(Bloomberg) -- Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager turned liberal activist, said he won’t run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and instead will focus his money and energy over the next two years on an effort to impeach President Donald Trump.
“The impeachment question has reached an inflection point,” Steyer said at a news conference Wednesday in Iowa, which will hold the first official nomination contest in a little more than a year. “The debate over whether grounds for impeachment exist is over. He met the criteria long ago. The question remaining is what Congress will do."
Steyer said he will put $40 million initially into a renewed campaign to rally support for Trump’s impeachment . It will include townhall events and other “public education” efforts to make the case that the president must be removed from office.
The announcement that he won’t run came as something of a surprise. Steyer, 61, had been gearing up for a potential campaign for months. He poured $120 million into the 2018 midterms through two of his organizations, one aimed at turning out young voters and fighting climate change and the other pushing Trump’s impeachment. Both helped him raise a national profile.
In December, he launched his "5 Rights" state tour with a discussion of voting rights in Charleston, South Carolina. The state is one of the crucial early primaries in the nomination contest.
Steyer’s drive for Trump’s impeachment has run into resistance from Democratic leaders in Congress, who’ve been trying to tamp down such talk before Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation and while they are trying to get a start on policy goals in the new Congress. While the idea of impeaching the president has gained momentum in the Democratic base, polls show most of the public opposes that.
“If and when the time comes for impeachment -- it will have to be something that has such a crescendo in a bipartisan way,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Jan. 6 interview on “CBS Sunday Morning” broadcast.
As many as two dozen Democrats have taken steps to seek the party’s presidential nomination or indicated they are considering making a bid. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the Democratic liberal wing, made her first move toward formally becoming a candidate by creating an exploratory committee. She drew overflow crowds at several stops in Iowa over the weekend.
Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California are some of Warren’s Senate colleagues likely to join her soon as either preliminary or full-on candidates.
Julian Castro, a former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary from Texas who’s already announced a presidential exploratory committee, was also making stops in Iowa. Former Representative John Delaney of Maryland has also established a presidential campaign.
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