Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a warning to his fellow Democratic lawmakers this week not to get enamored by talk of Donald Trump’s impeachment.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, the New York Democrat sounded far more bullish than at any time this year about his party’s prospects for the midterm elections. And he based his optimism in large part on the Republican Party’s legislative ineffectualness and the president’s growing list of scandals and foibles. “I had hoped that he would grow and learn with the job,” Schumer said from his office on Capitol Hill. “He has not. In fact he has less talent in that White House today than he had when he started.”
Still, there were notes of caution peppered into Schumer’s words—a subtext of concern that Democrats may very well mess up the promising political landscape they’ve been given. There were no quick solutions, he warned, for getting rid of Trump.
“I would say that if you’re a congressman or senator and actually have to vote, you want to wait,” Schumer said of impeachment talk, gingerly searching for the right words. “Let me put it the right way. There may be a time. It is premature. And to call for [impeachment] now you might blow your shot when it has a better chance of happening. It is serious, serious, serious. And so... [pause]... you wait.”
Not everyone shares his patience. Already, a number of lawmakers in the House have begun pushing for Trump’s removal from office, on grounds that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Others have pushed the 25th Amendment route, which would rely on a majority of the cabinet to determine that Trump was physically or mentally unable to do his job. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has tried to muzzle such chatter. But she can’t control what happens outside her chamber. On Thursday, California billionaire Tom Steyer said he was poised to spend $20 million on television ads advocating impeachment.
“I’m not against him doing it but I think it is premature,” Schumer said of Steyer. Asked if the money would be better spent on, say, supporting campaigns, he wryly noted that Styer, with his prodigious wealth, “can do both.”
Schumer’s relationship with Trump is both adversarial and ever-evolving. He declined to say that his primary objective was to ensure that the president served a single term (a rhetorical misstep that dogged his counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when he made such an utterance about President Obama in 2010). Though Schumer didn’t suppress his pride with his ability to jam Trump’s agenda—“any place we could have stopped him we did,” he proclaimed—his official position remains that he will work with the president when it suits his party’s interest.
Those instances have been rare. And when they’ve occurred they haven’t been long lasting. Schumer learned that the hard way this fall, when Trump accused him of facilitating the terrorist attack in New York City and appeared to renege on a deal they’d struck to shield young undocumented immigrants whose legal protections the president had ended, leaving the fate of those so-called DREAMers up in the air.
“That’s been the problem here,” Schumer said. “He says one thing one day and another thing the next. He makes a deal and it doesn’t even matter. And his grasp of policy, and even substance, is so ephemeral.”
Despite it all, Schumer still expects that he will score that DACA-deal; that it will be on the terms he discussed with Trump (legal protections in exchange for enhanced border security that didn’t include a physical wall); and that he won’t have to facilitate a government shutdown at the end of the year to produce it.
The president and the Republican Party are on the defensive, he believes. And though Schumer plainly stated “no” when asked if he considered Trump a friend, he also sees potential pitfalls in over-the-top demonization. There are deals to be made and elections to be won and no time for impeachment talk or personal grievances.
“Look,” Schumer explained, “he sometimes praises me in tweets. He sometimes tweets and calls me names. It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t affect me politically, it doesn’t affect me internally. That’s who he is. I think it is demeaning for a president to do it but it doesn’t bother me.”