WASHINGTON — The widely anticipated testimony of Robert S. Mueller III this week may have been understated, but it still pushed some more House Democrats to call for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose on Thursday became the highest-ranking Democrat to join that call. Her announcement, along with one this week by Representative Lori Trahan, a Westford Democrat, means six of the Massachusetts delegation’s nine House members now favor beginning impeachment proceedings.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it’s still too soon. She has long been worried that a divisive impeachment battle would endanger vulnerable House Democrats and inflame Trump’s base of supporters even though there’s almost no chance the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to remove Trump from office.
Clark, a member of Pelosi’s leadership team who represents a swath of northern and western Boston suburbs, spoke exclusively with the Globe about why she decided to break with the speaker’s position. The interview has been edited and condensed.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the impact of Mueller’s testimony was going to be on the hunger for an impeachment inquiry. Was it the deciding factor for you?
Listening to that testimony, revisiting what was laid out in that report about the president’s attempt to obstruct justice was disturbing. But the moment that was pivotal for me, was when [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell blocked a vote on an election security bill on the very same day that Robert Mueller warned us that Russia interfered in our elections, and that it is continuing to do so. It shows a disconnect, and a disregard for our democracy that we simply cannot turn away from.
I believe that we have to be relentless in exposing the truth. We have to act to protect our country. We have to make sure that every single person has a role and a place of opportunity in this economy. And we have to make sure that when we have our presidential elections just over a little over a year from now that every eligible American can vote without fear of foreign interference.
You are the highest-ranking Democrat in the house to call for an impeachment inquiry. You’re a member of Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team. Do you disagree with her more cautious approach toward opening an impeachment inquiry?
There is no one who is more committed to holding this president accountable than Nancy Pelosi. I believe that the time is right now. But her strategic plan of legislating, making sure that we are investigating, and then litigating when we meet with what is unprecedented stonewalling and obstruction from this administration into our investigations — her strategy is one that is working.
But my concern at this time is that we use every single tool we have right now to make sure that we are upholding the rule of law, and that we are helping the fact of this foreign interference, and the president’s actions to coordinate to give the Russians information, come to light as quickly as possible.
Do you want her to move faster on this?
Nancy Pelosi has never taken the tool of an inquiry off the table. And I think that she is constantly assessing and reassessing how we can do this, and trying to get this in front of Americans so that they can understand what is stake for our country for our democracy and for the vote in 2020.
Did you tell her before your call for an impeachment inquiry that you were going to do this? What was that conversation like?
I did tell her. I don’t believe in surprising her, as a member of her team. Nancy Pelosi has always been — and was when I told her — empowering that ultimately, we represent our district and we have to do what we feel is right within that capacity for our constituents.
Y ou played a big role in the Democrats’ efforts to flip red seats to to blue seats in 2018. I’m curious if you’ve heard concerns from those new members that opening an impeachment inquiry will threaten their seats, and make it harder for them to get reelected.
What I have heard from many conversations with the candidates I worked with, who now are part of this amazing diverse class of freshman, is that they’re going to go home, as we mark 200 days in Congress, and talk about the legislation that we have already passed. It addresses anticorruption, it addresses protecting our elections, it would raise the minimum wage. Just this week, we passed the Butch Lewis Act to protect pensions. That is the work that those new members who are in our red to blue districts are going to be highlighting.
I think that the caucus is united and wanting to hold this president accountable, and in making sure that we do not have foreign interference in our elections. Many of them are national security experts. We have so many outstanding women veterans, and that is the lens they see this through. This attack on our national security and the Republicans’ willingness to go along with this president on whatever outrageous policy statements, tweets he has — even at the expense of allowing a hostile foreign government to interfere with our elections — is one that the entire caucus stands against.
What were you hearing from your district about impeachment? Were you under pressure from your constituents to join your colleagues in the Massachusetts delegation who had already called for it?
From day one, I have found that Donald Trump has been unfit to serve as president of United States. And my constituents certainly understand and share those values that Trump does not respect the rule of law, that he is willing to use children who come to this country with adults as political fodder and put them in cages to make a point about immigration policy that he would like to see. We have heard from from many constituents who would like to see Donald Trump be impeached.