House Democrats' rapidly expanding probes of President Trump and his associates have coincided with renewed calls on the left for an impeachment fight, with high-profile testimony against the president and plans for more explosive hearings only fueling a frenzy sure to reverberate into 2020.
Despite some concerns among leadership that impeachment could harm the party politically, liberal rank-and-file members and allies in the media have sounded the impeachment call anew.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., assured protesters Wednesday she'll introduce a resolution this month urging the Judiciary Committee to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Trump.
“This last election was a calling, I mean we saw record turnout in an election year where people wanted to elect the jury that would begin the impeachment proceedings to Donald Trump,” she said.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., also went on a Twitter tear earlier this week, calling Trump “unworthy” and saying that “God will never forgive him.”
“For the faint of heart, who’ve been waiting for every ‘t’ to be crossed and every ‘I’ to be dotted, now is the time to demonstrate your patriotism. Support impeachment!” she tweeted.
The call to political arms came after ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen delivered scathing testimony against his former boss last week, and as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced a wide-ranging probe into almost every aspect of Trump's administration, business ventures and family dealings. Nadler sent a slew of document requests to 81 agencies, entities and individuals on Monday, saying he will aggressively investigate “alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump.”
While Nadler is effectively leading the charge (and his committee would oversee any potential impeachment proceedings), a number of other House panels are also stepping up inquiries, including committees on intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs.
Yet as Trump blasted the efforts as a “big, fat, fishing expedition,” Nadler and others in House Democratic leadership, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have sought to tamp down speculation that the party is setting the stage for impeachment.
“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country,” Pelosi said last week on Capitol Hill, again underscoring the need to review any future report released from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “Let us see what the facts are and what the law is.”
Nadler, too, said they're still gathering the facts.
“Impeachment is a long way down the road,” he told ABC News' "This Week."
“We have to do the investigations to get all this,” Nadler continued. “We do not now have the evidence all sorted out and everything to do ... an impeachment. Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.”
The investigations will focus on everything from the Trump Organization to WikiLeaks to the NRA. Nadler's committee specifically requested documents from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, seeking information on any "discussions or attempts to provide or receive election information, campaign data, or campaign communications with, to, or from foreign entities or individuals in connection with the 2016 U.S. Presidential primary or general elections."
Of the 81 entities and individuals contacted for documents, many were also asked about the $130,000 hush money payment from Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen, related to that transaction, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and several other crimes last year.
Committees are also seeking access to State Department employees and contractors with knowledge of Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the "linguists, translators, or interpreters" who participated in or listened to the Trump-Putin meetings.
Yet Nadler and other committee chairs have walked a fine line on the impeachment question, stopping short of pursuing the issue now while suggesting the evidence against Trump is damning and leaving the door open to a change in strategy in the future.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., claimed over the weekend that there was “direct evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, while not calling for impeachment.
“That is something that we will have to await Bob Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence to determine,” Schiff said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “We will also have to look at the whole body of improper and criminal actions by the president, including those campaign finance crimes to determine whether they rise to the level of removal from office.”
Axios reported earlier this week that Democrats are pursuing a series of hearings to go after Trump, rather than impeachment. But regardless of what Democratic leadership wants, the investigations have only emboldened those banging the impeachment drum -- and are widely seen as a possible prelude to more severe action.
Impeachment advocate Tom Steyer applauded Waters' on Tuesday for her statements. "People are just catching up to you," he tweeted.
And last week, freshman Reps. Ilham Omar, D-Minn., and Tlaib signed onto a “Pledge to Impeach” Trump. The pledge was created by a group “By the People.” The group’s spokesperson said the effort was not “an issue of Republican vs. Democrats,” but about the “flagrant abuse of presidential power from a white supremacist who is profiting off of the presidential office, abusing his powers, and undermining our democracy and our Constitution.”
Also last week, Omar said impeachment was “inevitable.”
“It also is a terrifying notion,” she said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “[Vice President] Pence is an ideologue, and the ideology he holds is more terrifying to me and my constituents…..And we have not had a full impeachment that removes the president from office… Nations struggle any time [they] overthrow a dictator, and Trump really has the markings of a dictator.”
In another sign the base is agitating for an impeachment fight, protesters calling for just that were arrested outside Pelosi's office Wednesday.
Meanwhile, media voices on both sides of the aisle have predicted impeachment on the horizon.
“Don’t be fooled. Being a ‘long way’ from impeachment is their first step to impeaching [Trump],” National Review's Richard Lowry tweeted.
The Atlantic has a front-page story in its latest edition making the case for impeachment.
Jeff Robbins, an attorney and opinion columnist for the Boston Herald, said Congress has a “constitutional responsibility” to carry out the impeachment process.
“It had once seemed surreal to imagine Donald Trump indicted, arrested, tried and convicted. That is no longer the case; one now has to strain to imagine that at some point federal prosecutors will not take the mounting evidence of Trump’s criminality and do what federal prosecutors do,” Robbins wrote in his op-ed titled, “Trump impeachment a matter of when, not if.”
Fox News' Gregg Re and Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.