For several Democrats representing Southern California in Congress, the case for impeaching President Donald Trump already exists.
Other Democrats aren’t quite there, preferring to wait for the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And at least one Southern California Republican is more concerned about Mueller than he is about the president.
A Southern California News Group survey of the region’s House delegation found diverse answers, mainly split along party lines, to questions about the Mueller probe, Trump’s fitness for office and the extent to which Russian meddling influenced the 2016 presidential election.
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In all, 18 representatives – 13 Democrats and five Republicans – responded to reporters’ emailed questions. A sixth Republican, Costa Mesa’s Dana Rohrabacher, declined – through a spokesman – to comment, saying the questions would require speculation. However, he has been critical of Mueller’s investigation.
Reps. Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro; Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks; Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, said they support impeaching Trump now.
Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk.
“We need not wait until all the various investigations give us a complete catalog of all of Trump’s wrongdoing,” said Sherman, who in July filed articles of impeachment.
By contrast, Democrats including Pete Aguilar of Redlands; Tony Cardenas of Panorama City; Judy Chu of Pasadena; Lou Correa of Santa Ana; Ted Lieu of Torrance; Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach; Raul Ruiz of La Quinta and Mark Takano of Riverside want to wait until investigations wrap up before deciding on impeachment.
“Impeachment is a remedy that the Founding Fathers created to protect our democracy for use only in the case of treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors by the president, regardless of party,” Ruiz said.
“I do not take this responsibility lightly,” Ruiz added. “To date, that standard has not yet been met.”
Democrats were more unified in warning of grave consequences if Trump, who has denied allegations his campaign colluded with Russia, fires Mueller.
“Firing (Mueller) now, as indictments are being issued and guilty pleas accepted, is not only an attack on the independent institutions that exist to check the president, but it would also create serious and legitimate concern about the president,” Chu said.
Lieu said: “If Trump fired Mueller, I would immediately push for impeachment proceedings and ask the American people to take to the streets.”
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley.
Republicans were generally supportive of allowing Mueller’s work to continue, although Paul Cook of Yucca Valley said he’s concerned about pro-Democrat bias on Mueller’s team.
“The Constitution of the United States vests executive power in the president. The Justice Department, as part of the executive branch, is clearly under the president’s authority,” Cook said.
“That being said, the president has said he will not fire Mueller, and I take him at his word.”
Investigations into Russian election meddling by Congress and the Justice Department “should go where the facts lead,” said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona. Another Republican, Rep. Steve Knight of Antelope Valley, issued a statement in which he said he “supports a special counsel investigation and supported this before Robert Mueller’s appointment.”
However, Rohrabacher has been critical of Mueller’s investigation, expressing concern that it has cast too broad a net rather than focusing solely on possible collusion with Russians.
“There’s a special prosecutor who’s out of control, who’s taking his direction from the news media like yourself,” Rohrabacher told CNN this month. He specifically pointed out that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted for alleged money laundering that took place “long before he had anything to do with Trump.”
Democrats rebuked Trump for behavior they see as proof of flawed character, incompetence and even mental instability.
Waters noted press reports quoting Trump’s cabinet members as questioning the president’s intelligence.
“Yes, his mental fitness is in question,” Waters said. “And I believe that members of Congress have a responsibility to give serious consideration to his mental stability and what should be done about it.”
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.
Lowenthal said: “As a psychologist, I believe that a determination of mental fitness is a process that cannot be delivered accurately from a distance, especially by individuals without psychological training.”
“I do, however, without reservation, believe that Donald Trump has frequently and definitively shown himself to be unfit for the office of president of the United States.”
Cardenas and Takano also raised the issue of competence, while other Democrats were more reserved.
“President Trump is our president,” Correa said. “He was elected by those who voted for him and those voters that failed to vote. Let’s focus on Mueller’s investigation.”
Trump’s fitness and competence “is not for me to decide,” Napolitano said. “I am not an expert.”
Lawmakers from both parties in the Southern California delegation generally agreed with numerous intelligence agency reports that found Russia interfered in the 2016 election. But they differ on the extent to which that meddling worked.
“It seems clear that Russia and Russian-backed actors attempted to influence the 2016 election, but they had little to no impact on why people voted, and they never compromised our voting systems,” Cook said.
“The election was a decision between two very different candidates with two very different visions for America, not on poorly produced Facebook ads or tweets from Twitter bots and trolls.”
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Yorba Linda.
The office of Rep. Ed Royce, R-Yorba Linda, referred to past statements by the congressman supporting an investigation into Russian interference to prevent it from happening again.
“That said, as (a declassified intelligence report) found, there is nothing to suggest Russian meddling impacted our voting and tallying process in any way,” Royce said in January 2017. “Donald Trump won.”
That statement came before Royce announced he would not seek re-election.
Democrats accused GOP lawmakers of trying to sabotage ongoing Russia investigations.
“From attacks on Robert Mueller and the intelligence community to an inability to remain focused on the inappropriate contacts multiple Trump campaign and administration officials have had with Russians, the Republican-controlled Congress does not seem interested in holding the president and his team accountable,” Aguilar said.
Besides allowing Mueller’s investigation to continue, Napolitano said Congress should create “an independent, bipartisan commission – removed from politics – to fully investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and ties between Russians and President Trump’s campaign officials.”
Ruiz also called for an independent investigation.
“This isn’t about party or politics,” Ruiz added. “But the future of our American democracy.”
The Southern California News Group sent questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, President Donald Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election to Republicans and Democrats in Southern California’s delegation to the House of Representatives.
The following representatives answered our questions: Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands; Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro; Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City; Judy Chu-D Pasadena; Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley; Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; Raul Ruiz, D-La Quinta; Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks; Mark Takano, D-Riverside and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.
The following representatives replied with statements instead of answering individual questions: Ken Calvert, R-Corona; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; Ed Royce, R-Yorba Linda and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.
The following representatives did not respond: Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village; Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles; Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Darrell Issa, R-Vista; Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood and Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach. (Issa, like Royce, has announced he will not seek re-election.)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa declined to comment for this story, but discussed Mueller with CNN.
Source: Oc Register