'Leave or be impeached': Longtime House member James Clyburn warns Trump that hearings would make the public turn on him
Rep. James Clyburn (MSNBC)

On Saturday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) appeared on "AM Joy" and cleared up a misconception that Democratic leadership opposes impeaching President Donald Trump. Rather, said Clyburn, they simply believe that gathering more evidence and holding more hearings will build a stronger case and create more of a public mandate to do so.

"I don't think that those of us in leadership are saying that impeachment is not the answer," said Clyburn. "I think from the report, from all that I've seen and heard for the last several years, I do believe that impeachment may be the answer. Those are the grounds. Now, the question then becomes what is the proper time for us to start this process. And I think that's all Speaker Pelosi is saying at this point. We must take care that we do not get out in front of this process. Let's continue to do what we're doing. Let's continue to do the investigations. Let's have the hearings. Let's build a public support. Let's do what is necessary to bring the public along. And then we may have reached the time to launch the impeachment inquiries. I don't think we're there yet."

Host Joy Reid, a strong proponent of impeachment, acknowledged Clyburn had a point. "Clearly the public agrees with you, at least according to the opinion polls. A plurality of voters who do support immediately beginning impeachment, at least an inquiry, against this president, 37 percent ... and 43 percent favor no action. So it's kind of close."

"But do you — are you concerned, sir, that just having lots and lots of hearings that kind of drone on and on and on, they kind of become almost — that there's not a coherent narrative that the public can follow, that essentially the public will tune out all these many different disparate hearings, tune it all out. And then essentially Donald Trump will win by default and just get away with it all?" she added.

"Well, that is a fear that I have," admitted Clyburn. "But I also have a bit of experience over the years. I do recall that we had an impeachment against President Clinton. It was a very partisan process ... and look what happened."

By contrast, Clyburn said, "When it came to Richard Nixon several years ago, we never had to get to impeachment. Because he stonewalled, he fired people, he did things on the same order that Trump is doing. But it finally caught up with him. When Alexander Butterfield reviewed — or revealed that those tapes were there and the court ordered him to produce those tapes, we reached the time for impeachment. And that's in a bipartisan way that Congress went to him and says, either leave or be impeached. And he left."

"We could very well through these hearings come up with that smoking gun that will do for us today what those tapes did with Richard Nixon before," Clyburn said. "So let's go through the process and hope that we can get there."

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