Elizabeth Warren on Friday became the first major presidential contender to call for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The Massachusetts senator laid out her rationale in a series of afternoon tweets, which together read:
The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack.
Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.
To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.
The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.
Warren isn’t the first elected official to ring the impeachment bell in the wake of the report’s release Thursday—that honor goes to progressive Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. But Warren is now at odds with her party’s leadership, which wants to proceed far more slowly. She also stands alone in a 2020 field in which the other Democratic hopefuls have limited themselves to demanding Congress see the unredacted version and hear directly from Mueller.
I remain skeptical that the issue of impeachment will become a defining issue in the Democratic primary. It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to build a presidential campaign on the promise of impeaching the president—both because impeachment is the responsibility of the House, and because the need to impeach would become moot the very moment the next president is sworn in. Furthermore, even if a candidate did find a way to square that circle, it’s not clear it would pay off in either the primary or the general election. Democratic voters seem to care significantly less about the Russia investigation than they do about other issues like healthcare, immigration, and climate change, and the U.S. electorate as whole appears even less interested.
Still, in a crowded field currently dominated by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, Warren’s willingness to even utter the word impeachment will likely earn her a flurry of media coverage, which in turn will give primary voters a second look at her. Many might like what they see: An outspoken progressive who is proposing bold yet specific action. In that regard, Warren’s call for the House to begin impeachment proceedings is in line with her bounty of ambitious policy proposals on everything from childcare to taxes. In each case, she’s identifying a serious problem and proposing to use the levers of government to fix it. Meanwhile, campaign aside, there’s also something to be said for Warren simply doing the job she was elected to—regardless of what it means for her next one.