Rep. Josh Harder is ready for Trump impeachment vote. Here’s what changed his mind

Rep. Josh Harder of California is the latest freshman Democratic congressman from a purple district to join those calling for an impeachment vote against President Donald Trump.

Harder, D-Turlock, said reports that Trump sought Ukraine’s help in discrediting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden convinced him to support impeachment proceedings.

“Last week, we found out that the president himself may have put our national security at risk, invited another foreign government to interfere in our election, and used American tax dollars to further his own political agenda,” Harder said Tuesday. “Anyone willing to sacrifice the national security interests of the United States for their own benefit is unfit to be president. If these allegations are true, it’s time for the House to open impeachment proceedings.”

Other Democrats are newly open to impeachment proceedings following a whistleblower’s report made to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson over Trump’s communications with a foreign leader.

Congress still does not know the exact contents of the complaint or who the whistleblower is, and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share the complaint.

The inspector general found the complaint “credible” and “urgent,” according to a letter to Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Burbank. But the general counsel for Maguire’s office said it had consulted with the Justice Department and determined the complaint did not rise to the level of an “urgent concern” requiring congressional notification, which is required by law.

Subsequent reporting has said the complaint centered on a July phone call, when Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.. Trump has said the call included discussions about the Biden family, but he’s maintained he did not do anything improper.

Trump said Tuesday he plans to release the full, unredacted transcript of his call with the Ukraine president on Wednesday, but not the whistleblower complaint.

Harder has four Republican challengers — and one Democrat — for his seat in 2020, including Ted Howze, a former Turlock city councilman who has more than $600,000 in cash on hand, as of his latest campaign finance report. Harder has more than $1.4 million.

“I’m keeping my focus on the issues that affect people in the Central Valley every day like the high costs of health care, employment opportunities, and access to water,” Harder said. “My colleagues on the relevant committees will keep leading their charges as I lead mine. But during a time like this, I feel it’s my responsibility to add my voice to the chorus calling for a return to accountability, transparency, and honor in government.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, announced Tuesday there would be an official impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Previously, House leadership had quelled calls for impeachment, worrying that impeachment proceedings would hurt their effort to retain a majority in the House 2020.

But many moderate Democratic members, whom Pelosi ostensibly was trying to protect, had started calling for impeachment investigations. More than 170 Democrats have called for an impeachment inquiry or vote at this point.

Freshman Rep. Katie Hill, D-Santa Clarita, also announced Tuesday that she now supports impeachment proceedings against Trump given the Ukraine allegations, saying she believes a “threshold has been crossed by this president.”

Freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Phelan, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post Monday night that also expressed support for impeachment investigations. He was joined by six other freshman Democrats outside California.

Of the seven California freshmen Democrats who won Republican-held seats in 2018, all now support an impeachment inquiry or vote. Rep. TJ Cox, D-Fresno, was the last to announce his support, following Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday.

“I didn’t come to Washington to impeach a president, I came here to do everything in my power to give Central Valley’s working families a hand up and grow our local economy for generations to come. I’ve worked every day to keep that promise,” Cox said. “But when the President of the United States is putting his personal and political interests ahead of the American people and abusing the Constitution, we have a duty to investigate and follow the facts where they lead. An impeachment inquiry will allow us to break through the President’s stonewalling and obstruction and get the answers the American people deserve.”

Reps. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, and Mike Levin, D-Vista, all supported impeachment inquiries following Mueller’s report that detailed times Trump had tried to interfere in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller declined to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, though he specifically said the report did not clear Trump of wrongdoing.

Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.