What’s the best way to remove a corrupt and possibly criminal president from office?
Democrats and progressive activists have been forced to grapple with this crucial question in the days after the Mueller report provided a 400-page look into President Donald Trump’s rampant misconduct and potential obstruction of justice.
“If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Some progressives urged House Democrats to immediately launch impeachment proceedings, arguing that anything less would be an abdication of constitutional responsibility.
But others said Democrats must instead place their emphasis on soundly defeating Trump at the ballot box by focusing on healthcare, income inequality, and the climate crisis.
Congressional Democrats and the party’s 2020 presidential contenders have come out in favor one or the other position—or some combination of the two—in the wake of Mueller’s findings, which are the product of a sprawling two-year investigation into Trump’s White House and businesses.
“Just about every Democrat agrees that the Donald Trump presidency has been a nightmare, and that the sooner it ends the better. How we get there is less certain,” Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor of the socialist magazine Jacobin, wrote in a Guardian op-ed this week.
A range of Democratic positions on the impeachment question was on full display during CNN‘s town halls with five 2020 presidential candidates Monday night.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unequivocally doubled down on her earlier call for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings and dismissed concerns about possible political backlash.
“There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution,” Warren added. “If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was less straightforward than Warren, but nonetheless backed impeachment hearings due to the “good evidence pointing to obstruction.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for his part, advocated a more cautious approach and argued that rushing head-long into an impeachment battle would benefit Trump.
While expressing his support for a “thorough” congressional investigation into possible obstruction, the Vermont senator also cautioned that a prolonged and intense impeachment fight would suck oxygen from key issues that impact the day-to-day lives of ordinary Americans.
“If for the next year, year-and-a-half going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump… and we’re not talking about healthcare, we’re not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we’re not talking about combating climate change, we’re not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans—what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” Sanders said.
Closing out the night of town halls, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Democrats in Congress can both begin impeachment proceedings and run issue-focused campaigns.
“Congress is going to have to figure out how to do several things at once,” said Buttigieg.
The presidential candidates’ town halls came just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the House Democratic caucus Monday urging unity in the party’s “search for the truth and in upholding the security of our elections.”
Pelosi did not rule out impeachment proceedings in her letter, but the House Speaker said before the release of the Mueller report that impeaching Trump is “just not worth it.”
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