Third-ranking House Dem: I believe we'll open impeachment proceedings against Trump

Two days after Bill Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report was released, James Clyburn said the Russiagate chapter was closed and it was time to move on to health care. Now he’s on CNN claiming that a formal impeachment process is a fait accompli. Wha’ happened?

I wonder if this message is something he’s coordinating with Pelosi, a good cop/bad cop routine they’re doing to cover their left flank. Democrats don’t want to impeach, knowing that nothing will come of it in the Senate and that the public is lukewarm about the idea, but they don’t want to demoralize the hardcore anti-Trumpers who populate the base either. Having Pelosi make the anti-impeachment case while Clyburn pronounces it all but a done deal is a way to play both sides.

Another possibility: The facts have changed since Clyburn first proclaimed the Russiagate matter over. All he had to go on at the time was Barr’s account of Mueller’s report. Since then he’s seen the full report and watched Robert Mueller himself remind the country at a press conference that he didn’t exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. Clyburn’s interest in impeachment might have been rekindled. And if so, he wasn’t the only Democrat to feel that way. New from CNN:

Democrats are increasingly in support of impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office but the majority of Americans remain opposed to the prospect, a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS shows…

The shift on impeachment stems mostly from a rebound in support for it among Democrats — 76% favor it currently, up from 69% in April. Whites who hold college degrees have also increased their support for impeachment. In surveys in April and March, fewer than 3 in 10 in that group favored proceedings, but that number has now climbed to 41%.

Barr’s summary cooled some of the ardor for impeachment temporarily whereas the full report reignited it, at least among Dems.

There’s a racial divide on this subject too. In the CNN poll, whites split 31/64 against impeachment whereas nonwhites favor it 59/36. Clyburn is the highest-ranking black Democrat in Congress and hails from a state, South Carolina, in which a heavy majority of the primary electorate is black. It may be that impeachment is more popular among the constituents he’s heard from in the past two months than among the constituents whom Pelosi’s trying to reckon with. A few days ago, in fact, the NYT published a story about black voters challenging Democratic reps with a simple question: Why is Trump still in office?

Mr. Evans, a Democrat who began calling for Mr. Trump to be impeached long before Mr. Mueller issued his report, was not surprised: “The issue that I hear constantly here is, ‘We sent you for one reason only: to get rid of the president, right? Why haven’t you gotten rid of him yet?’”

In cities around the country, black Democrats like Mr. Evans — and other House members who represent majority-black districts — are hearing much the same from their African-American constituents, as well as from white liberals who have moved into the nation’s urban core. Those views are translating into action on Capitol Hill, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure from her rank-and-file to hurry up her time frame for what many see as an inevitable impeachment inquiry.

Black Democrats’ fervent interest in getting rid of Trump may even be driving Biden’s surprising lead in the polls. He already had cred among black voters from his time as Obama’s VP but the fact that he’s perceived as the most electable candidate — i.e. the candidate most likely to end the Trump era — may better explain his outsized support among black Dems. If that’s so, go figure that members of the Congressional Black Caucus like Clyburn, Maxine Waters, and Al Green would be the loudest voices for impeachment in the House. They’re doing what their constituents want them to do.