Politics & Government

Butterfield calls for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office

Updated June 3, 2019 and August 13, 2019 to add comments from Rep. David Price.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield became the first of North Carolina’s three Democratic House members to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Thursday, May 30.

“The evidence that has been produced so far is sufficient in my opinion to support an impeachment inquiry and impeachment and removal,” Butterfield told McClatchy in a phone interview on Thursday. “I am prepared to vote for an impeachment inquiry ... and I will vote for impeachment and removal.”

Butterfield, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes Durham in its far-west end and stretches east along the Virginia border.

Butterfield said last week that he was getting “pretty darn close” on impeachment. Special counsel Robert Mueller issued a public statement on Wednesday, his first comments since his completed report was made public.

“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said of possible obstruction of justice.

Citing a Department of Justice memo about not being able to indict a sitting president, Mueller said, “the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Butterfield said Mueller’s remarks had an impact.

“The remedy is through Congress,” he said. “He meant to infer that the responsibility for going forward is clearly on the Congress.”

Butterfield said when Democratic House members return to work next week they will discuss what to do next — without staff members or other non-elected officials in the room. He said he expects a very transparent and non-political discussion among the Democrats.

Butterfield said Trump continues to obstruct justice by denying Congress access to important evidence. The House has issued subpoenas related to a number of investigations into Trump and administration actions, but the White House has largely refused to cooperate.

“We’re approaching a constitutional crisis. We must hold President Trump accountable for his misconduct and the criminal justice system is not available to hold him accountable for his misconduct,” Butterfield said.

Rep. David Price said in a statement on Twitter after Mueller’s remarks that “it’s up to Congress to investigate from here.” Last week, Rep. Alma Adams said that she supported an impeachment inquiry.

The President has demonstrated a clear disregard for the rule of law and he must be held accountable. Impeachment is not off the table. However, before we move forward the American people deserve all the facts. That is why I support an impeachment inquiry. Congress has a sacred responsibility to obtain the information necessary to determine the next steps,” said Adams, whose district covers most of Mecklenburg County.

On Monday, June 3, Price said in a statement that he supported an inquiry.

“An impeachment inquiry appears more and more likely as President Trump and his administration stonewall the House’s legitimate investigation at every turn,” said Price, who represents all or parts of Durham, Orange and Wake counties. “I support a vigorous and full inquiry – whether it is termed an impeachment inquiry or not – because we must bring the truth to light and protect the rule of law.”

On Tuesday, August 13, Price went further in supporting an official impeachment inquiry. More than 120 House Democrats now support an impeachment inquiry. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN in early August that “formal impeachment proceedings” are underway.

“I believe that the House of Representatives must move forward with an impeachment inquiry regarding the conduct of President Donald Trump. This will build upon the investigations of the President’s grave offenses already underway, giving these inquiries focus and the maximum ability to obtain information in the face of the president’s stonewalling and resistance,” Price said in a statement.

Congressional Republicans from North Carolina have dismissed impeachment talk, playing up the fact that Mueller didn’t determine the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in 2016. Mueller said Wednesday that “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.”

Rep. Mark Meadows, a close Trump ally who represents far western North Carolina, said in a tweet: “The only thing newsworthy out of Mueller’s appearance today is the end of an office that should’ve never been opened. Two years of investigating without ONE collusion related indictment. All driven by people who weaponized fraudulent intelligence to politically target POTUS.”

If the House passes articles of impeachment by a simple majority, the matter would move to the Republican-led Senate, which could remove Trump from office with a two-thirds majority vote. Sen. Thom Tillis, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Hill that Senate would quickly move on from the matter.

““Why on earth would we give a platform to something that I judge as a purely political exercise? We have to perform our constitutional duty, but if people think that we’re going to try and create a theater that could give you the perception that this is a matter that rises to the level of Watergate, that’s nonsense,” he told the outlet.

Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.