Californian billionaire Tom Steyer (left) – a hedge fund manager, businessman and philanthropist – encourages San Antonians to impeach President Donald Trump.
Californian billionaire Tom Steyer (left) – a hedge fund manager, businessman and philanthropist – encourages San Antonians to impeach President Donald Trump. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Californian billionaire Tom Steyer brought his Need to Impeach town hall tour to San Antonio on Wednesday night with a simple message to legislators about President Donald Trump: “Get him out of office or we’ll get you out of office.”

More than 300 people packed Sunset Station on the near East Side to hear Steyer’s plea – but almost every one of them already seemed to agree with his charge. Steyer said that out of the eight impeachable infractions his constitutional experts have found, the federal government is investigating only two criminal charges against Trump related to his 2016 campaign and probe into Russia meddling in the election. Some political and legal experts, however, have said a move to impeachment is a stretch.

“The stone will only roll downhill,” Steyer said of Trump’s political actions. “It’s not going to get better.”

Sunset Station is filled with people, both on the ground floor and the balcony overlooking the stage.
Participants in the Need To Impeach town hall fill Sunset Station’s ground floor and balcony. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

To impeach an elected U.S. president requires support from 50 percent of the House of Representatives, then two-thirds of the Senate – or 67 votes. It’s virtually impossible to get 67 Democrats elected to the Senate by 2020, Steyer said. “[It] has to be a bipartisan decision that this president is lawless.”

Steyer, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist worth an estimated $1.6 billion, is not the first and likely not the last person to call for Trump’s impeachment. Democrats and even some Republicans have raised impeachment as the answer to what they call “illegal” and “irresponsible” actions. And calls have increased in the wake of this week’s summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which saw the president facing backlash after failing to back U.S. intelligence agencies during a press conference with Putin.

When Steyer launched his Need to Impeach effort in October last year, Trump tweeted dismissively after he saw a commercial for the campaign:

In a piece titled “It’s time to impeach the president” written for the Texas Tribune, outgoing State Rep. Jacob Villalba (R-Dallas) described how President Ronald Reagan inspired him to become a Republican and how Trump has “mocked” the basic tenets of fiscal conservatism and American exceptionalism.

“Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by more $1 trillion,” Villalba wrote. “Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt. … Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so.”

Villalba blames his lost re-election bid in March’s Republican primary because he opposed Trump as the president campaigned in 2016.

For years, Steyer has backed climate change awareness campaigns, Democratic candidates, and Democratic voter turnout initiatives with multimillion-dollar investments, including millions for political ads supporting Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, and others. According to CBS, Steyer spent more money ($75 million) on ads and political contributions than any other individual in the 2016 election cycle.

After the town hall, Steyer was asked what he’s doing differently for the 2018 midterm elections.

“This campaign is grassroots,” he told the Rivard Report. “It’s all about trying to push power down to citizens, get their votes to matter, include more people. … That’s what we’ve learned.”

Steyer also is spending $33 million on another political effort, his NextGen Rising campaign to register 250,000 young people in the 2018 midterms to help Democrats win the house.

Many have speculated at Steyer’s own political ambitions, including several audience members on Wednesday who pleaded with him to run for the nation’s highest office in 2020. He won’t be able to make a decision on that, he said, until he sees the results of the Nov. 6 elections.

“I don’t know what that’s going to be,” he said. “It’s going to be really, really interesting to see Americans step up and say who we are.”

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), who is challenging incumbent Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for his Senate seat, called for Trump’s impeachment Tuesday after the Helsinki summit.

“In standing on that stage, in another country, with the leader of a country who wants to — and has sought to — undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States, if I were asked to vote on this, I would vote to impeach the president,” O’Rourke said at a press conference, according to the Texas Tribune.

Cruz called O’Rourke’s statement “partisan extremism” on Twitter, but told CNN Monday that he thinks “it’s a mistake [for Trump] to be apologizing for Vladimir Putin.”

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org