Impeachment? Democratic Hill aides say no
Respondents to CQ’s Capitol Insiders Survey rejected the idea overwhelmingly
Since the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report last month, some Democrats have reiterated, or joined, the calls for impeaching President Donald Trump, on the grounds that he obstructed Mueller’s probe.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for example, said on May 7 that the only mechanism to hold the president accountable and to ensure that the president is not above the law is for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. Texas Rep. Al Green, on April 30, said he’d introduce articles of impeachment, as he did in the last Congress.
But if the views of congressional aides are reflective of their bosses, there’s little appetite for moving forward. Democratic respondents to CQ’s Capitol Insiders Survey, an email poll of congressional aides, this month rejected the idea overwhelmingly.
Among all Democrats, just under a quarter said the House should move forward with impeachment proceedings against Trump. Even fewer House Democratic aides, under one in 5, supported the idea. Meanwhile, 56 percent of Democratic respondents opposed it, with the rest undecided. That, despite the fact that 94 percent of the Democratic aides said they believed Trump had obstructed justice.
The survey, emailed to aides on May 1, drew 150 responses from 89 Democrats, 58 Republicans and three independents. They had until May 8 to respond.
Nearly six in 10 Republican respondents to the survey said they thought Mueller’s report — which said he had found no evidence Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with the Russian government, and did not reach a conclusion on the question of obstruction — would help Trump in his bid for re-election next year. A quarter said it would hurt him.
Those figures tracked the percentage of Republican aides who said they thought Trump had obstructed justice, a quarter, with those who said he had not, nearly six in 10.
Democrats may be willing to forgo impeachment because they see an advantage in Mueller’s report. Three-quarters of them said they believed the special counsel’s findings will hurt Trump in 2020.
And Democratic aides are also eager to seek areas of compromise with Trump, with more than two-thirds of respondents indicating they’d rather their leaders work with Trump than stonewall him, a notable contrast with the GOP strategy in dealing with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Even so, nearly two-thirds of the Republican respondents said they would like to see the two parties working together now.
Democratic leaders — New York’s Charles E. Schumer in the Senate and California’s Nancy Pelosi in the House — have said they’d like to work with Trump on infrastructure legislation. But even if Trump were to agree, the Senate’s GOP majority is unwilling to make changes to 2017’s tax law in order to secure new revenue for a deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky, has spent the vast majority of his time this year moving judicial and executive branch nominations, rather than legislation.
The Democratic aides also believe they have a candidate now who can beat Trump in former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden trounced the other contenders, with 55 percent of the Democratic aides saying they believed he would be the nominee and that he stood the best chance of beating Trump.
Biden’s closest competitor was California Sen. Kamala Harris. Fourteen percent of the Democratic staffers said they thought she’d get the nomination, with 12 percent indicating they believed she would be the best choice to beat Trump. Only 7 percent of the Democratic respondents said Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders would be the most likely to beat Trump.
Republican aides also said they expected Biden to be the Democrats’ candidate, but not by as great a margin. One in three said it would be Biden, with more than a quarter predicting the nomination would go to Sanders. But the Republicans were even more adamant than their Democratic colleagues in saying that Biden is the candidate most likely to beat Trump. More than seven in 10 said as much.