That escalated fast.
It's only 143 days into Donald Trump's presidency, and articles of impeachment have been drafted. Democratic congressman Brad Sherman of California publicly released his draft to Congress on Monday, potentially making every member take a public position on impeachment through a vote on the House floor.
"RESOLUTION Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors," the draft begins, before making the case that the president obstructed justice by "threatening, and then terminating" FBI Director James Comey in relation to the Russia probe.
"This is not going to change the ideological direction of the country," since Vice President Mike Pence will ascend to the Oval Office, Sherman told VICE News in an interview. "But we gotta protect the republic."
Sherman knows that Republicans in Congress probably won't act immediately or at all to impeach a president of their own party and that many Democrats in the House and the Senate don't share his belief that there is a case for impeachment, at least not yet. A majority of the House of Representatives must vote in favor of impeaching a president and then 67 senators must agree that the president is guilty. So in order to dispose of Trump, Democrats need significant Republican support.
Even so, Sherman's actions will be impossible to ignore. If the Republican-led judiciary committee refuses to hold hearings by the end of August or so, Sherman says he will use an obscure parliamentary maneuver called a "privileged motion" to force a vote on the House floor. The Republican leadership will likely table that motion, but that will also require a vote.
In other words, Sherman will make every member of Congress pick a side on the polarizing issue of kicking Trump out of office.
That may not be an issue for Republicans who have so far been willing to accept the Trump administration's nearly daily chaos in exchange for his John Hancock on their legislation. Following Comey's sworn testimony last week that Trump pressured him alone in the Oval Office to drop an open criminal investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, most Republicans made excuses for the President ("he's just new to this," in the words of Speaker Paul Ryan). Other Republicans criticized the president but said his behavior did not reach the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors."
But the issue is trickier for Democratic members of Congress who have largely been unwilling to publicly support impeachment despite repeated calls for it from anti-Trump "Resistance" activists. The grassroots' calls for ousting Trump reached new highs last week following Comey's testimony, with MoveOn and Indivisible publicly calling for impeachment proceedings to begin "immediately." And a poll taken in the aftermath of the Comey hearing shows 49 percent of Americans believe Trump committed obstruction of justice and 47 percent support impeachment, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday.
Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Al Green of Texas have become Resistance folk heroes in recent days with their calls for impeachment. Democrats outside of Congress — like Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello and megadonor and potential California gubernatorial candidate Tom Steyer — have also voiced support for impeachment, despite having no legal say in the matter.
But some Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have been reluctant to join calls for impeachment, saying they don't yet have a public case and should instead press Republicans on issues like Trumpcare. Pelosi's office did not immediately return a request for comment on Sherman's actions.
But Sherman is undeterred. "I don't think that the actions I've taken are going to distract people from the fact that they are losing their health care," he said.
Looks like we're about to find out.
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