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Democrats ready to impeach Trump, but how big will they go?

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Only four months ago, the debate over whether to impeach President Trump deeply divided Democrats in Congress, pitting moderates in pro-Trump districts against progressives in liberal strongholds.

Now, with a vote on articles of impeachment expected within two weeks, the party is unified on whether Trump should be impeached. The only significant point of contention: how expansive of a case to make.

Some Democrats from conservative parts of the country aren't thrilled with having to take a vote that could expose them to political heat. They are quietly grumbling that such a risky move would have been easier if they could have also pointed to a significant bipartisan legislative accomplishment, all but nonexistent in the divided Congress.

But even so, many predict that only a few Democrats will vote no on impeachment, perhaps as few as the two who opposed formally opening the inquiry in October.

The most substantive question splitting Democrats now is how broad the articles of impeachment should be.

Consensus has started to emerge, including among Democrats in the most conservative districts, around an article centered on abuse of power related to the president's alleged withholding of military aid and a White House meeting while demanding that Ukraine conduct an investigation into his political rivals.

 

There is also expected to be a charge of obstruction of Congress for his refusal to comply with the Democrats' investigation.

But progressives want to see broader charges against Trump, eager to hold him accountable for what they call blatant obstruction of justice during former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election. They say the White House's repeated attacks on the Mueller inquiry and Trump's attempt to have him fired merit an additional obstruction of justice charge.

Moderates who were skeptical of pursuing impeachment based on the Mueller investigation view that as overreach.

"If we went about impeaching President Trump for every possible impeachable act he's committed, I think we'd probably be here until beyond his first term," said Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., who represents a district that Trump won narrowly. "My advice is keep it focused, keep it simple; let's focus on the fact pattern related to asking, demanding, pressuring Ukraine to interfere in our election -- the fact pattern that's been laid out so clearly for the American people over the last month."

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