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Lawmakers Consider Articles Of Impeachment


Now that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it official that the House will impeach President Trump, Democrats have some tough decisions to make. The party is debating the focus of the upcoming articles of impeachment, and it is divided on whether to include possible obstruction detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report. Here is NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: For freshmen Democrats like Michigan's Elissa Slotkin, this is a no-brainer.


ELISSA SLOTKIN: I personally don't think that this should be a kitchen-sink approach, where we take every single grievance we have with the president and put it into one big bucket. I don't support that.

DAVIS: Slotkin was one of the freshmen Democrats who helped tip the caucus to launch the impeachment investigation into Ukraine back in September, but she's clear that her support for impeachment is limited to President Trump's actions with Ukraine alone.

JOE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. I mean, I would probably be in that camp. I'm not looking to overreach by any means.

DAVIS: That's fellow freshman Joe Cunningham of South Carolina. He represents a district that Donald Trump won in 2016, and he said his support for impeachment will depend on how exactly the articles are written.

CUNNINGHAM: People didn't send me up here to impeach the president. People didn't send me up here to protect him, either.

DAVIS: Another freshman, Pennsylvania's Chrissy Houlahan, shares her colleagues' caution.

CHRISSY HOULAHAN: I think it's important that we keep the scope as narrow as possible to something that's as comprehensive and understandable as possible.

DAVIS: But the freshman reluctance to expand the scope of impeachment to include details in the Mueller report isn't shared with more liberal Democrats, who mostly represent safe seats. Texas Democrat Al Green was one of the earliest supporters of impeaching Trump, long before the Ukraine story broke. And he thinks Democrats are making a mistake by not including it in articles of impeachment.

AL GREEN: I don't want the perception to be that the Mueller report did not produce impeachable acts when it did, so I think the Mueller report has to be given some consideration.

DAVIS: Democrats like Green point to evidence in the Mueller Report in which many believe Trump did obstruct justice when he took certain actions, like directing his White House counsel to fire Mueller and then asking him to lie about it. His counsel did neither of those things. While Trump and his allies have claimed exoneration in the Mueller investigation, the special counsel did not conclusively determine whether Trump committed a crime or not.

GREEN: I think that those who've read the report understand that there are impeachable acts within it, possibly as many as 10.

DAVIS: Other Democrats, like Florida's Ted Deutch, say the allegations in the Mueller report are directly tied to the president's actions in Ukraine. He says the report shows Trump's actions with Ukraine weren't a one-off.

TED DEUTCH: I believe that if we're going to talk about obstruction of justice, the way that the president obstructed justice in dealing - in his interactions with Mueller and the cases of obstruction of justice laid out in the Mueller report help to show the pattern from this president that makes the urgency of this moment so apparent.

DAVIS: Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin says the challenge for Democrats is deciding where the line should be drawn when it comes to what's impeachable and what's not.

JAMIE RASKIN: The difficult analytical challenge is just, how do you rope off different patterns of misconduct? And that's precisely our job right now.

DAVIS: Speaker Pelosi repeatedly declines to answer questions about including the Mueller report, but she often weights the needs of her party's most vulnerable lawmakers - in this case, those reluctant freshmen. One of Pelosi's longtime allies, California Democrat Anna Eshoo, said she thinks the caucus is fairly evenly divided on this but that a more narrow scope without the Mueller report will ultimately prevail.

ANNA ESHOO: I think it's a 51-49. I think on the 51 side, I would say what the House Intelligence Committee and then Judiciary - what they bring forward - there's great clarity to that to the American people.

DAVIS: Democrats will have to decide soon if they plan to wrap impeachment by Christmas. Articles could be ready as soon as next week. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.