Top House Dem Clyburn says he believes chamber will impeach Trump

"Yes, exactly what I feel," Clyburn, D-S.C., told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "I think we have already begun."
Image: James Clyburn
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., on his way to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on Jan. 4.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

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By Allan Smith

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said Sunday he believes President Donald Trump will eventually be impeached by the House.

"Yes, exactly what I feel," Clyburn, one of the highest ranking House Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" when asked about the issue. "I think we have already begun."

Clyburn mentioned the work of multiple House committees investigating the president and court cases House Democrats have initially won against the administration in battles to obtain documents.

"Right now, we are winning this issue," he said. "Why should we go out and make missteps and cause us to lose a court decision that will have people saying, 'Why didn't you take your time? Why did you get out in front of this?' It's kind of interesting to me, as I talk to people, when you ask them what they think we ought to do, they agree with what we're doing. It's just that, emotionally, they would like to see something done and see it done quicker. But people want us to be effective in what we do."

Clyburn said special counsel Robert Mueller "has developed the grounds for impeachment," adding that the House "has to determine the timing for impeachment. There's a big difference."

The South Carolina Democrat said the public needs to understand the necessity of impeachment before it moves forward.

"We think that we have to bring the public along," he said. "We aren't particularly interested in the Senate. We do believe that, if we sufficiently, effectively educate the public, then we will have done our job, and we can move on an impeachment vote, and it will stand, and maybe it will be what needs to be done to [incentivize] the Senate to act."

"So we aren't waiting on the Senate," he said, adding that House Democrats are trying to make sure the public understands exactly what they are doing and why they're doing it so that "people won't misinterpret this as being a political move on our part."

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"We believe that, if we do it efficiently and effectively, it will be one that the public will understand and will support," he continued. "If the public ever feels that we are being political with this, we will have done a tremendous harm to the country, to the Constitution, and to the people that we are sworn to serve.”

The intensity of Democratic calls for impeachment has ratcheted up after Mueller made his first public statement on the yearslong Russia investigation last week, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have not endorsed the growing push for impeachment.

Polling shows the majority of Americans are against removing Trump from office by impeachment, although public support for the move has risen slightly over the last month.

Last Wednesday, Mueller said his more than 400-page report into Russian interference in 2016, whether the Trump campaign and associates conspired with Russia and whether Trump sought to obstruct the probe "speaks for itself." He added that even if he were to testify before Congress, he wouldn't provide any additional information beyond what was contained in his report.

Mueller also emphasized a central finding of the report on whether Trump obstructed justice, saying, "If we had had confidence that he clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination to whether the president did commit a crime."

In what many Democrats have taken as a signal that the ball is now in their court, Mueller said he was constrained from the onset of the probe by Justice Department rules that prohibit the indictment of a sitting president. The method for charging and removing a president, he said, lies outside the criminal justice system, referring to the Constitution's provisions for impeachment.

More than 50 House Democrats now favor starting impeachment proceedings. But Pelosi has not budged from her position, saying last week that "the press makes more of a fuss" about those in favor of impeachment proceedings than those who have not called for them.

During a speech Saturday before the California Democratic Party state convention, Pelosi drew loud chants of "impeach" from those in attendance.

Elsewhere on the Sunday political talk shows, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told ABC's "This Week" that "we're not there yet" on impeachment.

"We have important oversight work we can do outside the context of impeachment, and I think at this point, that is still the preferred course," he said.

Pointing to Mueller, the California Democrat said the special counsel "has one last service to perform" — testifying before Congress.

"It's not enough merely to speak for 10 minutes and say, 'I'm not going to answer questions for Congress and the American people,'" Schiff said. "There are a great many things that are not in the report."

And on "State of the Union," Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat and presidential candidate, said Congress has "a moral obligation" post-Mueller "to investigate this president."

"Impeachment proceedings will give us more legal leverage to be able to get the information Congress needs to get to the bottom of what his administration has done while they're in office," Booker said.