The summer recess has turned up the heat on congressional Democrats to get on board the Trump impeachment push.
At town hall meetings across the country this August, rank-and-file Democrats returning to their home districts have faced intense pressure from left-wing activists demanding they support efforts to impeach President Trump when they return to Washington, D.C.
The impact this will have on the impeachment drive – which some lawmakers insist is already underway to an extent, despite little public support at present from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – remains to be seen.
But The Hill reports 30 Democrats have backed starting the process since the recess began. In total, at least 135 House members now support an impeachment inquiry, including 17 members of the House Judiciary Committee.
In California, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., was immediately grilled about impeachment at a town hall this month. When she said she broadly favors impeachment, she was met by “rousing applause” according to Politico.
“People said, ‘Well, this might be risky, you might not get reelected,’” Porter said. “I said, ‘I am here to do what’s right.’”
In New Jersey, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., faced a more hostile reception when she said she opposes impeachment at this time and reportedly was interrupted multiple times as she made her point. The crowd accused her of playing politics, according to Politico, and threatened her with a primary challenge.
“Don’t be last to speak up. You’ll be challenged," one woman told her.
While some lawmakers in safe blue seats can bang the drum for impeaching the president – whether it be over Trump’s finances or his alleged instances of obstructing justice outlined in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report – the move carries significant political risk elsewhere, particularly in more moderate states.
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Susan Wild was also asked about her reluctance to back impeachment in the first question at a recent town hall.
"Why have you not come out for impeachment?” a moderator asked, reading from an audience-submitted question, according to The Morning Call. She told the audience that she was “not there yet.”
“You don’t want to try a case where the facts are not all lined up and you’re ready with all of your evidence that you’re going to introduce,” she said. “I don’t believe we are there at this point in time, and that’s why I have not come out to say that I think that we should be moving forward with impeachment.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., who has opposed impeachment, was shouted down by a hostile crowd of hundreds of activists and constituents when he said he opposed impeachment, according to Politico.
“You are going to give Donald Trump another four years by doing that. You are helping him. You are helping him get another four years,” Lynch told the furious crowd.
Roll Call reports that other members of Congress, including Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., and Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, have also been peppered with questions at town halls.
It comes as more and more Democrats are signing on to the impeachment effort, even after the Mueller report drew a blank on evidence that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia during the 2016 election — the initial declared basis for activists seeking to oust the president.
But since then, activists and elected Democrats have moved onto other reasons for demanding the president be removed — including questions to do with his finances, alleged obstruction of justice or other alleged abuses of power.
The state of play is that they are getting there, but still have more members to flip. More than half of House Democrats currently support the process, though it's not clear how many would actually vote to impeach Trump.
But Democrats need to thread the needle between satisfying their activist base and not pushing away moderates more interested in action on health care, immigration and infrastructure rather than an impeachment bid almost certainly doomed in the Senate.
That has been reflected by the stance of Pelosi, D-Calif. Despite pressure from the base, as well as impeachment-related inquiries from allies on the House Judiciary Committee, Pelosi has not come out in favor of impeachment and has tried to steer Democrats towards more kitchen-table issues. Last week she was heckled by protesters unhappy at her stance at a dinner in San Francisco.
“Nancy Pelosi do your job,” the crowd chanted.
In that she faces pushback from left-wing members of Congress, particularly the four freshman congresswomen known as the “Squad.” Those four members have vigorously favored impeachment, with Rep. Rashida Tlaib promising to impeach Trump on numerous occasions.
They also face pressure from Democratic presidential candidates. Contenders such as Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have all called for impeachment proceedings, while former Vice President Joe Biden said in the spring that proceedings “may be unavoidable if this administration continues on its path.”
Roll Call flagged remarks by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who told a local New York outlet recently that the pro-impeachment crowd was now moving to increase pressure on wavering members, after having spoken to Pelosi on the issue.
“We talked about the debate among the caucus on impeachment. And this is the thing: when people want to push to impeach, she needs the votes. She needs the votes for it. First and foremost as the speaker, she's a vote counter,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So our job is to really pressure a lot of the members.”
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.