What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Trump defiance could push more Democrats into ‘impeachment camp,’ Connolly says

House Democrats are divided on the question of whether to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., says that while he thinks “we have seen a massive cover-up on so many fronts” by the president -- echoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- he doesn’t believe Democrats need an impeachment inquiry to move forward. Connolly joins Judy Woodruff.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To begin impeachment proceedings or not, that is the question dividing House Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia sits on the Oversight Committee. And he joins me now.

    Congressman, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D)-Va.: Great to be with you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, given the president's reaction today, was Speaker Pelosi right to say that the president was guilty of a cover-up?

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    Oh, yes.

    I mean, across the board, you name it, in terms of financial transactions, in terms of contacts with the Russians, in terms of protecting his family, in terms of a series of obstruction moves to try to prevent the Mueller investigation from going forward, I think we have seen a massive cover-up on so many fronts.

    And no wonder he's so sensitive about it. This was a Nixonian moment today, you know, where, remember, Nixon talked about, I am not a crook. I don't do cover-ups.

    Well, in both cases, it was actually the opposite, wasn't it?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Was it worth it to have this kind of standoff, because now the president is saying, I'm not going to work with you on any of these issues we were talking about, infrastructure, prescription drugs, or anything else, until essentially Democrats stop investigating him?

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    Well, does anyone seriously think we're going to be held hostage by that kind of juvenile, petulant behavior?

    I mean, the president of the United States doesn't get to dictate to the legislative branch what he will and will not put up with in terms of what we do and how we do our jobs.

    He has to deal with the government he's got. He's clearly still got growing pains in dealing with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. He's got to get over that.

    But he took an oath, just like I did, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He needs to get on with his job. We're going to disagree about these investigations. That doesn't mean we can't find common ground on the business of the country on a day-to-day basis, unless he repeats what he did today, and boycotts even encountering people of the other part to try to find that common ground.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Before I ask you what Democrats are thinking, do you think what you're saying is what voters want, your constituents want in Virginia, other Democratic voters, that they want Democrats focused more on the investigation than on issues?

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    No, and I hope I didn't say that.

    No, I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think voters are discerning. They understand there's a big agenda we're moving forward on, on health care, on prescription drugs, on preexisting conditions, on job creation, on protecting women's rights and voting rights, for example, while, at the same time, doing our constitutional job in holding the executive to account.

    There is compelling evidence that this president may have committed crimes and certainly has crossed the line in terms of impeachable offenses. And I think we have an obligation to pursue that and investigate that. And I think our voters understand that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, having said that, as you know, a number of your Democratic colleagues are saying they want to see you move even more aggressively. We interviewed Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland here last night, who said he's changed his mind just in the last week, that he had been for a go-slow approach.

    But now, given the administration's what he called obstruction, they're not cooperating, he believes you need to move full steam ahead with some sort of impeachment inquiry.

    Why is he wrong?

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    I don't know that he is wrong, but I don't think we need an impeachment inquiry to move forward in terms of investigations.

    In fact, I think — I think that has a precedent that troubles me, because I don't think we need to go to a court and say, well, we're going to launch an impeachment investigation that justifies this inquiry. We don't need that, as the ruling earlier this week proved, in terms of Judge Mehta saying, Congress has broad powers, and it ought to be able to use them without interference by the executive branch.

    So I don't think we need that inquiry to do the investigations that are under way.

    Jamie's bigger point about pushing us toward impeachment, I think, is valid. Certainly, I feel pressure in that regard, with Trump, across the board, defying subpoenas, and now threatening not to work with us on anything unless we agree to drop all of these investigations and inquiries.

    That's an unacceptable choice, and that's going to push a number of us into the impeachment camp if he's not careful.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, that's what I'm trying to understand.

    What will it take, what would it take for you others, and including Speaker Pelosi, do you think, to come around, to say, all right, we need to launch a serious inquiry here, a legitimate impeachment inquiry?

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    Well, I think we are launching serious inquiries as we speak.

    My committee, for example, subpoenaed financial records from Donald Trump that were held by a private company. He sued our chairman and our committee to prevent that from happening. He lost that suit this week.

    And so I think that's a pretty important victory. We did all of that without an impeachment inquiry. So I don't think it's necessary to have an impeachment inquiry to proceed with the investigations under way.

    They may yet lead to an impeachment inquiry because of the facts we uncover. I think we're very close there now. And I think the president is making it a lot harder for those of us who are trying not to cross that line just yet.

    And, ironically, today, Judy, one — the one person in the Democratic Caucus who is saying, don't do this, don't go there is Nancy Pelosi. And that's the person he dissed today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're going to leave it there.

    Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, we thank you.

  • Rep. Gerry Connolly:

    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment