(CNN) — Bay Area Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer on Wednesday urged the newly empowered House Democrats to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
“If you look at last night and you look at the popular vote, there was a referendum on the President, and he got crushed,” Steyer told CNN in a telephone interview.
He said House Democrats must “stand up for the rule of law” and confront a “lawless” President who is a “threat to the American Constitution and the American people.”
But a push to impeach Trump could put some of the new Democratic lawmakers in a tough place politically if they are focusing on impeachment rather than economic issues and health care that they campaigned on.
Steyer, who is weighing a 2020 presidential bid, made impeachment and driving youth turnout in House races, the centerpiece of his $120 million campaign to shape the midterm elections.
But his political operation suffered a defeat in Florida, where CNN has projected that Republican Ron DeSantis will become Florida governor. Steyer and his political organizations contributed heavily — nearly $13 million — to help elect the Democrat in that race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
And while the House has the power to impeach — essentially, formally charge — a sitting official, the power to remove a president resides in the Senate, where Republicans on Tuesday night expanded their hold.
Hasn’t decided on White House
On Wednesday, Steyer did not rule out a White House run but said he had not made up his mind.
“We haven’t even finished counting the votes,” he said. “I’m going to have to sit down and try and figure out what I’ve always said I was going to have to figure out, which is: How can I and how can we make the most positive impact?”
CNN’s national exit polls show that about 40% of midterm voters support Trump’s impeachment. But that sentiment soars among Democrats: a whopping 77% of voters who identified as Democrats in Tuesday’s exit polls back impeaching Trump, compared with 33% of independents and just 5% of Republicans.
Democratic leaders long have downplayed talk of impeachment, but their ascension to the House majority could unleash a wave of new congressional investigations for Trump and his administration. At the same time, special counsel Robert Mueller existing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is likely to escalate.
Mueller’s report is “likely to put gasoline on the fire” for an energized Democratic base, said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who once led the House Republican campaign arm.
“I don’t know how they don’t at least open an inquiry,” he said of House Democrats. “They’ve got to go back to their districts.”
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