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Sen. Kamala Harris says she supports impeaching Trump

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) speaks at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority South Central Regional Conference in New Orleans on Friday.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) speaks at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority South Central Regional Conference in New Orleans on Friday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
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Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) on Monday called for the House to impeach President Trump, becoming the latest 2020 presidential contender to do so after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment,” Harris said at a CNN town hall in Manchester, N.H. While Republicans would likely defend Trump out of “partisan adherence,” Harris added, “that does not mean that the process should not take hold.”

“It is very clear that there is a lot of good evidence pointing to obstruction,” she said.

Harris had previously refrained from backing impeachment, saying during an MSNBC appearance Thursday night that there was “definitely a conversation to be had on that subject.”

After the release of the redacted Mueller report, 2020 Democratic candidates split over whether Congress should pursue impeachment proceedings. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Other candidates speaking at Monday’s five back-to-back, hour-long town halls were Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) of South Bend, Ind.

Last week, Warren became the first Democratic White House candidate to call for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump in light of Mueller’s findings.

At Monday’s town hall, Warren gave an impassioned defense of her call for impeachment, telling the crowd, “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and so did everybody else in the Senate and in the House.”

Sanders, meanwhile, was among those calling for Democrats to steer clear of impeachment and instead keep their eyes on “issues that concern ordinary Americans.”

“What I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage,” he said of beginning impeachment proceedings. “There has got to be a thorough investigation, and I think the House Democrats will do it.”

House Democratic leaders have been hesitant to pursue impeachment, arguing that their party should instead keep its focus on investigating Trump and seeing where the inquiries by various House committees lead.

In a conference call Monday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reaffirmed that approach, telling lawmakers, “It’s about saving our democracy.”

Warren used similar language in making her appeal for impeachment, contending that the United States has a system of checks and balances for a reason and that members of Congress must take action to protect democracy now as well as for future generations.

“In a dictatorship, everything in government revolves around protecting the one person at the center. But not in our democracy,” Warren said.

A redacted version of Mueller’s report was released late last week. The report identified 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump. But Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

Warren said Monday that if anyone but Trump had taken similar actions, “they would be arrested and put in jail.”

“If there are people in the House or the Senate who want to say that’s what a president can do when the president is being investigated for his own wrongdoings or when a foreign government attacks our country, then they should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives,” she said.

She also dismissed the argument that impeachment would take the focus away from health care, the environment, the economy and other issues that Democrats have sought to highlight ahead of the 2020 election.

“If you’ve actually read the Mueller report, it’s all laid out there,” she said. “It’s not like it’s going to take a long time to figure this out. It’s there. It’s got the footnotes. It’s got the points. It connects directly to the law.”

Other Democrats were less than enthusiastic Monday about the prospect of impeachment.

Klobuchar said Trump “should be held accountable” and that Mueller should testify before the Senate. But she said the decision on whether to impeach should be left up to the House.

“I’m not going to predispose things,” she said.

Sanders called Trump “the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.” But he said he worries that Democrats would help Trump get reelected “if all Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ and ‘Mueller, Mueller, Mueller.’ ”

Democrats also wrestled with policy issues Monday. Harris said that if Congress does not enact gun control measures within the first 100 days of her presidency, she would take unilateral executive action to make such changes as expanding background checks.

Sanders also found himself on the defensive during the town hall when asked whether his support for voting rights for felons means that he would be in favor of “enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber,” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as well as those convicted of sexual assault.

Sanders responded that he backs voting rights “even for terrible people,” because otherwise, it is “a slippery slope.”

Janes reported from Manchester, N.H. Rachael Bade contributed to this report.