Most Michigan Democratic reps not ready for impeachment -- for now

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-District 9

Washington — So far, two Michigan members of Congress support impeachment, but others in the House delegation aren’t ready to go there, including some of the more progressive lawmakers.

The debate gained momentum this week as at least two dozen Democrats in Congress joined calls to start an impeachment inquiry, increasing pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's slow-go approach. Michigan's House delegation has seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, also set off a storm on Capitol Hill when he became the first Republican lawmaker to publicly say President Donald Trump's conduct rose to the "threshold of impeachment."

Amash, who represents the Grand Rapids area, continued to make his case Thursday with another lengthy series of tweets based on details in special counsel Robert Mueller's report that Trump tried to block the probe.

"Mueller’s report describes a consistent effort by the president to use his office to obstruct or otherwise corruptly impede the Russian election interference investigation because it put his interests at risk," Amash wrote. 

Democratic leaders have suggested Amash's support doesn't equate to bipartisan support for impeachment proceedings, but frustration has grown within their caucus over Trump's stonewalling of Congress.

"I can understand the frustration of my colleagues," said freshman Rep. Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township, a progressive Democrat from a safe blue district.

"I just feel the weight of history of this, and for the moment I want us to continue to really focus on very carefully following the facts wherever they lead, and not allowing the president to engage in a cover-up. That's what he's doing."

Levin also noted the unlikelihood of an impeachment trial succeeding at this time in the GOP-controlled Senate. He recalled there was a year of investigation before formal impeachment proceedings began for Richard Nixon in 1974, and more Republicans came on board. 

“If he succeeds in stonewalling, then we'll have to take another step," Levin added about Trump. "But for now I want to try to use all the mechanisms that we have." 

No Michigan members have signed on to Detroit Rep. Rashida Tlaib's resolution backing impeachment, which she introduced in March and is up to seven co-sponsors. The measure hasn't moved out of the House Rules Committee.  

Republicans in Michigan's delegation have said it's time to "move on" from Mueller.

"Democratic leadership is going to have to decide if they're going to proceed with that," Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said of impeachment.

"I know some of their members would like to do that. I have not seen the evidence that warrants anything like that."

Congressman Dan Kildee.

Rep. Dan Kildee, chief deputy whip for the House Democrats, isn’t dismissing the possibility of impeachment but also considers it a last resort if Trump continues to impede congressional probes by ignoring subpoenas and blocking members of his administration from testifying.

On Wednesday, Trump said he wouldn't work with Democrats on any legislation until they drop their investigations into his presidency and finances. 

"He's taking us to a place where (impeachment) could end up being our only option. I don't think that's the case right now," said Kildee of Flint Township, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee that's seeking Trump's tax returns. 

"I much prefer not to even have to think that this is a possibility or an inevitable possibility. But it's the president who's doing this. I don't think I can just ignore the extent to which he's ignoring our rightful constitutional prerogatives."

Pelosi on Thursday said Trump's obstruction of justice "could be impeachable offenses."

"I do think impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country but when we get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that it's unavoidable in terms of impeachment — or not," Pelosi said. "We're not at that place."

Pelosi added that the White House is “crying out” for the Democrats to launch impeachment hearings — a reference to the idea that Democrats taking that route would help Trump politically.

Like Pelosi, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, has long argued that impeachment is too divisive, saying it "would tear this country apart."  

"But the president if he wants to put these investigations aside, he's got to stop feeding the fires by refusing to come up and appear before these committees," Dingell said Wednesday on FOX News

"The president needs to stop putting kerosene on this fire, or Democrats will not have any choice but to move forward. ... Stonewalling and saying you're not going to get anything done from now until next November is not OK." 

Some more moderate Democrats who helped the party win the House majority last year are concerned about overshadowing their caucus' legislative priorities, such as health care.

“The thing that I’m concerned about is that we constantly risk losing focus on the legislation that affirmatively helps people’s lives,” freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, told POLITICO this week.

Slotkin also said the White House’s response is “not going in the right direction right now."