How the Democrats Co-Opted Tea Party's Impeachment Talk

Talk of impeachment has been all the rage in Washington this summer.

Democrats say Republicans are shilling for it. Republicans counter that the buzz is merely a Democratic fundraising ploy.

So who really started it, and when?

Almost immediately after Obama took office, conservative commentators on the fringes began toying with the idea of impeaching the president. Slowly but surely, the talk migrated into the mainstream as Republican lawmakers began to chime in.

Back in 2010, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told Lou Dobbs that Obama's actions on the border came "awfully close" to violating his "oath of office" -- an impeachable offense. And about a year later, Rep. Ted Yoho, an outspoken tea party congressman from Florida, outlined six reasons the president should be impeached in a post on his campaign website. Not long after, Texas GOP Rep. Michael Burgess said explicitly that impeachment "needs to happen."

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By this spring, at least 11 Republican lawmakers - Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Steve Stockman of Michigan and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, had floated the idea of impeachment, and several high-profile Republican candidates, including Iowa U.S. Senate hopeful Joni Ernst, put impeachment on the table. As June rolled around, and the weather warmed, impeachment talk heated up, too.

Here's a brief history of how Republicans started the most recent outbreak of chatter, and how the Democrats have sought to use it to their advantage:

June 4: Former Congressman Allen West, R-Fla., talks impeachment, calling Obama's handling of the Bowe Bergdahl deal "an impeachable offense."

"Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that Barack Hussein Obama's unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult - mandated by law - with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense," West wrote in his Washington Post op-ed.

June 25: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, quashes the impeachment question. Asked whether his lawsuit against the president could be a precursor to impeachment proceedings, Boehner insists the suit "is not about impeachment."

July 8: Sarah Palin raises the issue's profile. In an incendiary op-ed published by Breitbert, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee says "it's time to impeach" Obama.

"Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president," she writes. "His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the president say, 'No mas.'"

July 10: When asked about her comments, Speaker Boehner brushes off Palin's remarks, saying simply, "I disagree."

July 10: Palin's running mate, 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, is also asked to weigh in. He says he "respect[s] always Sarah Palin's views" but believes that impeachment "was not a good thing to do" to President Clinton and prefers to "devote our energies to regaining the majority in the Senate."

July 23: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sends the first in a veritable flood of emails warning of the threat of impeachment, and soliciting donations.

July 24: First lady Michelle Obama reportedly predicts "more" talk about impeachment if the Democrats lose the 2014 midterms. "If we lose these midterm elections, it's going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we started, because we'll just see more of the same out in Washington -- more obstructions, more lawsuits, and talk about impeachment," Obama said, according to the Washington Examiner.

July 25: Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer tells reporters he "would not discount" the "possibility" of impeachment, noting that Boehner's lawsuit against the president "has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future."

July 25: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterates Pfeiffer's point, saying "there are some Republicans, including Republicans who are running for office, hoping that they can get into office so that they can impeach the president," and rejects the notion that impeachment is a democratic fundraising ploy.

July 27: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., unprompted, raises the issue in an interview on CNN.

"The Republicans are ... on a path to impeach the president while we're trying to create jobs and have stability in our country and in the world. And I'm sorry that we didn't get a chance to talk more about that," she says.

July 27: The DCCC circulates an email claiming that "House Republicans held a closed-door meeting to discuss impeaching President Obama," and urging Dem supporters to "throw everything we've got at this."

July 29: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also blasts impeachment chatter. "Isn't it good that we're talking about this, rather than impeachment of the president?" Reid says in reference to the VA deal.

July 29: Boehner calls talk of impeachment "a scam started by Democrats at the White House."

"This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president's own staff. And coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill," the speaker said. "Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's elections. We have no plans to impeach the president."

July 29: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoes Boehner, saying, "the only people I've heard mention [impeachment] are the White House and the majority leader."

Reality check: Despite all the gossip, history is on Obama's side. Only two U.S. presidents - Andrew Johnson, in 1868, and Bill Clinton, in 1998 - have been impeached. (Richard Nixon voluntarily resigned before the House could impeach him.) And not once has presidential impeachment resulted in removal from office.

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