Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer claims to be building a juggernaut political operation in support of impeaching President Trump, rallying the base and creating a "digital army" for the cause even as Democratic lawmakers remain publicly divided over the issue.
“We’re not going away,” Kevin Mack, the lead strategist at Need to Impeach, told Fox News. “We’re going to hold President Trump accountable.”
Steyer -- the billionaire hedge fund manager, environmental activist and major Democratic donor -- launched Need to Impeach last year, with the aim of booting Trump out of the Oval Office. Earlier this week, the campaign announced it had signed up 6 million supporters and is holding a town hall in Newark on Saturday to mark its first anniversary.
Since the launch, Need to Impeach has hosted dozens of town halls, run 15 national commercials and pumped millions into a get-out-the-vote effort meant to "mobilize impeachment supporters" in next month's midterms. Steyer's goal to at least launch impeachment proceedings depends on Democrats claiming control of the House next month.
But while impeaching Trump might energize the base, the issue also runs the risk of turning off moderate voters in the kinds of swing districts that will determine control of Congress –and energizing Republicans. And while top-tier Democrats have benefitted from Steyer’s political largesse – Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s campaign just received $2 million from the megadonor – some party leaders are indeed worried a pro-impeachment message could end up rallying the president’s base.
Former Vice President Joe Biden – a possible 2020 presidential candidate – warned earlier this week that Democrats should not push for Trump’s impeachment if they take control of the House. Former President Jimmy Carter also told Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network that it’s “the wrong thing for Democrats to do."
That hasn't stopped some candidates and rank-and-file members from banging the impeachment drum. Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Al Green are among those who have sought impeachment for months.
And Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who's running a longshot challenge against Republican Ted Cruz, said Thursday he still supports the push.
Leadership, though, is taking a cautious approach, at least for now. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says any talk of impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller wraps his investigation would be premature.
"Impeachment has to spring from something else," Pelosi told the Associated Press in August following ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea to campaign finance violations.
"If and when the information emerges about that, we’ll see," Pelosi said. "It’s not a priority on the agenda going forward unless something else comes forward.”
Mack, however, argues there is plenty of evidence already available to start the impeachment process against Trump.
Mack argued the threat of Democrats impeaching Trump is not high on the list of reasons for Republicans to head to the polls in November – unlike issues such as immigration, higher taxes and even a Pelosi-led House – and that Democratic lawmakers inside the Beltway are out of touch with the sentiments of most Americans.
“Our petition signers see impeachment as a value,” he said. “While Washington to sees it as a legislative issue, and that is where the disconnect is.”
Mack said Need to Impeach’s research found 78 percent of Democrats support impeaching the president and of the campaign’s petition signers, almost 20 percent identified as either moderates or strong Republicans.
Republican analysts say Steyer’s campaign – and his vast sums of money – is encouraging the far-left and progressive wings of the Democratic Party and forcing Democratic lawmakers to cater to them at the expense of moderates and swing voters.
“Tom Steyer is using his fortune to make sure Democratic leaders are forced by the progressive base of the party to try and impeach the president,” David Avella, chairman of the Republican organization GOPAC, told Fox News. “And it’s a message Democrats are embracing.”
Mack does not disagree that Need to Impeach wants Democratic candidates to get behind the group’s message, but argues that the reason the party is not as successful in congressional races is that Democrats don’t mobilize their base as well as Republicans do.
The GOP for decades has driven voters to the polls by focusing on key blocs concerned with issues like gun rights and abortion, while Mack charged Democrats have flip-flopped during election seasons by focusing on the base early on, only to abandon it toward Election Day in favor of a more moderate stance.
“The tactics on the left have not been working,” he said.