To impeach, or not to impeach?
Elizabeth Warren broke the ice for the 2020 field last Friday afternoon when she called for Trump’s impeachment in a Twitter thread.
And during a town hall on Monday night, two top-tier candidates California Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg — joined the call to boot Trump out of office.
"I think he's made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment,” said Buttigieg, who’s surging in polls right now.
But Mayor Pete doesn't get to make that decision, and neither do senators — at least, not yet.
The people who'll really decide this are the Democrats in the House of Representatives. And right now, they’re struggling with the question that Democrats always seems to be struggling with: What’s more important: principles or politics?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be trying to strike a balance: Move forward slowly, play down the impeachment talk, and characterize your investigations as regular old fact-finding. She held an all-caucus call on Monday to rally her base, and in a readout provided by a person on the call, she called on Democrats to "save our democracy."
“Whether it’s articles of impeachment or investigations, it’s the same obtaining of facts," Pelosi said. "We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.”
A lot of House Dems seem to be following that lead for now. Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon represents a mostly blue-collar district west of Philadelphia. She’s a freshman elected last fall on the anti-Trump wave. She’s also the vice chair of the Judiciary Committee — the committee that's normally tasked with an impeachment investigation.
Asked bluntly if she would impeach the president, Scanlon said no.
"I wouldn't right now. I think we have a lot of work to do to get there. It's not something you jump into. There's so many important avenues of investigation that we're not finished with,” she said in her district office on Wednesday morning.
The office says that in the last week they’ve received 178 letters or emails asking for impeachment; 85 letters or emails saying that oversight should happen first; and 124 requests for the complete Mueller report to be released to the public.
One constituent call that VICE News was allowed to listen to on Wednesday featured a woman struggling with the impeachment decision, but for different reasons. But she urged members of Congress to “get to the bottom” of the Mueller report.
"I'm not sure about impeachment. I’d love it, but Pence is evil. I'm concerned about him being president. At least Trump is dumb,” she explained to a Scanlon staffer.
But for Scanlon herself, this isn't a question about Trump being dumb or not. It’s a question of how Congress should do its job, and a question of morality.
“I think acting as a check and balance on an administration that's out of control in a lot of ways is the moral high ground. It's why a lot of us ran and that's why a lot of us were elected,” Scanlon told VICE News. That’s the question that Scanlon thinks faces each member of Congress: "When you look at all of the evidence, does it lead you to conclude that for the good of our country, impeachment is what we have to do? That it's an executive who cannot function.”
Scanlon thinks that if impeachment were to happen in the House, then Republicans may be on board.
"I think that we are going to see Republicans coming along, because what's happening is so serious, you know it will be, you think that there will be Republicans who vote for these articles of impeachment in the House. If there is a solid foundation of evidence and hearings and oversight, yes."
This segment originally aired April 24, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.