The notion of impeaching President Barack Obama got substantial attention Friday from two White House officials, who both said senior Republicans wanted to see it happen. But they couldn’t name any senior Republicans when pressed.
Further, White House press secretary Josh Earnest expressed doubt about whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was sincere when he said impeachment is not on the table.
“I do believe that the speaker said on a number of occasions that there would not be steps taken by Republicans to shut down the government over health care,” Earnest said of Boehner, adding, “Maybe you need to ask him a little bit more about whether impeachment is on the table or not.”
Some conservatives have called for impeaching Obama regarding executive overreach on issues such as Obamacare, immigration and guns without congressional authorization. The Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America have consistently used impeachment in fundraising emails to warn donors about what could happen if Republicans win more seats in the House and gain control of the Senate.
The topic first made news Friday after Dan Pfeiffer, a counselor to the president, told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast: “I would not discount that possibility. I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future.”
Asked about the comment, Earnest said, “There are senior members of the Republican Party, or prominent voices in the Republican Party who are calling for exactly that.”
“Who? Sarah Palin?” CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked, referring to the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate who called for Obama’s impeachment.
“She mentioned it,” Earnest said.
Acosta followed, “Is anyone in the Republican leadership talking about that?” He added: “There’s been a lot of fundraising emails with the word impeachment in them. This seems an awful lot like a fundraising ploy, not a real thing. You don’t really think the president will be impeached do you?”
Earnest again stuck to the same point without being specific.
“I think there are some Republicans, including some Republicans who are running for office hoping they can get into office so they can impeach the president,” Earnest said. “That is apparently a view they have to hold because it is a view that they express publicly.”
Acosta asked, “Is the White House Counsel’s office looking at this? Have you been studying the possibility of him being impeached?”
Earnest didn’t have a specific answer, and pivoted to how the important issues are reforming the Veterans Administration and addressing the border crisis.
“Here we are, one week before Congress is about to leave town and there is not a discernible path that Congress is going to make progress on this,” Earnest said. “Instead, we see Republicans giddy about the prospect of passing legislation along a party line vote to pursue a taxpayer funded lawsuit agains the president of the United States merely for doing his job.”
Earlier in the briefing, Earnest was critical of Boehner for saying there would not be a vote on immigration reform. Sirius XM radio reporter Jared Rizzi asked: “You quoted the speaker about immigration. The speaker has also said he is not interested in impeaching the president. So why do you believe what the speaker says about immigration but not when it comes to impeachment?”
Earnest said there is reason to be skeptical of what Boehner says on topics.
“I do believe that the speaker said on a number of occasions that there would not be steps taken by Republicans to shut down the government over health care,” Earnest said. “We did see that that happened. Maybe you need to ask him a little bit more about whether impeachment is on the table or not. Maybe he’ll give you a more detailed answer than he has thus far. There’s no doubt there are other prominent voices in the Republican party that have indicated impeachment. That’s party of their agenda. The president’s agenda is not focused on those political sideshows. It’s focused on an agenda to expand economic opportunity.”