By Mark Z. Barabak
The Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2017 —
Tom Steyer on his drive to impeach Trump, his Democratic critics and his motivations
Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire leading a petition drive to impeach President Trump, spoke this week by telephone after an appearance at Stanford’s business school. The interview has been excerpted and edited for clarity and concision.
So how exactly is this supposed to work? You gather all these signatures and then what happens?
If we gather enough signatures and we give voice to enough Americans, then people have to listen to the will of the American people. And then people decide whether or not they’re with the American people.
I think if you went to the people in the Congress of the United States of America and asked whether this president was fit, you wouldn’t get a single Democrat who would say yes…. I don’t think there are a lot of Republicans who’d say yes. I think if you asked them is he a threat to the safety and health of the American people, they’d say he is.
So I think what we’re doing is giving the American people a voice on something that all of these people know is true that is, in fact, of grave importance to the American people and that for whatever political reason they don’t feel they can say.
I don’t doubt there are a great many people in places like California who feel that way. But what about places like Alabama or Mississippi represented by Republican lawmakers?
If you go and poll — not just get signatures from but poll — Democrats and independents, you’ll see shockingly high numbers that agree with us…. But it turns out I did graduate from third grade and I did pass arithmetic… so I know that in order to get an impeachment to happen or a conviction [in the Senate] that of course we need to get Republican votes. So I think the fact of the matter is what we’re doing is we’re making the point about where the American people stand.
The facts are going to mount on the ground ’cause we actually do think this is an urgent matter. And there will be elections in 2018 where a lot of things will change. And in the meantime, we’re making the point about where Americans are.
When you think about doing two things, changing the conversation in America and giving voice to the American people, which are the two things we’re really trying to do … we think that people are going to have to react to the fact, react to the voice of the American people.
I want to ask about some of the criticisms, coming not just from Republicans, as you’d expect, but from some Democrats like David Axelrod who suggested this is “a vanity project.”
It doesn’t surprise me that the political establishment from Washington, D.C., can’t imagine the idea of the American people having an independent voice and therefore they can’t imagine that we could be better served than we’re already being served by our dysfunctional government in our national capital.
Before we ever started this process we knew for sure that the political insiders and the political establishment would absolutely hate the threat to their control and, lo and behold, it’s played out exactly as we would have supposed. Since when has an elite given up any of its power willingly?
Is this an effort in some way to lay the groundwork for a future run for office?
One of the things that is now true in American politics — it is reflected in that question — is there is no sense that people might try and do something for its own purpose…. People need to find the hidden agenda and the secret thing. No, actually the people in the United States are threatened and in danger because of this president.
We have the ability for the American people to raise their voice and change the conversation, and if I can be part of the process of putting us back on a prosperous and just path, I will consider that, in a selfish basis, to be something incredibly meaningful for me that I will very much enjoy and be proud of.
You know, throughout American history people have chosen to do the right thing ’cause they felt like it was important. It doesn’t have to be about … my resume.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Dear Elected Official,
This is not a time for “patience” — Donald Trump is not fit for office. It is evident that there is zero reason to believe “he can be a good president.”
Whether by the nature of Mr. Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia, his willingness to exploit the office of the Presidency for his personal gain and treat the government like a family enterprise, his conduct during Charlottesville, his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords, or his seeming determination to take the nation to war, he has violated the Constitution, the office of the Presidency, and the trust of the public. He is a clear and present danger to the United States of America.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referred to the Trump White House as a day care center, and observed that this president has put us “on the path to World War III.” This comes following reports that Trump’s own Secretary of State referred to him as a “moron” and that Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have an agreement not to leave Trump home alone for fear of what he could do. And we have seen other Republican Senators, including Senators Sasse and Flake, express their own profound concerns.
If Trump has lost the trust of the members of his own administration and leading members of his own party, surely it is time to act.
An accounting of his record to date leads to the same conclusion. He is turning his back on Lady Liberty by holding immigrant children hostage. He is actively sabotaging the Affordable Care Act — a law he is constitutionally obligated to faithfully execute — while seeking to strip away health care coverage that will leave millions of Americans to choose between life and bankruptcy. He is repealing clean air protections and unleashing polluters, even as increasingly catastrophic natural disasters supercharged by our warming planet ravaged the country throughout the summer — from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, to the wildfires that have raged across California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. He has threatened to reduce aid for millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico who are struggling to survive without drinkable water or electricity — a move that would be a total dereliction of his duty. And every day, Americans are left bracing for a Twitter screed that could set off a nuclear war. These actions represent systemic attacks on our nation’s future. They endanger every single one of your constituents. That’s why you have a duty to speak out.
There is no moral reason to remain silent about this. Constitutional experts like Noah Feldman have already laid out clear legal and historical foundations for impeachment. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, a co-author of the Federalist Papers — and an immigrant himself — argued that “high crimes and misdemeanors” could be defined as “abuse or violation of some public trust.” This president has clearly already exceeded these standards. Congress has impeached past presidents for far less.
While we know that Republicans do not seem prepared to pursue impeachment even as members in their own ranks openly question Trump’s fitness for office, we are all working hard to ensure Democrats will take back the House and Senate in 2018.
Given Trump’s total lack of fitness for office, the question of impeachment becomes a very real issue should we succeed in our midterm goal. That makes it imperative for every Governor of every state, and every mayor of every city, to acknowledge where they stand. This question affects the lives of every single American. They deserve to hear whether or not our party is willing to do what is necessary to protect them and their families. This is not an academic exercise. The very stability of the Republic is at stake.
So, by way of this letter, I am asking you today to make public your position on the impeachment of Donald Trump, and to urge your federal representatives to remove him from office at once. Every day he remains in reach of the nuclear codes is another day for him to menace the citizens you serve and protect. Your constituents deserve to know they are represented by people in every level of government who have the patriotism and political courage to stand up and take action when it is so desperately needed. This is not a time to give in to an establishment that insists on acting the way the establishment always does, with “patience” or “caution.” It is an unprecedented moment, and it calls for extraordinary measures. We cannot remain fixated on what is politically smart. We have to do what is morally right.