The reason: The substance of the complaint is not yet clear. And it’s still unclear how the Trump administration will respond.
That’s why this week is critical for House Democrats to decide which course to take. They are awaiting to see how the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, responds during Thursday’s high-stakes hearing before the House Intelligence Committee — and whether the administration provides any more details about Trump’s conversations with Ukrainian leaders or the substance of the whistleblower complaint.
‘When are Democrats going to get tough?’
The impeachment fight remains a divisive issue in the party as Democratic leaders continue their investigations into the Trump administration — including a new subpoena threat from a trio of House chairmen — following a steady stream of developments on the issue over the past couple days.
Democrats, including freshmen from Trump districts and moderates who have resisted calls for impeachment, are telling their colleagues privately they are prepared to announce their support for impeachment proceedings if the controversy continues to grow — namely if there’s evidence that Trump sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigating the Bidens, according to Democratic sources involved in the conversations.
That could change the calculus for Pelosi, who has in part resisted moving forward on impeachment because she has sought to protect vulnerable Democrats in GOP-leaning districts who could face voter backlash over impeachment. But if those members come out in support of impeachment proceedings, Pelosi is bound to shift her positioning as well, according to Democrats close to the speaker.
“I think we’re reaching a tipping point both within our base and within our caucus,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, told CNN on Monday.
“This weekend, all I hear at home is when are Democrats going to get tough?” Connolly said. “We are looking weak.”
Speaking to CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Newsroom” Monday, Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas said if Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a reopening of an investigation into Biden’s son, he would support an impeachment inquiry.
“I don’t think we have a choice under the Constitution. We must move forward with impeachment proceedings. I don’t think we’ll have much of a choice,” Gonzalez said.
New subpoena threat
The new comments from Democratic lawmakers Monday comes as three House committees threatened to subpoena the State Department over “documents the State Department has been withholding in response to a letter the Chairmen sent two weeks ago relating to efforts by the President and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to solicit the help of a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 Presidential Election.” Three chairmen — House intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings — authored a letter Monday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election undermines our sovereignty, democracy, and the Constitution, which the President is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend,” the three chairmen wrote jointly. “Yet the President and his personal attorney now appear to be openly engaging in precisely this type of abuse of power involving the Ukrainian government ahead of the 2020 election.”
Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he discussed the former vice president in a July call with Ukraine’s president. CNN has previously reported that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the call to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. That call was also part of the whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, which hasn’t been shared with lawmakers despite calls from Democrats. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
CNN’s Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.