[image-1] Things are moving quickly in Washington this week.
House leaders have begun gathering information for impeachment investigations into President Donald Trump, a whistleblower complaint that ignited the latest talk of impeachment has been released to Congress, and the Director of National Intelligence has testified about that complaint. But as more members of Congress back a closer look at the president, Lowcountry Rep. Joe Cunningham is not among those who have signed on to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry at this point.
In fact, the freshman Charleston congressman is one of a small group of Democrats from districts targeted by Republicans in 2020 who have stayed in the background as allegations and calls for impeachment pile up against the president, who has retained support in S.C.
The past three days have included some significant, if timid, steps in reaction to media reports about revelations that Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son as Trump prepares for a possible match up against Biden in 2020. The complaint released to Congress on Thursday also included allegations that the White House made efforts to conceal records of the call on a computer system usually reserved for sensitive records.
As expected, Congressman Jim Clyburn, the only other Democrat in the state delegation and a member of the House leadership, backed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request for the investigation. South Carolina’s Republican House delegation all stand opposed to the move.
[content-1] As it stands on Friday, 15 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have held off on supporting impeachment inquiries, according to a NYT tracker. Cunningham did join in expressing near-unanimous support for a resolution on Wednesday night backing the release of the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress. In all, 221 members have told the Times they support the inquiry, and 158 are against it or are undecided. (Fifty-five members have not responded.)
On Thursday, Cunningham did indicate support for continuing to delve into allegations made by the whistleblower, urging a measured approach to parsing the facts and asking to hear directly from the person who made the complaint.
“We need to be careful not to get ahead of the evidence and be as deliberate and judicious as possible during this process, while following the facts where they lead,” Cunningham said in a statement on Thursday.
“Congress must work to fully investigate every detail of this report and we should hear from the whistleblower directly.”
Analysis by a Washington Post columnist this week found Cunningham among 19 members in the position of defending a formerly GOP district flipped by single digits in 2018 that was also carried by Trump in 2016. But as allegations have mounted in recent days, several of those members have come out in favor of impeachment inquiries, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat that has campaigned with Cunningham.
[content-5] In S.C., Republicans have declared winning the 1st District to be their top priority in 2020, with national GOP organizers adding nearly all of Cunningham’s challengers to their “On the Radar” list and one Trump-aligned challenger declaring a campaign to “take back” the district.
GOP flaks have also targeted Amanda Cunningham, the congressman’s wife, on a daily basis since she posted on Instagram about services denied under her family’s health insurance, hoping to cast her husband in a bad light.
On Thursday, the NRCC Twitter account joked about Amanda’s re-post of Beto O’Rourke’s calls for impeachment as her husband urged a process-focused response. But not all Republicans have been happy with that tactic. Some Republican leaders reportedly “cringed” when shown the tweet, according to Politico.
The congressman has waved off controversy over the fact that his wife might possibly have an opinion of her own, telling the P&C this month, “It’s 2019 … My wife doesn’t come to me and ask permission for things she posts or emails she writes.”
President Trump has remained popular in South Carolina, with polls in the last month putting his approval rating just above 50 percent (NBC News, Morning Consult), mirroring national surveys. But over the past week, national polls have also signaled an uptick in support for impeachment as details about Trump’s Ukraine call started to leak, with three leading polls showing a 10-point increase in support for impeachment since the Mueller report was released in April.