Democratic establishment shies away from Trump impeachment talk

The spector of President Pence concerns liberals

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Less than 24 hours after news broke that President Donald Trump allegedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Mike Flynn, Democratic Rep. Al Green gave an impassioned speech on the House Floor supporting impeaching the President.

Green was one of a handful of Democrats who have mulled over officially invoking the "i" word. But the Democratic establishment has taken a more cautious tone.

"Were not even focusing on it right now," said a senior staffer at the Democratic National Committee. "It's wasted breath -- I don't think the American population realizes how difficult it is to successfully impeach a president. I don't think that's possible right now."

The DNC has refrained from mentioning the impeachment process and has not officially used the word. In the only statement issued by Chairman Tom Perez regarding Tuesday's news, Perez acknowledged the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to the Justice Department, but stopped far short of saying charges should be brought against Trump.

The reason for the DNC's silence is multifaceted, according to the DNC source. The decision largely hinges on the fact that members believe there's not enough evidence to push forward an impeachment hearing. And the fact that Republicans control the House makes the goal at this point largely a "pipe dream."

The party is aware that calling for impeachment too early will be the equivalent of crying wolf, and it's also something Republicans could benefit from politically.

"In large part it's because the Republicans did this with Obama and we raised a ton of money off of it, and we've realized that every time we use the words 'impeachment' the RNC can raise money off it," said the DNC source.

During the Obama era, ardent conservatives frequently called for President Barack Obama's impeachment, while the Republican National Committee refrained.

Jeff Weaver, the former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders who now heads Sanders' political organization Our Revolution, believes that Trump's actions do need to be investigated but that it's too soon to move forward with formally leveling charges against him.

"I think that what he said is extremely grave, but at this point we haven't dotted all of the i's and crossed all of the t's," said Weaver. "Impeachment is an extraordinary process, we want to make sure that the American people believe that whatever the process is going forward is a fair and judicious process. Every other week Republicans wanted to impeach Obama."

President Pence?

Democrats are also considering the long term considerations -- namely what would come after a Trump impeachment. If Trump were to be removed as president, Mike Pence would take the helm -- scary thought to many liberals.

"A President Pence would be terrible and there' s a lot of uneasiness about the idea of a President Pence because you could easily spin out a scenario where the Republican establishment floods into the White House to help and they unify and they really push through a very radical agenda," said Matt Bennett, senior vice president for public affairs for Third Way, a moderate-left leaning think tank. "Pence is an ideologue and Trump is not. So there is many ways in which Trump is preferable."

Then there's also the messaging implications. "If people want to call for impeachment, it needs to be publicly known that Pence is as corrupt and culpable as Trump, and that he's not a better option," said the DNC source, who says the party has up until now not done enough to highlight that.

Weaver worries a President Pence would also be more adept at pushing forward conservative legislation.

"I think policy-wise Pence wouldn't be any better than Trump [for liberals] frankly, and might actually be more competitive. So for those of us who oppose the radical right-wing agenda, a President Pence might be more successful about getting some of it passed," Weaver said.

In the long run though, many liberals are united in thinking that a Trump impeachment should ultimately come from a place of need, not politics.

"I'm a big believer in Democracy and playing by the rules, but this can't be a political process," Weaver said. "From my standpoint I think we have to gather the evidence and see if what is alleged is true and then we go from there."

Correction: This story has been updated to identify Third Way as a public policy think tank.


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