Elizabeth Warren on Friday became the most senior Democrat, and the first 2020 presidential candidate, to call for the start of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump following the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election and the Trump campaign.
“To ignore a president’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts said in a statement Friday, one day after the release of a redacted version of a 448-page summary of Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.
“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States,” Warren said.
Mueller did not make a conclusion about whether the president unlawfully obstructed justice, but did outline nearly a dozen cases in which the president had attempted to stop the inquiry or narrow its scope.
Warren’s remarks make her one of the most prominent Democratic voices to advocate for impeachment, joining congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib. Those progressive House members have pushed a formal impeachment resolution.
Backers of impeachment have argued that the Democrats have a legal and ethical responsibility to launch the proceedings and continue the investigation into Trump and the question of obstruction of justice.
Other Democrats fear that it would be politically unwise to begin the impeachment process close to the 2020 presidential election, raising concerns that a protracted political battle could alienate some voters and arguing that voters ultimately care more about issues like heathcare and the economy. Some have said they are also wary of vice-president Mike Pence replacing the president, given Pence’s conservative political record.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly said she is not in favor of impeachment. In March, Pelosi said the process would be “so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path”. She did not shift her stance after the release of the Mueller report this week.
Mueller’s report would have signaled the end for anyone other than Trump
Some Democrats have instead focused on their calls to have Mueller testify before Congress and for the justice department to release an unredacted version of the report.
So far, Warren is the only Democrat running for president in 2020 to formally call for impeachment hearings. Though Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, indicated earlier on Friday that he would support Congress opening impeachment proceedings. “It would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up impeachment hearings”, Castro told CNN.
Both senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker argued it was too soon to talk about impeachment. “I think that there is definitely a conversation to be had on that subject, but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller.” Harris said.
Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor, said there was “evidence that this president deserves to be impeached”, but that it was up to Congress to make that decision.
The former representative Beto O’Rourke argued he believed voters cared more about policy discussions, telling reporters, “I don’t know that impeachment and those proceedings in the House and potential trial in the Senate is going to answer those questions for people.”