Billionaire activist Tom Steyer differs with Pelosi, doubles down on demands for Trump impeachment

"I'm spending 100 percent of my time on this," Steyer told "The Investigation."

March 28, 2019, 3:02 AM

Hedge fund billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer says he intends to stick with his efforts to promote the impeachment of President Donald Trump, even as many Democrats in Congress have quieted talk of such efforts after the investigation into Russian meddling concluded without further indictments.

“This is a movement … [that] will continue regardless of whether the House leadership is willing to hold hearings, regardless of whether we get the tax returns, regardless of whether the Mueller report ever is available to the American people,” Steyer said during a wide-ranging interview on the ABC News podcast, "The Investigation." “The question in all of this is -- does it rise to the level of removing the president of the United States? And my point was that I believe this is the most corrupt president in American history.”

Steyer said he invested more than $30 million last year to promote the grassroots campaign Need to Impeach, which sought to build widespread public support for Trump’s removal from office. The effort included millions of dollars in television ads, but also a robust organizing campaign that has amassed lists of followers and used email and social media to register voters and attack the Trump presidency.

“We're a grassroots organization … which is a group of people who desperately want Mr. Trump to be impeached and removed from office and who will continue to have those feelings and will continue to be incredibly involved politically,” he said.

Trump has attacked Steyer’s effort, calling the California investor “wacky and totally unhinged” on Twitter.

PHOTO: Members of the audience cheer as President Donald Trump leaves the stage at the end of a campaign rally, Nov. 5, 2018, in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Members of the audience cheer as President Donald Trump leaves the stage at the end of a campaign rally, Nov. 5, 2018, in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Jeff Roberson/AP, FILE

There had been hints that Steyer was contemplating a run for president in 2020. But during a January visit to Iowa he announced he would not be mounting a campaign “at this time,” saying he was choosing instead to remain focused on his efforts to remove Trump. He maintained that posture during his interview with ABC News – when asked directly, three times, about his intentions.

“What I'm saying to you is this is what we're doing,” he said. “But you know you guys keep asking me all these conditional questions what I've said is this is what we're doing... What we've said is I'm spending 100 percent of my time on this. You want me to answer condition questions and I will not.”

Steyer’s laser focus on impeachment has continued in the aftermath of the special counsel investigation, which formally concluded last week. Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page summary of the special counsel’s report, which said the probe found no evidence that members of Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government. The letter also said Barr did not believe there was sufficient evidence to file charges against the president for obstructing the federal investigation, but that Mueller did not exonerate Trump either.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday emphasized that impeachment is "not on the table until it is on the table," adding that Democrats remain committed to pushing for the release of the full Mueller report. House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters that Democrats are not focused on impeachment.

"We didn't run on impeachment,” Jeffries said. "We didn't win the House of Representatives on impeachment. We're not focused on impeachment."

Steyer acknowledged that his effort has moved beyond where Democratic party stalwarts are positioned at the moment. But that does not give him pause, he said.

“The Democratic leadership in the Congress has the same goals and values that I do,” Steyer said. “But we have something that we disagree about, that is about tactics not about values or goals.”

He said he supports congressional efforts to demand documents and conduct public hearings in the pursuit of more information about Trump’s conduct in private business, during the campaign and since he took office.

“Are we going to give up on the idea that the American people are the most important thing and that they deserve the truth and that it shouldn't be buried? Why would we do that?” he said.

Part of that includes advocating for House Democrats to demand copies of Trump’s IRS records “because I believe there's criminality exposed in those tax returns,” Steyer said.

The House Ways and Means Committee has asked Trump to produce copies of his returns, but the president has declined. The committee chairman has the power to obtain copies of the records directly from the IRS, but the White House has vowed to fight that effort.

The president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, told ABC News earlier this week that he expects a vigorous effort to keep those records private.

Asked if he would share his tax filings in similar circumstances, Steyer said he would.

“I’m not scared about my taxes at all,” he said. "I pay really high tax rates.”

Ultimately, Steyer said he believes efforts to push the various investigations of the president into full public view – with documents and congressional hearings – will energize Americans and draw them into more active participation in the political process. That, he said, is his ultimate goal.

“We're going to ask in fact that the American people can get the truth directly because when, in fact, that happens,” he said, “what you're going to see is that Americans will be absolutely enthralled.”

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