WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Al Green was the first congressional Democrat to explicitly call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, and now, nearly two and a half years later, he says he feels “vindicated.”
More than 160 Democrats in the House now support an impeachment inquiry — including many from conservative districts — with a flood of support coming shortly after it was reported that Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son.
“I felt then as I feel now that I’m being vindicated. I said that I would be vindicated and I am being vindicated — the truth has been vindicated,” Green, the eight-term Democrat, told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “I felt compelled because for me it was about more than making a speech. It was about taking a stand that would be based on principle, not politics.”
House Democrats met late Tuesday afternoon, and Pelosi made an announcement that she now backs a formal impeachment inquiry, following months of avoidance of the topic, frustration with the press, and caution to members of her caucus on the topic.
In a lengthy phone interview with BuzzFeed News, Green said his decision to wave the flag on impeachment — back in May 2017, just four months into Trump’s presidency — came because he is a “liberated Democrat,” and that he was doing so “in the spirit of Shirley Chisholm,” the black feminist political icon who was the first black woman elected to Congress.
“To be true to myself, I could not stray from this cause,” he said.
Green also introduced and forced a vote to move forward on articles of impeachment in December 2017. At that time, 60 Democrats joined Green.
Green’s comments came Tuesday afternoon after a whirlwind news cycle that fundamentally changed the impeachment debate on Capitol Hill. Pelosi announced her support for an impeachment inquiry, a stunning reversal highlighting the seriousness of an apparent effort by Trump to ask a foreign entity to help him gain a political advantage against a possible opponent.
Pelosi has long been protective of the more moderate and vulnerable members of her caucus; as more moderates came out in support of an impeachment inquiry, it became harder for her to avoid action.
Green, a Democrat from Houston, did not have a national profile. But as a red-state lawmaker from a blue district, he faced very few, if any, political consequences for emerging as the face of the effort to impeach Trump. Further, for Democrats uncertain how to navigate Washington with the White House and both chambers of Congress under Republican control, Green represented a wing of the anti-Trump movement in Congress who viewed Trump’s actions — even pre-Charlottesville — as a matter of national security.
"I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America for obstruction of justice," he first said in May 2017. All told, Green brought motions to move forward with articles of impeachment three separate times, each garnering more support inside the caucus than the last.
Green said he drew support from many of his colleagues, but his bluster — which rankled some members inside the caucus who characterized Green’s approach as premature — was not without consequences. He said the most difficult part was “realizing that taking the stand would put others in jeopardy.” Green said his office received multiple death threats and additional steps were taken to protect himself and his staffers, including at his district office in Houston.
“I did not anticipate the level of hate that this would engender,” he said.
Green told BuzzFeed News he has not spoken with Pelosi in light of the recent developments.
Asked if he looked forward to speaking with her, Green said, “I always enjoy hearing from anyone who wants to speak to me, and obviously that would include the speaker.”
He went on, “It’s not like she and I don’t talk to each other. I talk to her, and I’m always honored to be in her company. … I’ve had a lot of things said, but I don’t single people out. I don’t recall anybody that I’ve singled out, so I don’t think I’ll start today. I’ve tried to state my position, and I understand that people will differ with me. But that doesn’t change my position.”
Green is getting what he wants. But he is also wanting to make Trump’s discrimination against minorities and people of color part of the investigation into Trump’s actions as president, which could signal his next fight. His hope is that “there will be at least one article of impeachment concerning the president's bigotry infused into policy that is harming our society.”