Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat who’s widely seen as a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, is bucking his party’s leader by calling for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Kennedy has never outright said he would oppose impeachment proceedings.
But the Massachusetts Democrat did tell The Boston Globe last month that “we should continue to investigate [Trump’s] potential obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and financial conflicts of interest in the relevant committees.”
In an interview with WPRI’s “Newsmakers” that aired Friday, Kennedy suggested his view on the matter has changed.
“Times have changed and I think Congress has to begin those impeachment proceedings,” Kennedy said.
“I know it’s divisive, I know there are strong feelings about this, but I believe that when you have a president that’s willfully broken the law repeatedly to try to evade justice for various illegal acts, Congress has to hold him accountable,” he added.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, released in April, offered no evidence that Trump committed any crimes related to either collusion or alleged obstruction of justice.
In a May statement to the media, Mueller did cite a decades-old internal Justice Department guideline that protects a sitting president from being indicted by the federal government in explaining why he did not charge Trump.
Some Democrats have suggested that by declining to prosecute Trump, Mueller was punting to Congress, who could decide whether or not he should be impeached.
Kennedy thought this was the wrong approach.
“The entire point of the special counsel is to try and remove the political sensitivities around impeachment and try to remove this from the political process, and approach this as objectively as one can with the resources necessary to try and uncover the truth,” he told WPRI.
“Coming essentially right up to that line and punting it to Congress, to say, ‘Hey, you guys figure this out,’ messed with the entire intent of what the special counsel statute is supposed to be all about,” he added.
Pelosi, for her part, has consistently maintained that impeaching Trump is “not worth it” because it might hurt Democrats politically.
“I’m not sure it matters,” Kennedy, who The Globe described as “a team player and loyal ally of” Pelosi, said of the California Democrat’s stance. “It’s time to step up and execute the oath we swore to take — to protect the Constitution and protect the country.”
Following his interview, Kennedy released an official statement on the matter.
“I believe it is time for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the President. This is not a decision I made lightly, nor is it one to celebrate,” he said in the statement, which was posted to Twitter.
I believe it is time for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the President. pic.twitter.com/xX3BRjrir6
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) June 28, 2019
“It’s a dark day for our country when its Commander-in-Chief is accused of high crimes,” he added.
“The Mueller report makes painfully clear that our President obstructed justice on multiple occasions,” Kennedy said. “If we fail to hold him to account, we fail the American public and the democratic system we represent in their name. Members of Congress swear a solemn oath to defend the Constitution. That is an oath we must keep.”
Kennedy joins the more than 70 House Democrats who have called for impeachment proceedings against Trump, as CNN noted. Just one Republican — libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan — has said publicly he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses.
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