On February 17, 2018, the Penn Democrats hosted billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic mega-donor, Tom Steyer. The event focused on “the need to impeach,” as Steyer has launched a $20 million campaign to impeach President Donald Trump.
Prior to Steyer’s arrival, volunteers distributed free T-shirts with various slogans, such as “IMPEACH HIM NOW” and “NEED TO IMPEACH.” Representatives from NextGen America, Steyer’s political action committee, were also going around with survey cards to gauge which political issues millennials found the most pressing.
Once Steyer arrived, the event started off with small group discussions regarding why each person decided to come to the event and what made them so motivated about progressive activism. After these discussions, a few students came up to share their thoughts with the entire group. One student said that he is motivated because of the importance of DACA reform, stating that the U.S. should keep those who wish to stay. Another attendee shared that as a Penn student, attending Trump’s alma mater means that she walks where he’s walked, and this serves as a daily reminder that she must resist Trump and make a difference on campus. According to another student, the election of Trump has brought “a lot of sadness and despair,” which is why we must impeach him.
When Steyer finally took the podium, he opened his speech with the statement that “impeachment is the biggest issue in the United States of America.” He explained that the issue of impeachment is really about America’s “underlying value system” and that the question of whether or not we value the rights and dignity of every American is “what’s on the table.”
Steyer furthered his speech by stating that Trump has met the criteria for impeachment. In particular he cited “five constitutional scholars,” which he said can be found on his website. He then repeated the urgency of the need to impeach, stating that Trump is dangerous for the American people and our democracy and referencing the Justice Department’s indictment of 13 Russians as proof of collusion. Steyer critiqued Trump’s response to the indictments, stating that Trump should have said more than just, “I’m not guilty.” He explained that this happened because Trump “can’t afford to go against Russia,” even at the expense of American democracy.
Steyer then stressed the importance of the upcoming 2018 elections, stating that elected officials are responsive to voters. Therefore, the purpose of his petition is to organize the voices of America, represent a direct democracy, and “return the power to the grassroots.” Steyer believes that under the Obama administration, we all got accustomed to the idea that “things were gonna be OK,” as Obama’s workers did a “good job” and we knew that they were working for us. He contrasts this to the current administration, which he claims is anti-democratic and does not believe that the law should be observed.
After his speech, Steyer opened the floor for questions. The first question was about what is to come after impeachment. Steyer acknowledged the question but said that he is not looking any further than the 2018 elections. He then outlined the four things that he is working on for 2018, which include millennial organization, going door to door, running three propositions in swing states about clean energy, and lastly, impeachment. When speaking about “environmental justice,” Steyer referred to Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, and others in Trump’s administration as a “band of thugs” who are anti-science climate deniers that do not really care about pollution or public health. With regards to impeachment, Steyer stated that Trump has obstructed justice and breaks the law “every single day” in unconstitutional ways, calling for an urgent need to throw Trump out in the same way that Richard Nixon was removed.
“It did not happen because there was a smoking gun and Congress thought, ‘oh my goodness, I need to do my job.’ The American people said ‘this guy is a dirty rotten liar, and he is ruining our democracy, and he has to go,’” Steyer said in reference to Nixon’s impeachment.
A couple of questions later, a student explicitly asked what would happen if Vice President Mike Pence were to become president. Steyer started off his response by saying that we have “to deal with the problems of today” first, and right now the problem is Trump. Steyer began by repeating his claim that Trump is doing things that are “definitely impeachable,” before describing the President’s behavior as erratic. In addition to the five constitutional scholars, he says he also has convened five psychiatrists who assessed Trump’s mental health and described their findings as “ugly.” However, despite Trump’s behavior, Steyer warned everyone to not “underestimate what a terrific [and powerful] demagogue this guy is,” citing his ability to take down 17 other Republican nominees in the presidential primaries and win an “unwinnable race” against Hillary Clinton. He then stated that Trump is “by the far the most powerful Republican spokesperson,” and that he is the Republicans’ “star, leader, and magnet.” Pence, on the other hand, would be a disaster for Republicans, Steyer believes. He claims that a Republican Party led by Pence would not only become a minority party, but would also “melt like a popsicle on a hot day.”
Steyer added that it is very hard to impeach a president, and that it should be. However, if this goal is obtained, Steyer believes it would be a political revolution.
The last question Steyer received was about whether or not the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation carry weight with impeachment. Steyer responded by saying that Mueller is doing a specific job, which is leading a criminal investigation about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. However, according to Steyer, “impeachment is a political thing,” and it is about “when people decide that the President is not living up to his oath to protect the Constitution.” Steyer referred back to Nixon, stating that impeachment is not criminal because Nixon never went to jail. He then explained that there are offenses that are not criminal but impeachable, and vice versa.
Steyer closed his remarks by stating that we need to protect ourselves and our democracy. Regardless of political party and geographic location, “we need someone who will keep faith in the American people and our Constitution in a sincere way.”
Afterwards, the event concluded with a poster-making session, where attendees filled out signs that said “We #NeedToImpeach Trump because…” and took pictures with Steyer.