EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Congressman Joe Kennedy III announced Friday he now supports opening an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, becoming one of the most high-profile House Democrats yet to break with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the charged question.
Kennedy, D-Mass., revealed his change of heart during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. He said he saw no other choice based on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, arguing the report clearly shows Trump committed obstruction of justice.
“Times have changed and I think Congress has to begin those impeachment proceedings,” Kennedy said during the interview.
“I know it’s divisive, I know there are strong feelings about this, but I believe that when you have a president that’s willfully broken the law repeatedly to try to evade justice for various illegal acts, Congress has to hold him accountable,” he said.
A White House spokesperson offered no response on the record to Kennedy’s comments.
Pelosi has spent months warning House Democrats that impeachment proceedings are a treacherous political path that could strengthen Trump in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. But she has faced increasing resistance from the party’s left flank. Congressman David Cicilline, D-R.I., has already come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.
Kennedy said Pelosi is right about the politics, but added, “I’m not sure it matters. … It’s time to step up and execute the oath we swore to take — to protect the Constitution and protect the country.” He also said he hadn’t told Pelosi about his position yet.
Holding hearings on impeachment is not a guarantee the House would eventually vote to impeach Trump and put him on trial in the Senate. The president would only be removed from office if senators convict him on the House’s impeachment charges.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Kennedy said. “I read those documents not as a Democrat trying to get a Republican president – the last thing I want to do is spend the next several months going through impeachment proceedings. I don’t want to do this.”
Kennedy also criticized Mueller for failing to make a call on whether the president obstructed justice.
“The entire point of the special counsel is to try and remove the political sensitivities around impeachment and try to remove this from the political process, and approach this as objectively as one can with the resources necessary to try and uncover the truth,” he said.
“Coming essentially right up to that line and punting it to Congress, to say, ‘Hey, you guys figure this out,’ messed with the entire intent of what the special counsel statute is supposed to be all about,” he added.
Neither of Southeastern New England’s other two congressmen — Democrats Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and Bill Keating of Massachusetts — has so far said he supports impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook