I polled members of Maryland’s congressional delegation on the prospect of the House of Representatives conducting impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump. I heard back from everyone except the delegation’s only Republican, Andy “Trump Clearly Isn’t Racist” Harris. But that’s OK. Doc Harris is so in the tank for Trump, defending him even when he’s indefensible, that we can guess where he stands.
But what of the seven Democrats who represent Marylanders in Congress?
So far, only one, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County, favors opening a formal impeachment inquiry. The rest are more cautious and toe the party leadership’s line.
Members of Indivisible Towson say that’s not good enough, and they’ve taken aim at one of their representatives, John Sarbanes, whose father, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee in July 1974, introduced the first article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
Indivisible Towson, part of the progressive movement that formed in response to Trump’s election, wants John Sarbanes to support an impeachment inquiry. Not doing so, they say, is a dereliction of Congress’ duty and leaves the public with the impression that Trump has done nothing wrong. The group believes that an inquiry will give the House greater powers to investigate Trump’s 2016 campaign and his alleged obstruction of the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the election.
Indivisible Towson thinks the position of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — that, based on polls, the public has no stomach for impeachment — “will prove to be to be one of the greatest political miscalculations in American history.”
That statement appeared in a July 8 letter from the group to John Sarbanes.
“As you know,” the letter said, “the members of Indivisible Towson have strongly supported you, the Democratic Party and the ideals we have in common. However, on the issue of an impeachment inquiry ... we are extremely disappointed. It is abundantly clear that President Trump represents an ‘existential threat’ to our nation. We find your failure to call for an impeachment inquiry unacceptable.”
Members of the group demonstrated at the Towson Fourth of July parade, calling on both Sarbanes and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, another Baltimore County Democrat, to support an inquiry. The group staged another demonstration at Sarbanes’ district office in Towson on Monday, and a smaller group met with the congressman. They challenged him to step up, saying that Democrats need to expose Trump in the high-profile way only televised impeachment hearings would provide.
Sarbanes, poised and thoughtful, pushed back, saying the “corrupt jury” of Mitch McConnell and the majority-Republican Senate would never vote to convict, and that an acquittal would make Trump stronger.
“I get up every morning with the same knot in my stomach, the same blood boiling over the latest thing that the president has done,” Sarbanes said in a recording of the meeting made by an Indivisible Towson member and verified by the congressman’s office. “He finds new ways every day to offend our democracy, our principles, our values, and what we stand for as a country. … I want this guy gone. I don’t think impeachment is the best way to advance that goal.”
Sarbanes believes the five House committees already conducting investigations will uncover “the full extent of the president’s lawlessness.” The best course of action is to “take the case to a more legitimate, more representative jury,” meaning voters in the 2020 election.
Indivisible Towson believes Sarbanes is missing the point: There are crimes that need to be exposed, and letting them go without an impeachment inquiry normalizes them and undercuts the principle of the U.S. as a country of laws, not men.
Here’s a summary of where other members of the delegation stand:
Ruppersberger: “Based on the administration’s constant obstruction of Congress’ oversight responsibilities, impeachment has to be on the table. It’s probably even inevitable. But, given House leadership’s reluctance to begin proceedings without additional evidence and the Republican majority in the Senate, my recommendation as a former prosecutor is for Congress to continue an aggressive pursuit of the facts.”
Rep. Anthony Brown, 4th District, from his deputy chief of staff Matt Verghese: “After reading the Mueller report and based on President Trump’s ongoing actions including resisting Congress’ oversight powers, Congressman Brown has said publicly at his town halls that he would vote for impeachment if it was brought to the House floor. Currently he trusts the ongoing process that [House committees] are undertaking … to ensure Congress and the American people get a full accounting of the alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, 5th District, via Annaliese Davis, press secretary for the House majority leader from southern Maryland: “Congressman Hoyer has repeatedly stated that the American people deserve all the facts, and that Congress will follow the facts wherever they lead, including impeachment. Congressman Hoyer has consistently called on Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller to testify before Congress and is glad that he has finally agreed to testify.”
Rep. David Trone’s communications director Hannah Muldavin issued the same quote she provided when Sun reporter Jeff Barker asked for the freshman 6th District representative’s position in May: “I trust the Speaker on if and when we should go beyond the five ongoing congressional investigations.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, 7th District: “I recognize that the decision to open an impeachment inquiry rests with the Judiciary Committee in consultation with the speaker, and I support [House Judiciary Committee] Chairman Jerry Nadler’s ongoing investigation to determine the best path forward.”