Breaking from the House Democratic leadership and the other six Democrats in the Maryland House delegation, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park on Wednesday voted in favor of moving ahead with action to impeach President Donald Trump.
An impeachment resolution offered by Rep. Al Green of Texas was tabled by a 364-58 vote, with all Republicans, as well as a large majority of Democrats, voting in favor of the procedural move to effectively kill the measure.
Raskin said Thursday that he had reservations about the specifics of the Green resolution, but voted against tabling it to protest the handling of the impeachment debate by the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee
“I’m the only member of the Maryland delegation who serves on the Judiciary Committee, and lots of Democrats on our committee are very frustrated with the continued silencing by the Republican leadership of real inquiry into corruption and criminality in the Trump administration,” Raskin told Bethesda Beat in a phone interview. “My vote was a vote in favor of real legislative process, and investigation of misdeeds and criminality at the highest levels of government.”
The resolution proposed by Green did not contain charges of obstruction of justice against the president, but rather focused on a number of Trump’s controversial comments taking aim at certain individuals and groups, The Washington Post reported.
“For too long, we have allowed our civility to prevent us from confronting the invidious incivility of President Donald J. Trump,” Green wrote in a statement that accompanied the resolution. “It divides and damages the social fabric of our country in ways that obstruction of justice cannot.”
Raskin, a constitutional law professor prior to his election to Congress last year, said: “There are a bunch of different [impeachment] resolutions out there that are actually much stronger causes of action than some that were in the Green resolution. I think they all should be bundled together, and there should be hearings on whether the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors.”
He noted that he has not co-sponsored any of the impeachment resolutions introduced in the House to date.
“The reason … that I am not a co-sponsor of one of these is that I don’t think the question has become legally and politically ripe yet. But the evidence mounts every day,” he said.
Raskin added: “There are questions about whether there was obstruction of justice in firing [former FBI Director] James Comey for refusing to squelch the investigation of [former White House national security adviser Michael] Flynn. There are questions about the continuing collection of payments from foreign governments at the [Trump] Hotel and the Trump golf courses and the Trump Tower in violation of the emoluments clause.”
His reference was to the domestic and the foreign emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The foreign emoluments clause bars federal officials from accepting benefits from foreign governments without the approval of Congress. The domestic clause prohibits the president from receiving benefits from federal, state and local government beyond his salary and other compensation set by law.
Trump’s failure to disengage himself from his widespread business interests has prompted contention since prior to his swearing-in earlier this year that he is violation those clauses.
Raskin and the 57 other House Democrats who voted against tabling the Green resolution did so against the advice of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, a fellow Marylander.
In a joint statement, Pelosi and Hoyer said that “legitimate questions have been raised about [Trump’s] fitness to lead this nation.”
But they pointed to ongoing investigations of Trump’s actions by several congressional committees and by Robert Mueller—the independent special counsel appointed by the Justice Department.
“… Those inquiries should be allowed to continue,” the Pelosi-Hoyer statement said. “Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment.”
More than two-thirds of House Democrats consequently voted with Pelosi and Hoyer to table Green’s resolution, including Raskin’s two colleagues who also represent parts of Montgomery County: Reps. John Delaney of Potomac and John Sarbanes of Towson.
Asked about Pelosi’s and Hoyer’s stance on the matter, Raskin said: “Politically, I think they’re making the correct point. We probably are not going to get a serious congressional investigation into executive branch impropriety until the Mueller investigation is concluded.”
But he added: “The problem is that the Mueller investigation concerns only one set of facts relating to collusive activity between the Trump campaign and White House and various Russian political and business actors. There are lots of others things going on relating to offenses against the foreign emoluments clause, the domestic emoluments clause, and assaults on the media and the First Amendment that are worth serious public discussion.”
Raskin also said: “There are multiple serious constitutional issues out there. The problem is that the GOP leadership of the Judiciary Committee has not allowed us to have any hearings or any investigation into any of these things. They’re not leaving the Democrats much choice.”