Government & Politics

‘Potential fire of corruption.’ Rep. Cleaver calls for Trump impeachment inquiry

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver wants to launch an impeachment inquiry for President Donald Trump following former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.

Cleaver, D-Missouri, had repeatedly said that he would need to see Mueller testify before he could make up his mind about impeachment, but as of last week the eight-term congressman was still weighing the next steps.

The Missouri Democrat officially came out in favor of launching an inquiry Monday, but said he still is not ready to support articles of impeachment.

“After reading Special Counsel Mueller’s redacted report and listening to his testimony, it’s clear to me that they indicate the President committed one or more instances of obstruction of justice while in office. When looking at the evidence presented, there is obviously enough smoke to investigate the potential fire of corruption,” Cleaver said in a statement.

He elaborated on his decision to support an inquiry in an interview with The Star Monday evening, explaining that launching an inquiry will give the House stronger legal footing to obtain Trump’s taxes and compel administration officials to testify after months of resistance.

“It boiled down to I agree that we need the inquiry to equip ourselves with the legal wherewithal to ask judges to force the release of information to us,” Cleaver said.

“I only read the redacted Mueller report. I have no more information than people who work at the grocery store or who work as ushers at church on Sunday,” he added.

Mueller’s investigation detailed 11 incidents of potential obstruction by the president, and during his testimony to Congress he made clear that his report did not exonerate Trump. At the same time, investigators did not find sufficient evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to bring charges.

Cleaver pointed to Mueller’s firm answer that he had not cleared the president of obstruction and testimony that Trump did not cooperate with the investigation as key moments that pushed him toward his current position.

Republicans have called for Congress to move on, but a growing chorus of Democrats has begun to call for either impeachment or at least an inquiry.

Missouri’s only other Democrat in Congress, Rep. William Lacy Clay of St. Louis, has signed onto a resolution to impeach Trump.

Cleaver is the 110th Democrat to back an impeachment inquiry. Independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party, also supports impeachment.

Cleaver emphasized that he is still not ready to support articles of impeachment at this time.

“Most of my friends don’t want an inquiry. They want an impeachment,” he said. “I’m not there yet. Maybe I’ll be there later. I don’t know. But I do think I am required to be deliberate.”

Cleaver’s decision to back an inquiry follows a weekend in which Trump attacked the city of Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the House Oversight Committee and is a close ally of Cleaver’s.

“When I was told about the attack on Baltimore through Elijah Cummings I was really incensed and felt as though the president is just unhinged right now and will continue to create rifts in the country until Republicans say, Mr. President that’s enough,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver acknowledged the attacks on Cummings and his predominantly African American congressional district may have played a role in his decision. “If somebody dug deep into my psyche, they’d probably dig out a nugget that it played a role,” he said.

“Republican senators went to Richard Nixon and said, ‘Sir it’s time for you to go.’ Now that won’t happen now… But somebody needs to stand up to the president and say stop it,” Cleaver added.

Cleaver’s announcement comes a day ahead of an event in Blue Springs with Republican Gov. Mike Parson, a Trump supporter. Cleaver, who takes great pride in his bipartisan friendships, said his support for an impeachment inquiry won’t hamper his ability to work with Republicans in Washington or Missouri.

The progressive group Move On had sent an email blast last week encouraging members to visit and call Cleaver’s office to urge support for impeachment.

Cleaver’s decision to back an inquiry signals a shift within the Democratic caucus and could put pressure on freshman Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, who represents the adjacent Kansas district, to follow.

Davids said last week that she continues to have faith in the “relevant House committees to conduct necessary oversight and uphold the rule of law.”

Cleaver said last week that he had wanted to consult with legal experts and members on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees before determining his next steps. He pointed to the committees’ respective chairmen, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, as two of the lawmakers he consulted.

Cleaver said that Nadler has the power to begin an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee, which is his preferred course of action.

He disputed the notion that his support for an inquiry will put pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who has so far resisted steps toward impeachment.

“I don’t think people understand Nancy Pelosi is one of the most strategic and stone-willed individuals I’ve met in politics,” he said.

Cleaver said another factor in his decision to back an inquiry has been Senate Republican leadership’s refusal to take up any election security bills passed by the House.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a very serious state of affairs in this country and the only people who can celebrate this is Putin and his buddies,” Cleaver said.

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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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