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‘They look to the United States for leadership and reassurance’: Lawmakers vie to lead bipartisan Russia impeachment push

Donald Trump jumped back into the fray on Wednesday over who is to blame for Russia’s election interference in 2016, and used the same rhetorical tactic Democrats have used to support impeachment.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump argued that Vladimir Putin’s own public boasts and public gestures of solidarity with the Ukrainian government also demonstrated that Mr. Trump should take greater action against Russian aggression.

That is a conclusion that, according to the Democratic majority in the House, is based on what Democrats say is strong evidence that the president will do almost anything to protect his campaign from Russia.

Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who voted against impeaching Mr. Trump over his campaign’s interactions with Russia, has drafted legislation that would levy stiff financial penalties on Moscow if the House impeaches the president. Mr. Lieu told The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman on Wednesday that the bill is in part a response to what Mr. Trump has done, and cited the president’s decision to back away from the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

“President Trump backtracked from taking a tough stance against Russia because he’s in their pocket,” Mr. Lieu said in a statement. “He spends his time waging personal war against the FBI, the Justice Department, the special counsel and Congress, leaving our country’s national security at serious risk. We must act now to hold President Trump accountable.”

The bill is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. But it prompted a response from a White House spokesman:

“Our allies, from Germany to Poland, look to the United States for leadership and reassurance. This bill would be a shameful display of political grandstanding on the backs of our most steadfast allies.”

In addition to Mr. Lieu, several dozen House Democrats have signed on to the bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, issued a statement after the vote saying they plan to introduce a similar measure this fall.

“President Trump’s refusal to hold Russia accountable and his blatant disregard for the critical national security interests of our nation deserve nothing less than his impeachment,” the two Democrats said.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Democrats are weighing a bill that would impose sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election and interference in Ukraine’s affairs, if the House approves it.

A number of influential Democrats, including Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, have endorsed the bill and laid the groundwork for its passage.

“American elections were compromised by Russian interference; American soldiers were hacked; our allies were denied the opportunity to defend themselves; and America’s national security has been irreparably damaged,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will serve as a countermeasure to the many steps President Trump has taken to divide our country and weaken our alliance.”

Senate Democrats have said privately that the proposal has little chance of passing, and that they see it as a gimmick to distract from efforts to impeach Mr. Trump. It remains unclear what role any attempt to strike a diplomatic blow against Russia might play in a larger push to impeach him.

For his part, Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed claims that he colluded with Russia. On Twitter, he ridiculed the House Oversight Committee for preparing to question Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, over Trump-Russia interactions and leaks, for that argument that he ought to resign.

“How will these clowns ever do the people a service?” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Who will lead them? The Democrats are losing. Will they finally get rid of the total disaster that is Nancy Pelosi.”

But if he never does, Democrats on Capitol Hill may have him where they want him — with an authorization that does not absolve him of misconduct.

On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan, a centrist who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, responded to Mr. Trump’s tweet and shrugged off the idea that there would be meaningful punishment for Russia.

“Time to go @realDonaldTrump and @DNC. Thanks for proving that you have zero credibility,” Mr. Kildee tweeted, adding, “Obstruction is what leads to impeachment, not silence.”