Staff Columnist

Politically calculating Iowa politicians not down with impeachment

U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One as he departs for a campaign rally from the White House in Washington, U.S., May 20, 2019.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One as he departs for a campaign rally from the White House in Washington, U.S., May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The charge to impeach President Donald Trump is slowly gaining supporters. Don’t expect any Iowans to lead the effort, however.

Most Democrats in office are fiercely critical of Trump’s policy agenda and conduct in office, but they question whether impeachment is a practical goal. Most Republicans, meanwhile, dismiss the impeachment discussion as partisan grandstanding.

On both sides, the calculation is based more on politics than on the law.

So far, only eight Democrats in the U.S. House have signed on to a resolution to open an impeachment inquiry. However, at least a dozen more have publicly said they’re interested in at least studying impeachment, and that number is growing each week.

In perhaps the most interesting development to date, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan this month became the first Republican in federal office to publicly say the president “has engaged in impeachable conduct.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report identified multiple instances where Trump obstructed justice, and anyone who is not president would have been indicted under such evidence, Amash wrote in a series of Twitter posts. He also said Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr intentionally misled the public about the report.

“When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law — the foundation of liberty — crumbles,” Amash wrote.

Iowa’s delegation in Washington, D.C. is more reserved on the prospect of impeachment proceedings.

The three Iowa Republicans — Rep. Steve King and Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley — remain Trump loyalists, though the relationship between the White House and our senators is tenuous at times.

The three Iowa Democrats — Reps. Dave Loebsack, Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne — are vocal Trump critics, but none have yet called for his ouster.

Both Loebsack and Finkenauer parroted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s position in statements to KGAN last week. They stopped short of endorsing the proposed impeachment inquiry, but said Congress must affirm its oversight and investigative roles, voicing frustration at the administration’s refusal to comply with lawmakers’ requests for documents and testimony.

Likewise, the Democratic base is lukewarm toward impeachment.

A slim majority of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers, 52 percent, support impeachment, according to polling data published this month by political consulting firm Firehouse Strategies.

A Monmouth University Poll of Iowa Democrats released last month showed 38 percent said it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” for Democratic presidential candidates to support impeachment, compared to 51 percent who say it’s “not important.”

Iowa lawmakers’ roles were different two decades ago, when Democratic President Bill Clinton faced a Senate trial for perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Iowa’s only congressperson still in office today was very much in favor of impeachment back then.

“This White House has perfected the art of stonewalling around the truth. I fear that future White Houses will learn much from these experts and will refine and improve their own truth-fighting arsenals. Truth and openness will be casualties,” Grassley said in February 1999, according to remarks archived by the Washington Post.

Grassley was right, it turns out. Subsequent presidential administrations have continued to erode truth and openness, present executives included. The major difference between 1999 and 2019 is the letter behind the president’s name.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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