Tom Steyer, the Democratic megadonor and environmental activist from California, said Congress should immediately begin impeachment proceedings for Donald Trump, arguing the president has exceeded the standard for impeachment last set by Republicans with former President Bill Clinton.
“We are seeing a party which has shocking double standards,” Steyer said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
“What we are trying to do is to say, ‘Let’s have one standard for Americans. And let’s go back to the standard they themselves drew in the two most recent instances and apply it here.’ They drew a line in the sand – and they are way over it.”
Steyer said he decided to speak out following former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony accusing Trump of asking him to drop an investigation into former aide Michael Flynn and his alleged ties to Russia. Trump on Friday denied any interference in the probe.
In the interview, and in a post he wrote on Medium, Steyer pointed to revelations from recent months, including Trump’s remarks in a televised interview tying the Russia investigation to his rationale for firing Comey, as exceeding the standards for impeachment for obstruction of justice set in 1974 and 1998.
Steyer noted in his piece that the House Judiciary Committee accused President Richard Nixon of “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by … the Federal Bureau of Investigation” and “endeavoring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency.”
In the case of Clinton, House Republicans cited his alleged obstruction of an investigation into a matter Steyer described as “far less consequential” than potential collaboration with Russian interference in American democracy.
“How are we supposed to have a democracy if one party is going to put its interests ahead of the country’s interests, where they have one rule for themselves and one rule for everybody else? How is that supposed to work?” Steyer asked. “This is a blatant example of hypocrisy.”
Along with appealing to majority Republicans, Steyer’s impeachment call dials up the pressure on Democratic leaders who are reluctant to go there fearing political and legal overreach. The relatively vague standard for impeachment, defined as high crimes and misdemeanors, continues to spur grass-roots liberal activists to call for swift proceedings.
Steyer, among the country’s largest individual donors, using his NextGen Climate SuperPAC to contribute more than $90 million to Democrats in 2016, after spending $74 million in 2014, said he doesn’t want to speculate about the motives of Democratic leaders. Meantime, he concluded the nation is left with a public debate on impeachment that is “shockingly one-sided.”
“If you go back to the campaign in 2016, one of the standard campaign rally chants from the Trump campaign was ‘lock her up,’ ” Steyer said. “The congressional Republicans were talking about impeachment before the election even took place if Mrs. Clinton won.”
He added: “Can you imagine if the shoe were on the other foot?”
Christopher Cadelago; @ccadelago