Axelrod: Steyer's 'Unhelpful' Campaign to Impeach Trump Feels Like 'Vanity Project'

David Axelrod / Getty
November 13, 2017

Former Barack Obama White House adviser David Axelrod criticized Tom Steyer's ad campaign to impeach President Donald Trump on Saturday as a "vanity project" and "unhelpful," drawing a rebuke from the left-wing mega-donor.

Steyer has already spent $10 million on his television campaign, where he addresses the camera directly and calls Trump mentally unstable and a threat to the U.S. Constitution. Steyer said last week he would spend an additional $10 million on his efforts to get Trump impeached.

However, the campaign does not have the support of top establishment Democrats, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and now Axelrod among those openly expressing criticism.

"Steyer impeachment ads seem to me more of a vanity project than a call to action. It is—at least this point—an unhelpful message. If impeachment becomes a political tool, it will be as damaging to our democracy as the degradations @realDonaldTrump has inflicted on it," Axelrod wrote.

Steyer responded shortly after on Saturday, writing, "Unhelpful to whom, David? Millions of Americans strongly disagree. 78% of Democratic primary voters support impeachment."

"Trump is a clear & present danger. He has passed the impeachment standard. No fear," Steyer wrote, adding, "@davidaxelrod, do you think Trump is fit for office? Has he not already met the standard for impeachment? Why not take a stand?"

Axelrod didn't respond directly to Steyer on Twitter, but he did link to a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Sunday that concluded Steyer's campaign would be more beneficial to Steyer's own political ambitions than the Democratic Party as a whole.

He also responded to critical tweets from Peter Daou, the passionate Hillary Clinton supporter who founded a website for her voters called Verrit, which was compared by Politico to "North Korean agitprop."

When Daou suggested Republicans would have impeached a Democrat for a fraction of Trump's actions, Axelrod shot back, "That may well be. But should the "Republicans would have done it" or "Trump would have done it" become rationales for Dems? Is that the standard?"

"I guarantee you that if the country goes down this road based on what many people are "feeling," it will become a regular feature of our politics," Axelrod wrote. "The case would have to be clear cut and demonstrable, or more than a few Americans would view it as a bloodless coup."

Perez on Sunday said he was "not talking about impeachment" when he was asked about Steyer's efforts. Pelosi has also said she doesn't believe that's where Congress should go and reportedly privately called it a distraction, leading to a direct rebuke from Steyer that she was "dead wrong."