How the Tea Party Started Impeachment Talk and Democrats Co-Opted It

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks about foreign policy and escalating sanctions against Russia in response to the crisis in Ukraine in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, July 16, 2014.
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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.”

Speaker Boehner Shoots Down Impeachment Talk, Blasts Democrats for Pushing It

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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.

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