California financier Tom Steyer’s $20 million ad campaign to impeach President Donald Trump has alienated some of the Democratic leaders with the influence to make impeachment a reality.
Some within the Democratic leadership fear that aggressively pursuing impeachment will only serve to turn Republican and independents against the party and jeopardize their opportunity to flip Congress in 2018.
“I’ve been a very harsh critic of this president….But the impeachment message right now is not helpful to the possibility of retaking the House,” Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, chairman of the fiscally moderate New Democratic Coalition, told The Wall Street Journal.
Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund founder, dismissed the pragmatic criticisms brought by lawmakers and suggested the impeachment ads serve a higher goal.
“I understand that there are people who think that from a tactical political standpoint it may not be clever,” Steyer said. “We’re not trying to be clever.”
The ads have run on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, local broadcast stations, Times Square and Twitter. The segments, which cast Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey as obstruction, direct viewers to a virtual impeachment petition website, that 2.6 million people have signed in the month since the campaign began.
Steyer, who has spent over $170 million to support Democratic causes and candidates over the last three years, claims the ad campaign is designed to put sufficient public pressure on lawmakers that they secure the necessary coalition to impeach.
Some Democrats appreciate Steyer’s enthusiasm but don’t believe his efforts are likely to assist in the party’s most pressing concern, the 2018 congressional races
“I like Tom, and he means well,” said Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. “And he certainly believes he’s doing the right thing for the country….[but] I don’t think the impeachment conversation necessarily helps in House races.”
Steyer believes the 2016 election demonstrated the impotence of establishment politics and, as a result, he does not place much stock in the advice of establishment lawmakers.
“The Republican nominee wasn’t really a Republican. The person who energized the Democratic Party wasn’t really a Democrat,” Steyer said, referring to Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent. “So, when I hear the Washington establishment tell me, ‘Shut the f—up,’ I think, well, maybe.”
Despite the naysayers, Steyer’s ads have prompted some action on Capitol Hill. Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced five articles of impeachment on Nov. 15 after seeing one of the ads.
“I finally said after I saw that ad, I thought, ‘I need to move forward,'” Cohen said.
The impeachment articles, which received only six votes, cite Trump’s firing of Comey as obstruction of justice and allege that Trump violated the emoluments clause by accepting payment from foreign officials through his businesses. They also accuse the president of undermining the federal judiciary and freedom of the press.
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