Government

Billionaire brings 'Need to Impeach' campaign to Cedar Rapids

Tom Steyer says lawmakers need to step up, or be voted out

CEDAR RAPIDS — Although none of their elected officials have gotten behind efforts to impeach President Donald Trump, at least 200 people in Cedar Rapids turned out Thursday evening to hear the hedge-fund billionaire campaigning for Trump’s impeachment.

Driving Trump from office, Tom Steyer told a cheering crowd, will come only from voters pressuring their representatives.

“The only way this happens, it’s not going to be objective truth, it’s not going to be evidence from Mr. Mueller,” Steyer said, referring to the investigator leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “It’s going to be if the American people decide, we’ve had enough, he has to go. You either get him out of here, or we get you out of here.”

Steyer was in Cedar Rapids as part of a 30-stop, nationwide tour for his “Need to Impeach” campaign, which began in October with social media ads and TV spots. In the commercials, the soft-spoken Steyer makes the case for Trump’s impeachment.

The message has resonated for people like Pam Haag, 65, of Cedar Rapids. For her, she said, Trump’s presidency has “been like a heaviness.” She said she came to the event to learn how she can push back against a president she believes has done away with respect and American norms.

Elected Democrats have been wary of the impeachment message, Steyer admitted at Thursday’s event.

He has criticized officials — including U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation — for not supporting impeachment charges.

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A spokesman for Loebsack told The Gazette he believes Congress should allow the Mueller investigation to continue without interference.

Steyer said the “political establishment” doesn’t like to talk about impeachment for fear it will anger Republicans and drive them to the polls.

“I think the flip side of that is, if we never tell the truth, if we never talk about the basic issues, we will never encourage our voters to show up at the polls,” he told The Gazette. “You may have noticed the strategy of not talking about the issues has led to the lowest turnout in history for Democrats.

“So it seems to me, not only for what’s right but for what’s practical, telling the truth to the American people and standing up for what you believe in seems to be a much more practical strategy to have people trust you and show up at the polls,” he said.

Beyond Steyer’s crowded space in Cedar Rapids’ Shores Event Center, though, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann scoffed at the idea of many Iowans — who favored Trump by nine percentage points in the 2016 election — sympathizing with Steyer’s impeachment push.

Kaufmann told The Gazette he sees Steyer as an “extreme left-wing liberal from California,” whose visit emphasizes Democrats’ disconnect to suburban and rural Iowans.

“If the Democrats really have learned their lesson, like they say they have, and are really trying to reach out to suburban Iowa and rural Iowa, do they honestly think bringing in the mayor of Los Angeles, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Steyer is going to do it?” Kaufmann asked, referencing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s visit to the state last month and Pelosi’s Sunday visit to Des Moines.

“Ask Tom Steyer what a cow pie is,” Kaufmann added. “He’ll think it’s something you put whipped cream on for dessert.”

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In response, Steyer said he found it “sad” the GOP chair resorted to “attacking the messenger” and said he is interested in talking with people across the political spectrum.

“We’re making a patriotic case for standing up for this country, and I think that can be palatable to anybody, regardless of party,” Steyer said.

The U.S. House has brought formal impeachment charges against two presidents, but senators — who would need a two-thirds vote to impeach — have never convicted and removed a president from office.

While Congress has not taken any impeachment action, many of those at Thursday’s event supported Steyer’s call.

“He’s preaching to the choir,” said Melinda Tomsic, 70. “But we’re frustrated here because we’re in a state where all of our representatives are die-hard Republicans.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

The Washington Post contributed.

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