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Centrist Democrats urge caution over impeachment inquiry

A number of moderate Democrats are reacting with caution to the formal impeachment inquiry launched Tuesday against President Trump.

Several centrists have declined to back the push, expressing worries it could further divide the country or even backfire on Democrats heading into the 2020 elections.

“I don’t believe it’s good for the country. I don’t think it’s good for us as it relates to our international affairs and makes us look weaker,” said freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), who represents a district Trump won by 4.6 points in 2016.

“I don’t think it’s good that the cost is involved with all this. So there are really and truly a lot of negatives. It also splits the country apart,” said Drew, adding he believes there are a number of factors the party should take into consideration before moving forward.

“We have a year to win an election, so unless we find something else, as we look at this process, you know, unless there’s going to be something else that’s truly impeachable, I think that we should finally stop, have the election and move forward.”

After months of resisting calls for impeachment, House Democratic leaders on Thursday threw their support behind a formal impeachment inquiry, citing allegations that Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine if the country didn’t investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic presidential candidate’s son, Hunter.

While several Democrats running in swing districts have backed such a move, others are expressing concerns that the party may be acting prematurely, with multiple lawmakers saying they want to see a transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president in late July as well as a whistleblower complaint filed by a member of the U.S. intelligence community before committing to a decision.

“I mean, listen, if you look at the polls, where is the American public? Is there an overwhelming support to impeach? It’s not there yet,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told reporters. “It’s still not yet there. But again, let the process work.”

“I think there are some members that I, you know, I hope they take the right position and vote at the appropriate time on that, because for some of my members, I am a little apprehensive.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) said he is still weighing his decision on impeachment, telling Slate it’s “terribly risky” for members in purple districts at a time when the party is seeking to maintain control of the House in 2020.

And Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), who represents a district that traditionally leans red and has previously pushed back on impeachment calls, called for the Trump administration to “release all documents related to the whistleblower case.”

“This is a serious crisis, all options must be on the table, and it’s time Republicans are as interested in the truth as the American people,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), who managed to unseat a Republican in a deeply red district, said while he also has concerns over the whistleblower complaint he wants to see the actual report before he backs impeachment.

“I think we should reserve judgment until we see the whistleblower report at this point,” he told The Hill.

Several centrists have voiced support for a potential impeachment inquiry in recent days, even as others waited for more information to be released before making a firm commitment.

Rep. Dean Phillips (Minn.) on Monday became one of the first Democrats representing a swing district to endorse impeachment in the wake of reports that Trump urged Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden, but said his support for impeachment was contingent on whether reports were true.

Rep. Angie Craig (Minn.), another Democrat representing a district Trump carried in 2016, also endorsed impeachment proceedings on Monday after the president acknowledged that he discussed Biden with the Ukrainian president.

“It is clear that the sitting president of the United States placed his own personal interests above the national security of the United States. We must safeguard our electoral process and our very democracy from outside threats. For this reason, the current investigations into corruption must continue,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (Va.) and six other freshman Democrats largely representing competitive districts also wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that if the allegations that Trump pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate Biden “are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”

Cuellar said that while impeachment may not be currently polling well, he believes Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is handling it in a way that could build public support.

“I don’t see an overwhelming support for impeachment, but at the same time, there are certain steps that we have to take,” he said. 

Despite hesitations from some in the caucus, top Democrats have expressed confidence they will have the support needed to impeach the president if the time comes.

“When it comes to the floor, there will be significantly more than 218 votes,” one senior Democratic source told The Hill, referring to the number of votes needed to pass the House.

At least 186 House Democrats have backed launching an impeachment inquiry – representing more than three-quarters of the caucus – with a flurry of Democrats coming out in support this week.

For their part, Republicans are looking to capitalize on any vulnerable Democrats shifting on impeachment, with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) attempting to paint the party as focused on impeachment over legislating.

“For the past three years, the socialist Democrats have been obsessed with impeaching the president and backfilling in the reason after the fact. They have become so radicalized by their hatred of President Trump that they are willing to plunge the nation into a constitutional crisis based on secondhand gossip,” NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said in a statement.

“Democrats have lost their sanity and any remaining credibility with the American people. Make no mistake about it: backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020.”

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