When it comes to impeaching Donald Trump, Lansing’s congresswoman may be the canary in the coal mine.
And this week Elissa Slotkin has given hope to the impeachment cause.
First thing Monday, Slotkin, a Democrat from Holly in the eastern portion of the 8th District, told the media that if recent accusations about Trump strong-arming the Ukrainian president to investigate potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden are true, it “constitutes an impeachable offense.”
“If these allegations are true, or if the White House refuses to clear up these allegations, the Congress has no choice but to consider all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of inherent contempt and impeachment hearings, to protect our national security,” she wrote in a Detroit Free Press article Tuesday.
The statement is a notable shift for the pragmatic congresswoman, who has shied away from following Democratic colleagues into the pool of impeachment talk. Slotkin has cautiously referred to impeachment as a “political process, not a legal process” and something that should only be approached carefully.
Slotkin's shift, which occurred over the weekend, came ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported Trump acknowledged that in speaking with Ukraine’s president, he accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in that former Soviet republic.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky multiple times during the July 25 phone call to work with the president’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, on an investigation of Biden and his son. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has held up $250 million in security aid to the country.
Slotkin said this funding for military equipment and advanced military training was intended to equip the Ukrainians to defend against Russian-backed militants who have taken over the eastern portion of their country. The security assistance funded was only restored when a bipartisan group of lawmakers forced the White House to release it, she wrote.
Also, Congress is now learning that a U.S. intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint about a Trump conversation with Zelensky.
Slotkin, a former CIA agent and national intelligence official, has been talking with her national security peers in Congress about the matter.
“To me, this just smells and feels differently,” she said while talking to reporters Monday at the UAW strike at the General Motors Grand River Assembly plant. “That is a really striking allegation and if that’s true, we’re in a different moment. As a national security professional, as a former CIA officer, that kind of thing goes so beyond the pale of what is acceptable for our own national security.
“I know we have the director of national intelligence coming up on Thursday to the Hill. To me, that is a very important moment. If he does not provide information on this whistleblower case, as he’s required to by law, I think we’re in a new moment where the Congress should exercise its full authority on those issues,” she said.
Slotkin’s opinion kept the ball rolling on her increasingly visible national profile. The Jewish Journal and National Public Radio were among the latest national news outlets to cover the former acting assistant of the secretary of defense.
She and six other moderate freshman Democrats authored an op-ed this week in The Washington Post that called for impeachment if Trump did try to pressure Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal covered the development and used Slotkin’s picture prominently.
“This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand,” read the joint opinion article for The Washington Post. “To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the President was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.”
The Republican National Committee was quick to jump on her comments as proof that Slotkin was aligning with the “far-left, anti-President Trump machine.” As far as Republicans see, Slotkin “has been anything but moderate in her short time in Congress.”
“From her call for impeachment to her extreme voting record, Elissa Slotkin has put her constituents on the backburner and her personal ambitions at the center of her disastrous platform,” said RNC spokesperson Michael Joyce. “The 8th District won’t forget how Slotkin sided with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and the far left over them.”
In related news, the Republicans may soon have a declared candidate to run against Slotkin in 2020. State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder told me over the weekend at the Republicans’ leadership conference on Mackinac Island that she’s seriously looking into a run and that a formal announcement could come as soon as next week.
Among those cheering Snyder on is former Congressman Mike Bishop, who has been keeping his options open about a Slotkin rematch, but has told Republicans privately that “he doesn’t want to run.”
If Snyder — no relation to the former governor — is able to put together a credible campaign, Bishop won’t have to.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at email@example.com.)