Updated on September 12 at 10:18 a.m. ET
Democrats clamoring to impeach President Donald Trump scored a victory of sorts this morning when the House Judiciary Committee voted to launch a formal investigation that could result in the adoption of articles of impeachment for consideration by the full House.
But the panel’s decision to broaden its probe beyond the issues covered by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller has put a whole new question before the party: If Democrats decide to move against Trump, what exactly should they impeach him for?
Although impeachment backers are still far from the 218 votes they’d need to pass articles off the floor, a majority of House Democrats now favor launching a formal inquiry. But more than a dozen interviews we conducted with lawmakers this week found that even those who support the effort are unsure which of the multitude of offenses they believe Trump has committed would make the strongest case for his removal. That uncertainty over the precise target of a potential impeachment is the latest obstacle to an effort that, months after Democrats regained power in the House, has yet to really win over the broader public.
For months, the debate over impeachment had centered on the twin allegations that Mueller had spent more than two years investigating: a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and possible obstruction of justice by the president to halt Mueller’s inquiry. But his failure to pursue the president’s indictment or to explicitly recommend action by Congress has prompted some impeachment supporters to argue that there are juicier targets for the Judiciary Committee, namely Trump’s alleged efforts to personally profit from the presidency and his potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause—the prohibition on federal officials receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments.