Rep. Bill Foster latest House Democrat to support Trump impeachment inquiry

By Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON — After wrestling with a decision over the past months and listening to constituents, Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday he supports a Trump impeachment inquiry — which for all practical purposes is being conducted by the House Judiciary Committee.

“I spent a lot of time listening to my constituents on this,” Foster said. He called his decision a “multidimensional calculation” because of the various factors involved.

Foster said voters in his suburban Chicago 11th District told him that they are concerned President Donald Trump is trying to “enrich himself and that, I found, is a very significant factor with a surprising number of my constituents.

“And I do see that it weighs pretty heavily with me. If you just look at the way he was shamelessly pitching his property in Florida as a potential site for the next G-7,” Foster said, a reference to Trump saying he wants the group of international leaders to meet next year at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

“To my mind, looks to be a clear violation of the emoluments clause and the amount of money that’s at stake here seems non-trivial enough to quickly get the attention of Congress. And so there’s a long list of things here. Each one of which deserve, I believe, an inquiry into whether or not they should become an article of impeachment,” Foster said.

Foster is the 11th member of the Illinois congressional delegation to announce explicit support for an impeachment inquiry; the state sends 13 Democrats and five Republicans to the House.

The two other Illinois Democrats in the House, Reps. Cheri Bustos and Dan Lipinski, are following more closely the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and have more cautious positions, with a bottom line for both that they back the Trump-related investigations being conducted by five committees, including the House Judiciary panel.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is pursuing an investigation “into obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates” in order to “determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President.”

A House vote to impeach Trump does not mean he would be removed from office. The next step would be a Senate trial, and with the Republicans in control, it is highly unlikely that Trump would be convicted.

During the August summer recess, more House Democrats have been speaking out in support of an impeachment inquiry. With Foster, and based on an NBC count, at least 134 House Democrats back an impeachment inquiry, more than half of the 235 Democrats in the House.

Pelosi is urging Democrats to proceed with caution, even as she supports the various investigative efforts of all the House panels.

“To protect our democracy and our Constitution, Democrats in the Congress continue to legislate, investigate and litigate,” she has said, pledging to hold Trump “accountable.”

Foster is a member of one of the House panels probing Trump, the House Financial Services Committee.

“I’ve also witnessed firsthand Trump’s unconstitutional refusal to cooperate with the investigations we are having on the Financial Services Committee,” Foster said, related to financial dealings of the president and the Trump Organization.

Lipinski, explaining his position, said, “The House should continue its oversight and Members should determine the best way forward based on the facts of the investigations.

“While I agree with Speaker Pelosi that we don’t need and should not have an official ‘impeachment inquiry’ vote in the House at this time, I have been and continue to be in support of the investigative work that is being done in the House committees.

“Right now, I think the best way to remove President Trump from office is voting him out in the 2020 election. This may change as the work of House committees continue, but if the House impeached the president now, it could backfire because the president would be able to say that he was persecuted by the Democratic House but exonerated by the Senate,” Lipinski said.

A spokesman for Bustos, Sean Higgins, said her “latest thinking is she is going to let the committees do their job of constitutionally mandated oversight.” As for Nadler’s probe, “she supports the Judiciary Committee doing its job.”