Surprise, surprise: All five Democratic members of Colorado’s congressional delegation support the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, and all four Republican members oppose it. Beneath that predictable partisan divide, however, there's some important nuance — and a lot of uncertainty about what comes next.
Following a series of revelations about a federal whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to coerce its government into launching an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday, September 24, that Democrats would begin a formal impeachment inquiry.
Pelosi and other senior Democrats had consistently opposed impeachment proceedings since retaking control of the House last November, but their position shifted this week following widespread pressure from the party’s rank-and-file, including a Washington Post op-ed co-written by Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat from Aurora, and six other first-term members of Congress.
“Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election,” Crow and his fellow members of Congress wrote. “If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”
“There’s been a groundswell of support within our caucus to make clear that no one is above the law, and that means starting a formal impeachment inquiry,” Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an appearance on MSNBC yesterday, September 25.
It’s not clear exactly what that means, however. There's no settled definition of “impeachment inquiry,” formal or otherwise, and many Democrats, including Judiciary Committee chairman Representative Jerry Nadler, had insisted prior to Tuesday that the House had already taken such a step, as Neguse acknowledged on Wednesday: “The Judiciary Committee has been engaged in an impeachment investigation for quite some time,” he told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.
So what changed with Pelosi’s announcement on Tuesday? “The Speaker made clear that under this umbrella of an impeachment inquiry, the committees will be able to do their work and move expeditiously toward getting the facts and, ultimately, holding the president accountable,” said Neguse.
Constitutionally speaking, the impeachment process doesn’t begin until the House approves articles of impeachment, which outline the crimes with which the president is being charged and initiate an impeachment trial that's held by the Senate. There are a couple paths Pelosi and House Democrats could take to a vote on formal articles of impeachment: The full House could vote to authorize the Judiciary Committee to draft them, or the committee could simply recommend them as part of its existing investigation.
Neguse and Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, have already voted for articles of impeachment — a long-shot resolution introduced by Representative Al Green in July that alleged that Trump's history of racist statements constituted a "high misdemeanor" and "warrants impeachment, trial, and removal from office." Crow and Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Arvada, opposed the resolution, which was defeated in a lopsided 332-95 vote. Neither Crow nor Perlmutter has voiced support for articles of impeachment yet.
Democrats must also now decide how narrowly they want to limit the scope of their inquiry — whether it will focus exclusively on the Ukraine whistleblower scandal or expand to include Russian interference in the 2016 election, allegations of obstruction of justice, Trump's personal finances and other investigations that Democrats have been pursuing.
CNN reported Wednesday night that while "discussions about the scope of the articles of impeachment are ongoing," Pelosi and other top Democrats want the inquiry to be limited to the Ukraine scandal, setting up a vote on an articles-of-impeachment resolution as soon as October.
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Regardless of what happens and when, you can be sure that Colorado Republicans won’t be happy about it, as a Wednesday tweet from Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Windsor, made clear.
”Democrats spent 3 years trying to overturn an election that didn’t go their way,” wrote Buck, who was elected as the Colorado GOP’s new chairman earlier this year thanks in part to his promise to launch a wave of recall elections against Democrats in the state legislature. “They wasted $40 million of taxpayer money to find no collusion & no obstruction. Now @SpeakerPelosi's call for a formal impeachment inquiry is based solely on rumors & hearsay. It’s time to move on.”
Senator Cory Gardner sang a similar tune, issuing a statement calling the impeachment inquiry an attempt "to appease the far-left" that will "sharply divide the country." Democrats struck back at Buck and Gardner, who is widely viewed as the 2020 election's most vulnerable Republican senator.
"It should not be hard to unequivocally condemn asking a foreign power to interfere in our elections," said Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll in a statement. “If they are so weak that they are afraid to step one toe out of line in the eyes of Donald Trump, then they truly don’t deserve to be in office, and they will answer to the voters in 2020."