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As Impeachment Talk Intensifies, Missouri And Illinois Lawmakers Split Along Party Lines

President Donald Trump speaks at a Granite City Works warehouse on July 26, 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
President Donald Trump is facing the prospect of impeachment from the House of Representatives over his dealings with Ukraine's president.

Members of the Missouri and Illinois congressional delegations are reacting to the escalating threat of impeachment against President Donald Trump along party lines.

At issue is Trump’s request for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, which was confirmed in a memorandum that the White House released on Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the Democratic-controlled chamber would launch an impeachment inquiry. 

Trump has denied any impropriety. 

Both of Missouri’s Democratic congressmen, Reps. Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver, accused Trump of abusing his power. Clay said Trump “left Congress no other choice than to pursue an impeachment inquiry in order to defend our democracy.”

“Donald J. Trump has violated his oath of office. He has abused his power. He has repeatedly lied to Congress and the American people. He has obstructed justice,” said Clay, D-University City. “He illegally sought the help of a foreign leader for his own campaign by applying undue pressure on the president of Ukraine to dig up negative information to use against one of his potential political opponents.”

Cleaver said if “the whistleblower complaint confirms what I fear to be true, it will be with great sadness for our country that I formally announce my support for articles of impeachment.”

“This president has shown time and again that without accountability, his brazen corruption will progressively worsen without a care for the irreparable harm it may do to our democratic institutions,” Cleaver, D-Kansas City, said. “While I understand the impeachment of this president will undoubtedly further divide an already deeply divided nation, no functioning democracy can withstand this kind of flagrant corruption.” 

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who is the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, also announced his support for an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. 

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin said the “whistleblower’s claim needs to be released to the appropriate congressional committees and evaluated according to the law, and congressional Republicans – House and Senate – need to make it clear, once and for all, that no president can solicit or strong-arm a foreign country to further his own campaign.”

Republicans pan impeachment talk

For the most part, Republicans are defending the president. 

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, said Pelosi’s impeachment announcement “created a media spectacle, yet failed to legally change anything.” 

“Until there is a House vote to officially authorize a formal impeachment inquiry, these partisan antics simply serve to distract the American public from their continued failure to legislate,” Luetkemeyer said. “Upon review of the transcript, it is clear there was no quid pro quo. Once again, my colleagues across the aisle are grasping at straws in an attempt to defend their agenda of impeachment."

Luetkemeyer was referring to a non-verbatim memo released on Wednesday detailing Trump’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky. Among other things, Trump asks Zelensky to look into whether Biden tried to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to help his son, Hunter, who was serving on the board of a gas company. 

Soon after that memo was released, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, tweeted: “#FakeImpeachment madness has infected every last inch of Washington — and it’s brought everything else to a grinding halt.” 

“There are families in Missouri that haven't been able to get back into their homes since March, we shouldn't be abandoning them to play political games,” Graves said.

Illinois Rep. Mike Bost said on Tuesday that Democrats are “rushing to the cliff’s edge on impeachment and preparing to jump with blindfolds on.”

“Since day one, they have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this president,” said Bost, R-Murphsyboro. “The American people have had enough; they want jobs, better trade deals, new infrastructure, and an end to the opioid crisis.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo, tweeted on Tuesday that “we face a crisis on the southern border, a crisis of meth pouring into our towns, a crisis of youth suicide, an epic fight with China for our jobs and maybe our national security — and the Democrats’ top priority is to ... impeach.” 

“Says it all,” Hawley concluded. 

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, has not released a statement on the impeachment inquiry.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and won’t be making a statement while he’s receiving information about the whistleblower issue.

Democrats control the House and, if their membership is united, have enough votes to impeach Trump. Republicans control the Senate, where 67 votes are required to remove a president from office. The Senate would try Trump if the House impeaches him.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.