Pressure mounts against Trump

Evan Vucci Pressure is mounting against President Donald Trump over the way he's handled probes into alleged Russian interference and possible ties between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Evan Vucci
Pressure is mounting against President Donald Trump over the way he’s handled probes into alleged Russian interference and possible ties between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

A Democratic congressman has become the first to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment from the floor of the House amid mounting pressure around the president’s recent handling of probes into alleged Russian interference and possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Democrats unified around calls for an independent investigation after Trump’s abrupt ouster of FBI Director James Comey last week and the subsequent disclosure that Trump urged Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But Democratic congressman Al Green of Texas, alleging “obstruction of justice” as his reason, told fellow representatives in Congress on Wednesday: “This is where I stand. I will not be moved. The president must be impeached.”

According to a memo written by Comey after a February meeting with the president to discuss the Flynn probe, Trump told Comey “I hope you can let this go,” the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Before the memo emerged and before a public call for impeachment from one congressman, Trump tweeted last week about Comey, “before he starts leaking to the press,” he better hope that no “tapes” of their conversations surface.

Despite the Justice Department on Wednesday appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel to oversee the alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, congressional Democrats are split over whether to talk about the possibility that Trump will face impeachment.

Green’s floor speech, though bold, did not leave Democratic party leaders rushing to endorse the notion of impeaching the president without direct knowledge of events which transpired between Trump and Comey.

Meanwhile, some Republicans are carefully raising conversation of potential impeachment, like Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, who on Wednesday said that if reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would merit impeachment.

Amash was one of two House Republicans to co-sponsor a Democratic bill — which preceded Mueller’s appointment — to establish an independent commission to investigate Russia’s role in the election. Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina also endorsed the legislation.

U.S. congressmen from Idaho aren’t, however, as quick to add further pressure without additional facts.

Sen. James Risch, who lives on a ranch outside Boise, said in a Wednesday email statement that as a former prosecuting attorney he has had the occasion to make thousands of decisions related to allegations. And only after collecting all facts can he make a reasoned decision about the path forward.

“To date, I only have one fact regarding the allegations made by the New York Times,” Risch said. “That fact is that the acting director of the FBI, (Andrew McCabe) who is a good friend of and a supporter of Comey, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, 2017. And when asked by a Democrat whether anyone from the White House had attempted to interfere with the Russia investigation, his answer was no. That is the only firsthand fact I have at the present time. I am waiting for more before commenting further.”

In an additional, yet separate matter involving a foreign government and Trump, Risch joined John Yang of “PBS NewsHour” on Tuesday to discuss allegations that Trump passed classified intelligence from Israel to the Russians.

In a series of early Tuesday-morning tweets, Trump said he had the “absolute right” to give “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” to Russia.

When asked if he was satisfied with the White House explanation, Risch said: “Oh, I don’t really need the White House explanation on this. There is only one person on the planet who can make the decision whether to declassify something and whether to talk to someone outside of those of us that are cleared with the security, and that’s the president of the United States.”

Risch, who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, went on to say the president “has an obligation under his oath as president” to declassify information when necessary, and that, if indeed the subject for the declassification was airline safety, Trump “should be commended for that.”

“The real story here is, there’s a weasel here,” Risch told Yang. “And that is the person who reported about this conversation. This is a person who is a traitor. They betrayed their own country. They betrayed their families and their neighbors. And when you disclose classified information, classified conversations that you have access to, it is an act of treason. It’s unfortunate we can’t get that person identified.”

Idaho GOP Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, and Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, did not immediately return requests for comment on Wednesday. But Sen. Mike Crapo has said, “he is looking forward to getting to the facts with the three investigations we now have underway with the House and Senate committees and by the FBI,” according to Crapo’s communications director Lindsay Northern in a Wednesday email.

Though it’s unlikely a Republican Congress impeaches president Trump, if things continue to progress at the current pace — if more facts do surface that further indicate trump has indeed obstructed justice ­— there’s no question that the allure of America’s third impeachment could continue well into next year’s midterm elections.