Democrats disagree on just how aggressively to go after president
House Democrats are prepared to open multiple investigations of President Donald Trump when they take control in January – but are wary of immediately pursuing impeachment.
Mr Trump’s threat to adopt a “warlike posture” in response to any probes of his presidency or personal finances angered rank-and-file Democrats, some of whom argued they should get “very aggressive”.
“The American people like and respect fighters, and they have elected us to put a check on the executive branch,” said California Democrat Ro Khanna. He said he had been talking to his colleagues about pushing ahead with investigations, starting with Mr Trump’s tax returns.
But he stopped short of calling for impeachment proceedings against the president, an explosive move that party leaders worry could create peril in 2020 for politicians who represent districts the president carried in his run for president.
Although they have not determined precisely which investigations to launch next year, Democrats are expected to scrutinise Trump administration policies on immigration, education and health care, and to examine his personal finances and potential connections to Russia.
“For those who want impeachment, that’s not what our caucus is about,” House veteran and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said before her party clinched the majority.
She said she would not move to impeach Mr Trump unless at least some Republicans were on board.
Ms Pelosi added she will wait for the outcome of the special counsel investigation but noted that a call for impeachment “would have to be bipartisan, and the evidence would have to be so conclusive”.
Mr Trump has threatened to turn the Republican-led Senate on Democrats who cross him.
“They can play that game but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” the president said.
“I could see it being extremely good for me politically because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders’ resistance to embracing an impeachment effort could cause a significant backlash among the party’s restive liberal flank.
According to a poll of voters on election day in battleground districts, nearly two-thirds of those who voted for Democratic House candidates want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, which could lead to Mr Trump’s removal from office.
But party leaders said they need to be judicious about striking at Mr Trump – knowing their actions could energise an angry Republican base if they attack him indiscriminately.
“We have to be as strategic and methodical as we possibly can,” said one senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.
“If subpoenas go flying, and lawsuits go flying, you’re in the mud with [Trump] – and that’s what he wants.”
Key Democrats said it would be premature to begin impeachment proceedings, adding that such a conversation should take place after special counsel Robert Mueller has completed his inquiry.
New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was “way too early” to discuss that step.
Some moderate Democrats urged restraint more broadly, saying the focus should be on governing.
Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, whose district voted for Mr Trump by two points in 2016, said he did not wish to go after the president’s tax returns.
And Jimmy Gomez, of California, said that those seeking to inflict revenge on Mr Trump were “wrong”, tweeting that it was not “payback time” but “time to govern”.
Even Richard Neal, from Massachusetts, a senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, who intends to push for Mr Trump’s tax returns, said that launching investigations “cannot be the sole purpose of this election”.
“Proportionality is everything,” Mr Neal said. (© Washington Post)
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