Impeaching Trump will galvanize Dems: Tom Steyer on Powerhouse Politics

PHOTO: Tom Steyer holds one of his "Need to Impeach" town hall meetings at Doubletree Hotel on March 20, 2018, in Largo, Md.PlayJahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
WATCH 'Powerhouse Politics': Tom Steyer

Despite the skeptics, billionaire activist Tom Steyer has no doubts: promoting the impeachment of President Donald Trump will galvanize Democratic voters to the midterm polls.

“Are we actually going to do what the writers of the Constitution, the Founders of our country gave us to do if we have a reckless and lawless president? Or are we going to try and slip it under the rug and pretend it's not happening?,” Steyer told ABC News's Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on the Powerhouse Politics podcast that was also streamed live.

Steyer is putting his money where his mouth is. In 2013, Steyer, who is a billionaire hedge fund manager, founded a non-profit called “Next Gen America,” an organization focusing on health care, climate change, immigration, and education.

Last year, he added “Need to Impeach," a partisan movement dedicated to trying to expel President Donald Trump from office. Steyer has spent at least $40 million for “Need to Impeach” and an additional $30 million to get millennials into voting booths in November. Just over five million people have signed the “Need to Impeach” petition, calling on Congress to impeach President Trump. The petition says “Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president.”

Karl questioned Steyer's tactics, pointing out that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has avoided calling for impeachment proceedings, and yet it’s the central theme of Steyer’s assault on the Trump administration. Karl asked if Steyer was taking a page from former Trump advisor Steve Bannon by whipping up the base, dividing the country, and spreading a negative message that Democrats should nullify an election.

Steyer disagreed. "What Steve Bannon was trying to do was be a populist. He was trying to speak directly to people, and he was attacking his party's establishment very directly. I'm not attacking our party's establishment. The only thing we're trying to do is have a broader democracy and put the power in the hands of the American people because we believe the broadest democracy is the answer to our problems."

PHOTO: Tom Steyer holds one of his Need to Impeach town hall meetings at Doubletree Hotel on March 20, 2018, in Largo, Md.Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tom Steyer holds one of his "Need to Impeach" town hall meetings at Doubletree Hotel on March 20, 2018, in Largo, Md.

Klein brought up a recent, controversial ad that Steyer's group Next Gen America had financed and produced, although it argued it had spent only $1,000 to distribute it. Entitled "Mother's Day," the script warns parents about the dangers of joining the Republican Party. Steyer insists it's meant "tongue-in-cheek," but much of the imagery is jarring. It presents a mother fretting that her son, who is white, is taking the "wrong path" and insulting immigrants and supporting neo-Nazis. The final image is a mother drinking a cocktail, wishing she had intervened earlier in her son's partisan ways.

"Yes that [the ad] was a joke, and it was supposed to be funny. And actually, it is pretty funny. But to have a party say oh my gosh you're equating us with racist policies. They're following racist policies. If they don't want to be called racist, tell them to stop being racist," Steyer said.

Klein and Karl termed the ad offensive, but Steyer defended it. "If you look at what the Republican Party has been doing, and if you look at what people said in the elections last year, who was running for state office for [Virginia] governor, we saw an incredible amount of overt racism. You saw the president refuse to denounce the racists in Charlottesville."

So with all his political passion, does Steyer plan to run for the highest office in the land? He said it all depends on the mid-terms and what happens to Democrats. "We have no idea what is going to happen in the mid-term elections this year, and we're going to be in a completely different position as a country. I have no idea what we're going to be, and neither does any pollster, and neither do you guys as smart as you are."