RGV congressmen differ in tone on Trump impeachment inquiry

President Donald Trump pumps his fists as he steps down from Air Force 1 on Thursday, Jan.10, 2018 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

The Rio Grande Valley’s three U.S. representatives ranged from “concerned” to “deeply disturbed” to impeach him, following this week’s revelations by a whistleblower that President Trump pressed the Ukranian president to “do us a favor” and investigate a political opponent.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, issued a formal statement on Twitter last week supporting the impeachment inquiry announced by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Gonzalez’s tweet was shared more than 1,000 times.

“There was clearly all kinds of shady behavior that at the very minimum deserves to be looked into,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, on the other hand, was unequivocal.

“I’ve supported impeachment since 2017. This presidency has been a train wreck since before it was a presidency,” Vela said in an interview. “This week’s revelations make it all the more clear that those of us who have supported impeachment at the beginning were correct then, and we’re correct now.”

And then there’s U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Cuellar is a moderate who has represented Laredo and western Hidalgo and Starr counties since 2005 and before that was the Texas Secretary of State, appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Now, Cuellar is facing a primary challenge from a young, progressive immigration attorney who has gotten some national attention, and Cuellar carefully considered his response to the impeachment inquiry.

“Let me be clear, I am concerned about the current allegations against the President of the United States,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I agree with Speaker Pelosi that the respective committees in Congress must continue their investigations to see if these allegations are true before we proceed with impeachment. No one is above the law and if investigations prove that impeachment is the necessary course of action, then I will be forced to act on impeachment proceedings.”

Jessica Cisneros, Cuellar’s challenger, has criticized Cuellar over his handling of the impeachment inquiry.

“Rep. Cuellar’s statement this morning proves he’d rather toe the Trump line than take a stand for our country and this community,” Cisneros said in a statement. “It’s time for Rep. Cuellar to put his constitutional duty ahead of his support for Trump and call for a congressional impeachment inquiry.”

The investigation ratcheted up on Friday, when three U.S. House committees subpoenaed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, demanding that he produce volumes of documents and instructed him to make five State Department officials available for depositions in the coming two weeks.

Cuellar and Gonzalez said they support the investigative efforts of Congress, and Gonzalez said he was surprised the White House this week released details of the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the two discussed the Ukraine’s need for more American financial aid.

“I was surprised they turned over even that, which makes you automatically think there must be more,” Gonzalez said.

Vela sees it more clearly, according to what has been made public thus far.

“Given the president’s attempt to get the Ukrainians to influence our elections is a clear violation of the law, I don’t know how you can come to any other conclusion, if those facts are true, that impeachment is necessary,” Vela said.

While Cuellar and Gonzalez said they are interested in seeing more facts before they decide whether they’d support impeaching Trump, and not just an inquiry, Gonzalez raised a question about ethical standards.

“Now we’re going to have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: Are we OK with this?” Gonzalez said. “That’s really what we’re gonna have to grapple with next.”