South County reps cautious on impeachment

As the question of whether to impeach President Donald Trump loomed over the California Democratic Convention the weekend of May 31, local representatives continued to resist the pressure to advocate impeachment.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi grew more emboldened in her calls to hold Trump accountable during her speech at the convention. Though Pelosi has taken a cautious approach to investigations of the Trump administration, endorsing subpoenas now tied up in courts, she told Democrats assembled in San Francisco on June 1, “We will also investigate to hold this president accountable.”

The roomful of delegates filled with chants of “impeach, impeach” after Pelosi asked, “Why is it that our president won’t defend our democracy to this foreign threat?”

Nationally, about 70 percent of Democrats support impeachment, and some of the 14 presidential candidates also called for impeachment. However, South County Democratic Congress members Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Rep. Jimmy Panetta are following the speaker’s go-slow approach, with calls for continued investigations instead of an immediate impeachment inquiry.

Lofgren told this newspaper, “There is a process that needs to be taken.” In a series of tweets, Panetta said that in a significant investigation, “all Congressional investigatory tools, authority of the judicial and laws of our nation must be observed.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris said within the first three lines of her speech to the convention that Trump should be impeached, prompting more than 3,000 party faithful to rise from their seats on June 1. Candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke joined the former California attorney general in calling for immediate impeachment proceedings.

A week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s first public statement on his report, Lofgren held firm on her stance for investigations, not impeachment, in a written statement she released on Twitter. In an interview, she told this newspaper that despite the convention’s calls to impeach, she believed there was not yet enough evidence to begin impeachment.

Lofgren represents the 19th district in California, which includes San Jose, Morgan Hill and parts of Gilroy. As a young lawyer, she was a staff attorney in the Watergate probe of President Richard Nixon, and she said in that case there had been sufficient evidence. “One of the issues I raised is we don’t have evidence in front of the judiciary, we have a report,” said Lofgren. “We’re in the process of trying to obtain evidentiary matters.”

As a member of the Judiciary Committee and chair of the Committee on House Administration, which oversees federal elections, Lofgren is heavily involved in the investigations into Trump.

She said she understood that voters may fear that not holding Trump accountable through impeachment would set a dangerous precedent, but emphasized that getting the backup evidentiary materials from the report is a necessary first step. “That’s not an irrational fear,” said Lofgren, “and yet there is a process that needs to be taken.”

Lofgren said that at the state convention, constituents with whom she spoke were understanding of her position.

Panetta is the representative for the 20th district, which includes half of Gilroy and all of San Benito County.

Panetta provided this paper with a comment on his stance on impeachment.

“In order to conduct and ensure compliance with such a serious and significant investigation, all Congressional investigatory tools, authority of the judicial branch, and the laws of our nation, must be observed, enforced, and available to Congress to fulfill its obligations under the U.S. Constitution and to our democracy,” Panetta said in an emailed statement.

Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s statement Panetta took to Twitter to respond. “I commend Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his thorough investigation, utmost integrity and hard work behind the Report on The Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election,” wrote Panetta in a series of tweets.

“Special Counsel Mueller and the report provided a solid foundation upon which Congress will continue to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to protect the security of our nation and its elections and pursue an investigation into any alleged obstruction of justice by the (executive branch) to conduct and ensure compliance with such a serious and significant investigation.”