Billionaire businessman and Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer will speak in Portland on Wednesday as part of a national tour to pressure Congress to support impeachment proceedings against President Trump and to release the full report of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Steyer has held dozens of his “Need to Impeach” town hall-style events across the country since last year. He has focused recently on the congressional districts of influential Democratic lawmakers. Wednesday’s event at the Italian Heritage Center appears aimed, at least in part, at Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

“Let’s show Republicans like Senator Susan Collins that now is the time to act, and that the country is watching the actions they take against Trump,” reads the online RSVP for the event.

A former hedge fund manager, Steyer is now a major donor to Democratic and progressive causes as well as an outspoken activist on climate change and other environmental issues. Since 2017, the San Francisco resident has tried to organize a grassroots effort to push for impeaching Trump on alleged offenses ranging from obstruction of justice to profiting from the presidency and advocating political violence.

Yet Steyer’s pressure campaign on impeachment – financed with $80 million of his own money – has created tensions within Democratic ranks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have distanced themselves and their caucus from impeachment talk.

Earlier this year, Steyer began holding “Need to Impeach” town hall events in the congressional districts of the Democratic leaders of the committees that would be involved in impeachment proceedings. At the time, Steyer and his political action committee suggested such events could also target rank-and-file member districts.

Impeachment proceedings begin in the House. If the majority of House members vote in favor of the articles of impeachment, the Senate then holds a trial to decide whether to remove the president from office. It takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict.

Neither of Maine’s two House Democrats, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, serve on committees that would be involved in impeachment proceedings. Steyer’s staff did not respond to questions seeking specific reasons for holding an event in Portland, the liberal hotspot of a left-leaning district.

“Americans across the country are tired of watching the Trump administration repeatedly break the law and get away with it,” Steyer said in a statement, adding that almost 40,000 Mainers had signed petitions supporting his impeachment drive. “Ahead of 2020, Americans in battleground states like Maine are standing up, banding together, and building a movement to remove this president from office and defend our democracy.”

In addition to the presidential contest in 2020, Democrats in Maine and national progressive groups are already signaling that they plan to target Collins if the Republican runs for a fifth Senate term, as expected. A Democratic challenger to Collins has yet to emerge, however.

No members of Maine’s congressional delegation have publicly called for impeachment proceedings against Trump. The two closest to the action in D.C. are Collins and independent Sen. Angus King because they sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Both Collins and King have called on Attorney General William Barr to publicly release as much of Mueller’s report as possible after redacting any sensitive or classified information. Collins is coming under more public pressure, however, because Republicans control the Senate.

While Collins has said she wants to review Mueller’s full report, she told Politico in March that Trump had been “exonerated on the issue of conspiracy or coordination with the Russians.”

“But it seems to me that we have seen no grounds at all for impeachment proceedings to be started by the House,” Collins told Politico. “When even Speaker Pelosi says that it would not be the right route, I believe that puts it to rest regarding these allegations.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat whose district includes Portland, has also not called for impeachment hearings. But following former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s appearance before a House committee in February – prior to the Mueller report’s finalization – Pingree said the testimony “indicates the president may have committed a crime while in office.”

Golden, a freshman Democrat who narrowly defeated a two-term Republican in November, has already shown a willingness to buck his party. He voted against Pelosi’s nomination to become House speaker and was among only a handful of Democrats to oppose a gun control measure.

Golden has also distanced himself from talk of impeachment, but stopped short of ruling it out, depending on the findings of the Mueller report.

“Believe me, I’m going to be ready to do what’s right for this country if we reach that very serious discussion of impeachment,” Golden told the Portland Press Herald in March.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:
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