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Politics and Government

What changed: Why Colorado Democrats in Congress now support impeachment — or at least suggest it’s an option

U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse and Diana DeGette are calling for impeachment proceedings to begin, either urging their colleagues to join them or counseling them on their decision making

U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette of Denver, left, and Joe Neguse of Lafayette. The pair are supporting the launch of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
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Just a few weeks ago, after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on President Donald Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election was released, Democratic members of Colorado’s congressional delegation were mostly in agreement: it was too early to fully embrace impeachment.

But now, with the White House rebuffing Democrats’ efforts to dig deeper into the report and the broader Trump administration, attitudes are starting to shift from wait-and-see to full steam ahead — or at least a suggestion that impeachment is an option that’s on the table.

It’s a politically sensitive topic. Democrats in Congress are split over how to proceed and there are potential implications for the party in the 2020 election cycle.

Views began to harden and publicly change for Democrats, however, when last week Trump blocked his former White House lawyer, Don McGahn, from testifying before a U.S. House committee.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse — two of the five Democrats from Colorado in Congress — are now fully on board with launching impeachment proceedings against Trump and are even going as far as to persuade their colleagues to join them or counsel them on how to proceed.

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DeGette, of Denver, said in a new interview that her mind hasn’t changed over the past several weeks, but rather that her thinking has progressed on the issue with Trump rebuffing Democrats’ demands for more information.

She initially said last month  that her first impression of Mueller’s report was that it warranted an impeachment investigation, but she stopped short of fully endorsing the idea.

“As the weeks have gone by, it’s really clear that the president intends to refuse to comply with Congress to get that evidence, which is extraordinary and just further obstruction of justice,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Sun. “And so, what I realized last week is, if he is going to refuse to cooperate with Congress, then we’re just going to have to open an impeachment proceeding, which will, I hope, focus the investigation on one committee and enable us to have a better ability to get the evidence we need.”

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One. (Provided by the White House)

DeGette thinks launching impeachment proceedings will give Democrats the court backing they need to get the information they want, citing decisions that came down during the Watergate scandal under President Richard Nixon. In that case, courts appeared to give Congress more subpoena muscle in investigating a president as opposed to simply digging into an administration generally.

“I think that the Watergate proceedings show us that the courts are going to back Congress up to get the materials that it needs,” she said.

Neguse, through a spokeswoman, declined multiple requests for an interview with The Sun, but in a written statement echoed DeGette’s reasoning. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which would likely be where impeachment proceedings would begin if launched.

“Prior to the (Mueller) report’s public release, the attorney general grossly misrepresented its findings,” said Neguse, of Lafayette. “And since that time, the administration has engaged in a pattern of wholesale obstruction of Congress.”

Neguse signaled his support for impeachment during a 2018 campaign primary debate, months before he took office in January.

Neguse, who is a leader among first-year Democratic members of Congress, also recently pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch impeachment proceedings, according to Politico. Neguse’s office did not respond to a request for an interview about his discussions with colleagues on impeachment.

DeGette says she has been speaking with her Democratic colleagues about her thinking and why she thinks it’s time to get the impeachment ball rolling. She is the only member of the state’s congressional delegation who was in office when Republicans in the House impeached President Bill Clinton in 1999.

“We’re all talking about the serious nature of this issue,” she said. “A lot of the junior members have been talking to me about my perspective and what I saw then and how I see it now. I’m basically telling them: ‘We have to take our role very seriously. We have to realize it’s a function of Congress. It’s not a political game.’”

(Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat who is running to unseat DeGette in the 2020 primary, backed impeachment proceedings before the congresswoman first did publicly last week.)

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Pelosi’s fear about launching impeachment proceedings centers around how it could play out in the 2020 election cycle and the impossible odds of success given the Senate is controlled by Republicans. She also is cautioning that all available options to investigate the Trump administration have not been exhausted.

U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, and Jason Crow, of Aurora, are keeping their options open. Both didn’t rule out supporting impeachment when asked in recent days, but stopped short of backing the effort.

That still represents a shift for the pair, who in late April, after the Mueller report’s release, were favoring a holding pattern until they had more information. In light of the recent clashes between Trump and Democrats in the House, their views appear to be evolving.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat. (Handout)

“The level of obstruction and lawlessness coming from the White House is deeply concerning and beyond compare,” Perlmutter said in a written statement. “Congress has a constitutional right and responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable and should be able to carry out its investigatory work without interference. … Democrats will continue to weigh the many options on the table when it comes to taking action against those who refuse to cooperate with congressional orders.”

Crow said in a statement of his own that “in stonewalling Congress, the president is making his own case for a stronger response. We must consider all options to ensure Congress is responding to this assault on our rule of law and restoring power to the American people.”  

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate, said earlier this month that Trump appears to have committed impeachable offenses. However, he says he is not ready to call for impeachment proceedings.

“Let’s let the process go forward and see where it takes us,” he said earlier this month on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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