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The Jaco Report, Ep. 27: In push to impeach, Clay takes on Trump and Pelosi

While Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., wants President Donald Trump impeached, Clay’s putative boss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., does not.

So Clay’s articles of impeachment introduced two weeks ago float in a sort of legislative twilight zone, suspended among Trump’s defiance of Congress, 75 to 80 House progressives who want to start impeachment hearings, and the reluctance of a majority of House Democrats to cross Pelosi, who has said impeachment would give Trump political ammunition and his voters another reason to go to the polls.

But appearing on “The Jaco Report,” Clay said his push to impeach Trump on obstruction of justice charges had less to do with politics than with common decency.

“We all have to ask ourselves, is it time for impeachment?” Clay said. “And to me the answer is yes. And I think in the future when my children and grandchildren ask me, ‘What did you do when this lawlessness was happening under the leadership of Trump?’, I want to be able to say I was at the forefront of pushing to defend the Constitution.”

Clay’s articles of impeachment, introduced along with Reps. Al Green of Texas and Brad Sherman of California, seek to impeach Trump on some of the ten instances of apparent obstruction of justice laid out in the second volume of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Clay wants those instances sent to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

“I feel as though the case is building for articles of impeachment to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee,” said Clay, a 10-term congressman from St. Louis. “If that happens, and a vote is taken by Judiciary to proceed with impeachment proceedings, I will be voting in favor of it when it reaches the House floor.”

Any vote by the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment would only follow lengthy, televised public hearings. And while Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is in favor of forging ahead with hearings, witnesses, evidence, and subpoenas, Pelosi is not. And since Pelosi is the one who decides which bills are heard by which committees, Clay’s impeachment proposal is in limbo —formally introduced, but not referred to any committee.

Clay shrugged off Pelosi’s reluctance, noting that fewer than one-third of House Democrats, so far, were on board with impeachment.

“I think she is playing the long game, as far as trying to get a majority of the Democratic caucus at least to see if we can rise to the number of over half of us being in favor of impeachment. Right now the figure is about 75 out of 240, so we aren’t there yet.”

While new-wave Democratic progressives, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have warned that the United States is “sliding toward fascism,” the majority of Democratic House members are still holding off on impeachment, and Clay thinks he knows why.

“Some of their reluctance has to do with following the House leadership, with following Speaker Pelosi’s lead,” Clay noted. “She’s a very good political strategist, and let’s face it, that’s an extraordinary move, to undo a national election. And I know that, but I’m at the point individually, as a person, that I think it is time to undo a national election. But a majority of my colleagues are not.”

The latest head count by the New York Times indicates 80 House Democrats now support impeachment publicly. But an analysis by the statistics website FiveThirtyEight.com indicates a majority of House Democrats probably favor impeachment but are reluctant to say so on the record for fear of crossing Pelosi.

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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