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Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren has navigated 2 impeachments; she isn't eager for a Trump inquiry

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Only one House Democrat was on Capitol Hill the two times in modern U.S. history when Congress moved to impeach a president -- and Rep. Zoe Lofgren says she's not eager to go through it again.

As House Democrats wrestle with whether to pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, the San Jose Democrat has emerged as a leader of the mostly silent majority that is nervous about trying to remove the president.

Lofgren's skepticism about opening an impeachment inquiry underscores the tough climb ahead for supporters of impeachment. She argues that a convincing case for impeachment hasn't been made against Trump. She wouldn't even say whether she believes he committed impeachable offenses.

"It's hard to know," she said in an interview. "The threshold is really behavior that is misconduct sufficient to threaten the functioning of the constitutional order."

Caught between Democrats who support impeachment and skeptics such as Lofgren, the House Judiciary Committee continues to try to build a case against Trump.

On Monday, the panel hosted Watergate-era figure John Dean in a largely theatrical hearing -- one Republican member suggested using a Ouija board to conjure a late president. Dean's testimony was intended by Democrats to draw a comparison between Trump and President Richard Nixon, with hopes of building public support for impeachment.

 

The impasse between Democrats and the Trump administration was partly defused Monday when the Justice Department agreed to share more of the underlying documents behind the redacted report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Justice Department will begin providing the Mueller documents to the House Judiciary Committee.

Lofgren is one of the most senior members of the House, the No. 2 ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and, as a former chairwoman of the House Ethics Committee who has had to navigate complicated ethics complaints, a respected voice among many rank-and-file Democrats.

She was a staffer to a member on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, when the committee prepared articles of impeachment against Nixon. And when President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, she was a member of Congress and a prominent defender of the president. She called the House's impeachment vote "an effort to undo the election" and "a pretty sad day for the country."

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