House Democrats have expressed conflicting views on whether they would pursue impeachment hearings against U.S. President Donald Trump if they gain a congressional majority in the 2018 midterm elections.
While polling indicates that an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters support removing Trump from the White House, their representatives have voiced concern that the effort would be politically costly and potentially unsuccessful.
On Dec. 20, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found that 41 percent of Americans wanted Congress to hold impeachment hearings, while 54 percent were against ousting Trump from power. The data further found that 70 percent of Democrats supported impeachment, according to The Hill.
That same day, a CNN/SSRS poll signaled that Democrats had an advantage heading into the 2018 midterm elections; 56 percent of surveyed registered voters said they planned to vote for a Democrat in the upcoming midterms, while 38 percent were leaning towards casting a ballot for a Republican, according to CNN.
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who replaced the resigning John Conyers as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee in December, would spearhead impeachment hearings against Trump if the Democrats regain a majority in the House. Nadler advised caution on the matter.
"If we were in the majority and if we decide that the evidence isn't there for impeachment -- or even if the evidence is there we decide it would tear the country apart too much, there's no buy-in, there's no bipartisanship and we shouldn't do it for whatever reason -- if we decide that, then it's our duty to educate the country why we decided it," Nadler told Politico.
Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of California said he favored impeachment but warned that his colleagues should avoid hearings if there was no bipartisan support, citing public backlash against GOP lawmakers in 1998 when they attempted to remove former President Bill Clinton.
"I think there'll be a lot of nervousness about not repeating that mistake ... I think that's one of the things Republicans got wrong in '98," Huffman said. "The bipartisan piece of it is assurance to the public that you're not just playing partisan games."
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee asserted that there was more evidence to justify a Trump impeachment than there had been against President Clinton.
"There's a difference between colluding with Russia to win an election and obstructing justice ... and having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky," Cohen said.
Cohen and Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas have already filed articles of impeachment against Trump. Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who represents a district Trump won in 2016, criticized his colleagues' efforts to impeach the president as "entirely unnecessary and hurtful to people in certain districts."
Another concern among House Democrats was that a Trump impeachment would likely falter in the Senate, where the effort would require a two-thirds majority to pass.
The House Minority Leader, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, has repeatedly shot down talks of impeachment among her colleagues.
On Nov. 17, Pelosi asserted during an interview at a press event that promising impeachment hearings against Trump would hurt Democrats' efforts to recapture the House.
"Republicans would love for us to make our campaign about the impeachment of Trump," Pelosi said, according to the Washington Examiner. "That's not what it's about. It's about the well-being of American families. He's just not that important."