Between the GOP ad blitz underway in competitive House districts and numerous polls released over the last month, vulnerable House Democrats are in full panic mode as they head home to their districts for the Thanksgiving holiday.

While Republican opposition and Democrat support for impeachment remains largely unchanged, support from independents for impeachment dropped dramatically as television stations carried the hearings. Now media reports have come out about some moderate Democrats getting “cold feet” over the entire process.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14) is not a moderate Democrat. Yet on Sunday, she stated during an interview with podcaster Charlie LeDuff that she switched gears on impeachment. Now she prefers instead to censure President Trump while ultimately allowing voters to decide his fate at the ballot box next year:

Michigan Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a prominent supporter of Kamala Harris who has previously supported the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, has abruptly announced that she no longer saw any “value” in the process and called for her fellow Democrats to throw their support behind a symbolic censure resolution.

“We are so close to an election,” Lawrence said Sunday on a Michigan radio program. “I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is, I don’t see the value of taking him out of office. But I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

Listen to her remarks on censure vs. impeachment below:

As Steve Guest noted in his tweet, Lawrence is not one of those Democrats in a swing district. In all three House races she’s been in starting in 2014, she’s handily won her elections by large margins. Her district is also right next door to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s 13th district. The two have a warmly collegial working relationship in Washington, D.C.

So Lawrence’s public break with her previous position on impeaching Trump is a very significant development, especially considering it came after days of breathless reports about panicked moderate Democrats that circulated all over social media.

It was almost as though she confirmed those concerns out loud without mentioning by name the list of moderate House Democrats whose hands are sweating over the possibility of having to go on record one way or the other with their decision on down the line.

Two days later, however, Lawrence has, ahem, clarified her position. Now she says she still supports impeachment but also has concerns about how things will play out in the Senate:

In a written statement to Metro Times, Lawrence said she still supports impeaching Trump but censure may be a more viable option because of Republicans’ opposition to impeachment.

“I was an early supporter for impeachment in 2017,” Lawrence says. “The House Intelligence Committee followed a very thorough process in holding hearings these past two weeks. The information they revealed confirmed that this President has abused the power of his office, therefore I continue to support impeachment.

“However, I am very concerned about Senate Republicans and the fact that they would find this behavior by the President acceptable.”

Lawrence’s mixed signals have led to a lot of speculation that someone in the House Democratic leadership got to her:

This astute question was also posted to the congresswoman, but she didn’t respond:

Regardless of Lawrence’s attempt at walking a fine line between impeachment and censure, the cat’s out of the bag now. The Hill reported over the weekend that some Senate Republicans suggested Pelosi might put censure on the table since the first round of public hearings didn’t go the way Democrats wanted them to.

Lawrence’s original remarks were made one day after that report was published.

On top of the congresswoman’s waffling statements and the speculation in media reports about the censure option, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial Monday expressing their support for it, too:

Our wariness of impeachment is its political construction. The constitutional standard — treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors — isn’t precisely measurable. Each time that standard is invoked, Congress must define what it means by answering this question: Has the president’s action threatened the sanctity of American governance?

[…]

In our view, Trump’s Ukraine misdeeds are a serious abuse of his office. But they do not meet those tests of an impeachable offense.

[…]

Censure does something else important. It ensures that final judgment of Trump’s misdeeds remains where it should be, with the American people on Election Day 2020. That is barely 11 months hence. At that time, voters will have the opportunity to expel him.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will take the reins in the public hearings next week. If they go as badly as the first round did, look for vulnerable incumbent Democrats to stop being silent and start going on the record about their concerns.

Because although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has claimed it doesn’t matter if Democrats lose the House over the impeachment issue, you better believe the Democrats who are actually fighting to keep those Congressional seats think otherwise.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 
 
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