Charleston's Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham said he needs to hear directly from the whistleblower whose claims have now spurred an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
That means he's not ready to jump on the impeachment bandwagon even after earlier stating he wanted to hear acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testify Thursday about his handling of the whistleblower complaint.
"We need to be careful not to get ahead of the evidence and be as deliberate and judicious as possible during this process, while following the facts where they lead," Cunningham, said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
"Congress must work to fully investigate every detail of this report, and we should hear from the whistleblower directly," he said.
Cunningham's statement came hours after the release of the nine-page complaint that alleged Trump pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, one of Trump's Democratic political rivals.
The freshman lawmaker elected last year as the first Democrat to represent the 1st District in nearly 40 years, is walking a tight political line as a Democrat representing the seat. He urged his fellow House members to evaluate the facts of the case objectively.
Cunningham's stance puts him in the minority among House Democrats. A count from NBC News on Thursday, and mirrored by other news sources, found 221 House Democrats and one independent — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, currently favor some kind of impeachment action against Trump.
A majority vote would be needed for impeachment inquiry to proceed. In the House, a majority is 218 votes or more.
Maguire testified before the House Intelligence Committee for three hours Thursday.
Thursday's message from Cunningham follows his Tuesday comments when he avoided signing on to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call for an impeachment inquiry.
He said the release of the whistleblower complaint was the right step in the process.
"I’m encouraged that the whistleblower report and record of the President’s call with the Ukrainian president are now public," he said. "Each day brings new revelations that are troubling from a national security perspective – including allegations that White House officials attempted to hide a call record by moving it to a separate system used for highly-classified national security information."
As Cunningham called for additional details, South Carolina's other Democrat in Congress announced he had made up his mind.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, said the whistleblower complaint showed Trump "sought to advance his own political interest" during the phone call with the Ukrainian president.
"Rather than putting America’s national security first, President Trump has put himself first. The House must complete its impeachment inquiry with all deliberate speed to resolve this abuse of presidential powers that has tremendous bearing on the future of our republic," Clyburn said.
State Republicans, meanwhile, characterized the whistleblower complaint as a political stunt.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, called the declassified report "nothing more than salacious rumors, conjecture, and hearsay along with press clips from someone without any direct knowledge of the situations described."
Duncan also said the efforts are a Democratic-led attempt to remove Trump from office "because they failed to do so with their Russian collusion lie," referring to the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, said the congressional hearing revealed partisan motives. Norman criticized U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for paraphrasing the transcript of Trump's call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky rather than reading it verbatim.
"How stupid does he think the American people are?" Norman tweeted.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the transcript shows there was no quid pro quo, and suggested Democrats had "bought a pig in a poke."
Graham then called on the House of Representatives to take a vote on an impeachment inquiry.
"If you believe this complaint has put the public in grave danger, don't you have an obligation to vote to launch an impeachment inquiry? Americans deserve to see where you stand and evaluate your judgment," Graham said.