13TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee’s town hall meetings are usually lovefests between the popular progressive congressmember and her adoring constituents. But last Sunday at a town hall featuring Watergate-era White House counsel John Dean, the crowd in Berkeley cheered wildly after Lee was asked to consider running for president in 2020.
Later another constituent asked Lee if she would run for U.S. Senate next year? During both instances, Lee demurred while flashing a wide grin as the large group roared its approval.
A run, though, would be unlikely, although not too outlandish a proposition in an era when millions of Democrats appears on a leftward political bent in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ run for president last year. And very few have a more consistent and lengthy record on progressive issues than Lee.
That’s not to say Lee wouldn’t mind other avenues to limiting President Donald Trump’s first-term in the White House.
Sunday afternoon’s town hall featuring Dean and national security expert and author Malcolm Nance was less about the Lee and the congressional district and more about the current state of all things Trump.
Lee joked that Trump is, in a way, bringing people together. “I, never in my wildest imaginations, would have dreamed of bring a former spy and a Nixon attorney to Berkeley, California, right?”
Lee had a personal glimpse of the Watergate-era tumult as a young intern for former East Bay Rep. Ron Dellums, whom she later replaced.
“It seems like everyday President Trump finds a new way to undermine one of our nations truest values, the rule of law,” said Lee.
After rattling off a litany of Trump’s most recent alleged misdeeds, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, she said of the dismissal, “Let me be clear, if it is found that he did so to obstruct an investigation into possible Russian interference, that is an impeachable offense.”
The naming of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the campaign’s alleged ties to Russia is a “step in the right direction,” said Lee, although she also hopes for an independent bipartisan commission to further investigate the matter.
“In the last two weeks, I thought Trump is trying to make Nixon look like a choir boy. It’s been quite remarkable,” said Dean, who was the first member of the Richard Nixon administration to finger the president’s direct involvement in the Watergate burglary.
Trump’s scandal started with the Russian hacking of the election, Watergate with the burglary, said Dean. “[Trump] really carried Watergate-load problems with him right into the White House.”
Through evasion and Trump labeling the torrent of damning news stories as “fake news” and a “witch hunt” against his administration, said Dean, “He’s throwing every signal that indicates exactly the opposite.”
In recent months, Lee has pushed for the removal of Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s closest advisers, from the National Security Agency and during a town hall two months ago told constituents that Congress was already researching possible avenues for impeaching the president.
Lee, though, appeared to signal Sunday that impeachment may be impractical without the support of Republicans who hold majorities in Congress and appear, for the time being, in lock-step with Trump.
Instead, Lee wants a presidential commission that would ascertain the mental or physical stability of the president. The commission, she said, would bolster the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that allows the president’s cabinet to begin the process of removal from office.