President Donald Trump’s legal team and his supporters argue Democrats in Congress fueled by partisan politics began making a case for impeaching Trump the day he took office.
Illinois Republican congressional candidate Jeanne Ives last week took a similar jab at Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove, who holds the west suburban 6th Congressional District seat she wants.
A press release from Ives’ campaign states Casten “demanded the impeachment of the Republican President before the Mueller report was even released.”
That’s a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s account of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
A redacted version of Mueller’s report released on April 18 affirmed the Trump campaign thought it would benefit from Russia’s election interference. But the report did not establish coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. It also detailed the president’s efforts to curtail the nearly two-year probe.
Casten was critical of Trump during this time, but the freshman congressman did not announce his support for launching an impeachment inquiry until two months after Mueller’s report was made public. And, even then, he did not say he would vote yes on articles of impeachment drawn up by the House until December.
“I didn’t run for Congress to impeach the President,” Casten said in a June 20 press release that noted he had read the report and was alarmed by its findings. “But I also ran for office because I felt the people of my District deserved transparency from their elected representative. That’s why, after much thought and careful deliberation, I support opening an impeachment inquiry into the President of the United States.”
So we contacted Ives’ campaign to find out what she was referencing. Instead of providing evidence showing Casten had gone public with his support for impeachment prior to the release of Mueller’s report, spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy highlighted a different point on the timeline.
“He didn’t wait for Mueller’s congressional testimony,” Murphy wrote in an email. “Casten was only interested in getting whatever thinly veiled contrivance he could get to support a position he’s had from the day Trump was elected: removing Trump from office. As soon as the Mueller report was released, he ran screaming into the public square to declare it what he wished upon a star it would be rather than what it actually was.”
Murphy also claimed Casten voiced support for impeachment before he was even elected, pointing to a 2018 Sun-Times candidate questionnaire in which he stated that “strong and plentiful evidence” of Russian election interference could not be ignored.
“It is imperative that the Mueller investigation into this matter be allowed to continue to its conclusion without obstruction from the White House or interference by Congress,” Casten continued, a passage Murphy highlighted.
However, Casten made no call for impeachment in his Sun-Times response. And at several points during his 2018 campaign when he was asked where he came down on the issue, he stopped short of advocating for the House to take that course.
Casten later called for an inquiry when such a move was beginning to gain traction among House Democrats. As a freshman Democrat who flipped a district held by Republicans for nearly five decades, he was one of the first vulnerable members of his party to take that stance.
The House introduced two articles of impeachment against Trump on Dec. 10, 2019. Those articles say Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and a debunked conspiracy related to the 2016 election. They also say Trump withheld security aid and a White House meeting to pressure Zelensky, then obstructed Congress to cover it up.
On Dec. 12, Casten announced in a tweet he would vote in favor of impeachment.
Ives said Casten “demanded the impeachment of the Republican President before the Mueller report was even released.”
Mueller’s report was released on April 18, 2019. Casten called for an impeachment inquiry on June 20, 2019, and announced publicly he would vote in favor of impeachment on Dec. 12, 2019. So Ives’ timeline doesn’t track.
We rate her claim False.
FALSE — The statement is not accurate.
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The Better Government Association runs PolitiFact Illinois, the local arm of the nationally renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking enterprise that rates the truthfulness of statements made by governmental leaders and politicians. BGA’s fact-checking service has teamed up weekly with the Sun-Times, in print and online. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.
Press release, Jeanne for Congress, Jan. 29, 2020
“The Russia investigation and Donald Trump: a timeline from on-the-record sources (updated),” PolitiFact, last updated July 24, 2019
“The Mueller report: What you need to know,” PolitiFact, April 18, 2019
Press release, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, June 20, 2019
Tweet, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, Dec. 12, 2019
Email, Ives spokesperson Kathleen Murphy, Feb. 1, 2020
“6th Congressional District Democratic nominee: Sean Casten,” Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 13, 2018
“U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam says Trump isn’t Abe Lincoln, Sean Casten calls president a ‘walking disaster,’” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 22, 2018
“Illinois Democrats Reps. Sean Casten, Jan Schakowsky call for Trump impeachment inquiry,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 20, 2019
“I sat through 6 hours of town halls. Here’s what I learned about impeachment,” Politico, Oct. 6, 2019
“Timeline: The Trump impeachment inquiry,” PolitiFact, last updated Jan. 22, 2020