Democratic leaders have been scrambling in public and in private to get one of their billionaire donors to tone down his national effort to impeach President Donald Trump, and he doesn't appear to care.
As Tom Steyer has ramped up his "Need to Impeach" campaign, Democrats have urged him behind the scenes not to focus on Trump’s removal, the New York Times reports. This has led to party leaders’ increasing frustration with Steyer, who has already spent $20 million on advancing impeachment and has pledged to spend $30 million to mobilize young voters in the 2018 midterms.
Steyer said in an interview that Democratic leaders should not hesitate to talk about impeachment.
"We’re just telling the truth to the American people, and it’s an important truth," Steyer said about his campaign. "And if you don’t think it’s politically convenient for you, that’s too bad."
His party’s leaders have not just urged him in private to drop impeachment talk, they have also said the campaign is a "distraction," and only 66 of 194 House Democrats voted for an impeachment resolution in January. The next phase of Steyer’s campaign will pressure representatives in safely Democratic seats to support impeachment, and his advantage lies in the enthusiasm the party’s base has for impeaching Trump.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal published in December found 70 percent of Democrats in favor of impeachment hearings. Still, party leaders think it is counterproductive to focus on impeachment, and Steyer has responded to their disapproval with ambivalence or even enthusiasm.
Two friends of Steyer told the Times that he now believes facing opposition from House Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) shows he’s on "the right track."
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Penn.) voted against impeachment in the House and he agrees with Democratic Party leaders that the effort could backfire.
"I just don’t see how the ads achieve anything," Boyle said. "To do this now, before Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller finishes the investigation, only complicates our job if Mueller finds something that warrants impeachment, which I believe is a real possibility."
Steyer considered running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) but ultimately decided not to run for anything in 2018.
Former Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.) said Steyer is choosing to be a provocateur instead of a political candidate.
"You can’t have a conversation about impeachment until you take the House back, and so this is a little bit like somebody who’s jumped ahead," Tauscher said. "I think, to a certain extent, Tom knows this."