A multi-million-dollar left-wing campaign to impeach President Donald Trump is creating a rift within the Democratic Party.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and senior Democrats are pushing back against liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s $20 million campaign to oust Trump. But some liberal congressmen are warming to the idea.
Steyer’s ads have run on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and a handful local broadcast stations in coastal states. The segments cast Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey as obstruction and direct viewers to a virtual impeachment petition website, which has garnered nearly 3.5 million signatures since November.
Steyer, who has spent over $170 million to support Democratic causes and candidates over the last three years, claims the ad campaign is designed to put sufficient public pressure on lawmakers that they secure the necessary coalition to impeach. Most of his money has gone towards unsuccessful campaigns to end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
But his campaign is shoving Democrats on the left-wing side of the political aisle to etch out a more aggressive position on the issue. Texas Rep. Al green, for instance, spearheaded an impeachment push on the House floor earlier this month that drew the support of 57 other Democratic lawmakers.
Steyer, a former hedge fund manager from San Francisco, believes impeachment is the only proper way to deal with Trump – his push comes despite no evidence the president has in any way violated any federal laws. Steyer dismisses that argument as a mere technicality.
“What he is doing on a daily basis is apparent to almost every American,” Steyer said in an interview that is expected to air Sunday on C-SPAN. “From our standpoint, we don’t really understand the political calculation about whether this is smart or dumb. What we are trying to do is what is right, and we think this is right and important. … I don’t even understand that argument.”
Democrats will get a chance to win control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the midterm elections. But removing Trump from the White House will be a tall ask even if they do take back Congress. The impeachment process requires not only a majority vote in the House, but a two-thirds majority for conviction in the Senate, a virtual impossibility unless irrefutable evidence is produced showing Trump committed a high crime.
Steyer has a poor track record of backing successful campaigns. He spent about $86 million in the 2016 election cycle, for instance, in a losing bid to get Democrats elected. Steyer’s political group, NextGen Climate, spent about $56 million in 2016, according to campaign finance data.
NextGen also shoveled nearly $21 million in the 2014 election cycle, but had a mere 38 percent rate of supporting winning candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Steyer’s overall contributions in 2016 dwarfed those of fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a conservative who pledged $47 million in donations to Republican candidates during that election.
Much of Steyer’s campaign at the time focused on seven swing states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada. The swing state push, he said at the time of the donations, is part of an initiative to engage young people and “awaken our sleeping progressive giant.”
The ad campaign flopped. Trump ultimately bulldozed his way through the financial clutter on his way to the White House, winning Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, and garnering nearly 70,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton. Trump also won Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.
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