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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

Both sides of the Democratic divide worry about possible voter backlash should they go too hard or too soft.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, both of California, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York are mindful of what happened to Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his lieutenants when the Clinton impeachment inquiry was blamed for the loss of several Republican seats in the following election.

The prevailing political wisdom early this year -- one that Pelosi appeared to be adhering to -- was that impeachment would backfire on Democrats at the polls. But after the Ukraine scandal became public, moderate Democrats came around to the idea as public support for impeachment grew and Republicans were unable to inflict any real political pain on the party. To be sure, the full answer to this question is unknowable until the 2020 election. But for now, Democrats are betting the political downside is slim.

Republicans say that's unlikely to remain the case.

"House Democrats' unhealthy obsession with trying to remove the president of the United States from office and undo the 2016 election will cost them their majority next year," said Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the House Republicans' campaign arm.

Public polls show a stark division on the issue, with voters of each party squarely in their camps and independents almost evenly split.

 

But the issue may be decisive in the swing districts that will determine control of the House, such as that of Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, who surprised pundits when she captured a conservative Oklahoma district in 2018. Trump won the district by 14 percentage points in 2016.

Forty-five percent of voters there favor impeachment, and 52% oppose it. While Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale touted the poll as bad news for the House Democratic majority, it shows that even in a Trump-leaning district, impeachment is not the political loser that Republicans had hoped it to be.

The impeachment process in the House resumes Monday when the Judiciary Committee will hear the case presented by staff attorneys in both parties. The panel is expected to reconvene later in the week for the expansive process of drafting the articles of impeachment and debating which charges should be included. The House floor vote to impeach the president is expected late the following week, sending the case to the GOP-controlled Senate, which would conduct a trial.

Once the articles are determined, Democrats will have some work to do to keep the party's members united. Pelosi will want to keep the number of Democratic defections to a minimum.

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