Liberal megadonor coming to Atlanta with impeach Trump message

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer at a January press conference. AP/Carolyn Kaster

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

A billionaire activist is coming to Atlanta next week with a provocative and unambiguous message: President Donald Trump is unfit for the nation’s highest office and should be impeached.

Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, is planning to headline a town hall-style event in downtown Atlanta on Monday, the latest stop in a 30-city nationwide tour aimed at building grassroots support for booting Trump.

“A lawless, dangerous and reckless president can only really be held to account through this process,” Steyer said in a recent interview, “and this process is not really driven so much by elected officials as it is by the people of the United States.”

Steyer has poured tens of millions of dollars into the effort, quarterbacked by the group Need to Impeach. The group lists what it says are eight "impeachable offenses" committed by Trump on its website, including violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bars the president from accepting benefits from foreign governments, and obstructing the Justice Department's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who is exploring a U.S. Senate bid in 2020, and former South Carolina legislator Bakari Sellers are slated to appear with Steyer at next week's event. An organizer said several hundred people have RSVPed.

Steyer is one of the most prominent voices on the left pushing for Democrats to embrace the idea of impeaching Trump ahead of the midterm elections, but the issue has proven to be a divisive one.

Many party leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have tamped down on impeachment talk and quietly pushed back against Steyer’s moves. They argue the threat of impeachment could undermine Democrats’ efforts to woo independents and disaffected Trump supporters in November and potentially jeopardize the party’s chances of winning control of the U.S. House.

So far, that argument has been the prevailing one here. A pair of votes to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump failed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House in December and again in January, receiving less than 70 votes each time.

Need to Impeach, which claims it has collected nearly 5.2 million signatures in support of its effort, is holding many of its town hall events in the districts of lawmakers who voted against the impeachment efforts, including those held by Democrats.

“We’re not asking for a litmus test, we’re asking for (lawmakers) to explain how you can’t be for” impeachment, Steyer said.

“We believe that telling the most important truths is something the American people are hungry for, that a democracy only works when you actually raise the real issues and don’t try to bury them,” he added.

Only one of Georgia’s four Democrats in Congress, John Lewis of Atlanta, voted for both impeachment resolutions. David Scott of Atlanta backed one of them.

Hank Johnson of Lithonia, one of Georgia’s most liberal Democrats in Congress, voted against both resolutions. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would take the reins of any future impeachment effort, Johnson said he wanted to see special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump run its course before deciding on the issue.

“I myself choose to not want to use impeachment as a political tool,” he said. “I want to use it for its purpose, which is to remove someone from office who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the evidence shows that Donald Trump is guilty, then I will be supportive, but at this point the evidence is not there.”

Republicans in Georgia and on Capitol Hill are still broadly supportive of Trump and categorically dismiss any impeachment talk. Indeed, some GOP groups have raised the specter of Democrats impeaching the president as a political tool to fire up their base and bolster fundraising ahead of the midterms.

Steyer in particular has become a favorite boogeyman for the party in recent years. Republican forces have all but promised to use his image should prominent officeseekers in Georgia or elsewhere appear publicly with him or back his causes.

“Tom Steyer’s upcoming visit to Atlanta is a clear sign that he plans on making Georgia’s gubernatorial race a key focus for 2018,” stated a recent press release from the political arm of the Republican Governors Association. “Steyer is pushing a far-left agenda that is out-of-touch with a large majority of Georgia families.”

Neither Stacey Evans nor Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s two Democratic candidates for governor, plans to attend the Steyer event.

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