLaH7g">pic.twitter.com/jaogQLaH7g</a>—@RepGutierrez
The obstruction of justice allegation stems from Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey, which the lawmakers say was designed to delay and impede an investigation.
The articles of impeachment also charge that Trump has accepted without the consent of Congress emoluments from foreign states and from the U.S. government. Finally, the articles of impeachment allege he has undermined the federal judiciary and the freedom of the press.
Cohen had brought up the spectre of impeachment after Trump's failure to condemn white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in August.
"President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership," Cohen said in a statement at the time. "No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry."
'It's not someplace I think we should go'
Republicans hold a majority of more than 30 seats in the House and are unlikely to act on the impeachment articles. Democratic leaders largely oppose the effort, fearing that it only riles up the GOP base that is strongly supportive of the unpopular president.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee criticized the effort.
"House Democrats lack a positive message and are completely unwilling to work across the aisle, so instead they've decided to support a baseless radical effort that the vast majority of Americans disagree with," said spokesman Michael Ahrens.
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly been cool to the idea of launching such a bid, preferring her party seize upon Trump's divisiveness and low public approval ratings to win back the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
"You can't go down any path without the facts and the law," she told CNN in a recent interview.
"It's not someplace I think we should go," she added.
Pelosi said members of Congress should let investigations underway in the House and the Senate, and undertaken by special counsel Robert Mueller, play out until their conclusion. The investigations, in part, are looking at whether the president and members of his campaign team and administration have acted improperly in dealings with foreign entities.
Cohen and other leaders of the impeachment effort disagreed that their effort could hurt Democrats in next year's congressional elections.
"I think the Democratic base needs to be activated. The Democratic base needs to know there are members of Congress willing to stand up against this president," Cohen said.
It is the first group effort on the impeachment front.
Brad Sherman of California previously introduced articles of impeachment on the House floor in July. The resolution hasn't been dealt with by the House judiciary committee, which would have to approve it by a simple majority before it could even proceed to a vote in the full body.
Green introduced his own resolution in October in a passionate speech from the House, accusing Trump of racial divisiveness. But when the time came later in the day for the House to consider the resolution, Green was absent, which effectively killed the idea.
With files from CBC News