WASHINGTON -- Numerous House Democrats on Tuesday demanded immediate impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump amid White House resistance to their investigations, a marked increase in support for launching an effort to remove the president from office.
The calls came in response to former White House counsel Donald McGahn's refusal to attend a congressional hearing, despite a House subpoena. The snub served as a final straw for several Democrats who were already leaning toward starting an impeachment inquiry.
There are still many Democrats -- chief among them Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- who are reluctant to pursue impeachment, worried about the political risk of appearing too eager to oust Trump and aware that the GOP-controlled Senate is all but certain to refuse to convict Trump and remove him from office.
But the move toward impeachment Tuesday puts Pelosi in the middle of a divided House Democratic caucus. She has advocated for a cautious approach, arguing that she would only support impeachment if it is bipartisan and amid overwhelming evidence. She has called a closed-door speaker's meeting with her members for Wednesday morning to discuss where the House's many investigations and lawsuits stand.
Several Democrats on Tuesday came out publicly in support of an impeachment inquiry for the first time. Among them were prominent Democrats such as Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, co-chairs of the influential Congressional Progressive Caucus; freshman Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, vice chair of the Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who is also on the panel.
Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who is chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said Monday night that McGahn's refusal to testify would push him to call for impeachment.
"What people have realized is it's not just everything detailed in (special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's) report. It's the administration's continuing refusal to cooperate with Congress and attempt to continue to obstruct justice," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who called for impeachment proceedings Tuesday. "That's why I think more and more people are frustrated, because we've never seen anything like this."
Jayapal, who sits on the Judiciary Committee at the center of the investigations, says the support is growing among both progressives and centrists.
Democrats "are coming up to me saying: We were elected to do a job. We were sworn to uphold the Constitution," she said. "A situation in which the president and the administration can completely -- not just undermine, but actually destroy -- the foundation of checks and balances is something we can't (ignore)."
While centrists may have spoken to Jayapal privately, those who have publicly called for impeachment proceedings are, for the most part, the House's most progressive members, those who are most likely to have long supported impeachment. "I don't feel the numbers (of impeachment supporters) are increasing, but the megaphone is getting bigger," said one senior Democratic aide. "The amp is going up, but the chorus is not growing."