Sanders: 'May be time' for House to begin impeachment inquiry

Candidate inches closer toward impeachment support

By Eli Watkins, CNN

(CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday said it might be time for House Democrats to begin an inquiry that could lead to impeachment proceedings into President Donald Trump.

"I think it may be time at least to begin the process through the (House) Judiciary Committee to determine whether or not there are impeachment proceedings," the Vermont independent said on CNN's "The Lead" with Jake Tapper.

Sanders' comments showed the presidential candidate inching closer toward support for an impeachment effort against Trump, while still warning of the political ramifications such actions could bring.

Sanders said at a CNN town hall last month that there should be a "thorough investigation," but cautioned that an impeachment attempt could drag down electoral efforts to keep Trump from getting a second term.

"If, for the next year, all the Congress is talking about is 'Trump, Trump, Trump,' and 'Mueller, Mueller, Mueller' and we're not talking about health care and raising the minimum wage to a living wage and we're not talking about climate change and sexism and racism and homophobia and the issues that concern ordinary Americans -- I worry that works to Trump's advantage," Sanders said in April.

Several of Sanders' 2020 competitors have called outright for impeachment proceedings against Trump, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew outrage from Trump after saying he was engaged in a "cover-up" by rebuffing congressional investigations. Shortly thereafter, Trump cut short a meeting with top congressional Democrats and said he would not work with them until the investigations concluded.

On "The Lead," Sanders called Trump's move "rather outrageous" and added that Trump should "think twice about being the President" if he could not handle criticism. Sanders went on to speculate, however, that it was possible Trump had made a political calculation that impeachment proceedings could help him politically.

"I am not sure that this President may not want to be impeached," Sanders said.

Sanders also expressed continued concern that impeachment could distract the public from the party's agenda and cloud their policy efforts. Despite his caution, Sanders said that he understood the thinking from House Democrats outraged at the Trump administration's continued refusal to submit documents and witnesses for testimony.

"I think if he continues to not understand the Constitution of the United States, the separation of powers, the fact that the Congress has every right to subpoena and it is the job of the administration to attend the hearings that the Congress is calling, if he doesn't understand that, it may well be time for an impeachment inquiry to begin where the Judiciary Committee begins to determine whether or not there are grounds for impeachment," Sanders said.

He said in such an event, the House would need to "continue going forward" on pushing a progressive agenda toward issues like the minimum wage, health care, climate change and voter suppression.

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