Billionaire Tom Steyer will not run for president in 2020, he told reporters here in Iowa on Wednesday, ending months of speculation that the Democratic donor would escalate his efforts to defeat President Donald Trump by attempting to take him on at the ballot box.
Steyer, a 61-year-old hedge fund manager, said he will instead focus on his efforts to take on Trump from the outside, namely through Need to Impeach, a group he founded after Trump's win in 2016 that looked to garner public support around impeaching Trump.
"Now the impeachment question has reached an inflection point," he said. "Therefore, I will be dedicating 100% of my time, effort and resources to one cause, working for Mr. Trump's impeachment and removal from office."
He added: "I am not running for president at this time. Instead, I am strengthening my commitment to Need to Impeach in 2019 until the House starts impeachment proceedings or Mr. Trump resigns."
Steyer, who spent about $120 million to influence the 2018 midterm elections, has been one of the Democratic Party's most prolific donors since leaving his hedge fund in 2012 to pursue political activism full time.
In recent years, he's sought to make himself the face of the anti-Trump resistance by funding and starring in television commercials calling for the President's impeachment and staging dozens of town hall meetings. Over the course of his campaign, Steyer has amassed a valuable political asset: a list of nearly 7 million people who have signed on to his impeachment effort.
Steyer said on Wednesday that he would use that email list -- as well as an additional $16 million in money to Need to Impeach -- to drum up more support for impeaching Trump.
His efforts will include a "public education campaign to deepen Americans' understanding of Trump's impeachable offenses" and "grass-roots efforts starting in early primary and caucus states urging presidential candidates to back impeachment."
In particular, Steyer said, he would focus on the constituents of Reps. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, Adam Schiff of California, Maxine Waters of California, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the members of Congress who would spearhead an investigation and possibly impeachment of the President.
Steyer also said he would focus efforts and money on the 22 Republican-held Senate seats up for re-election in 2020.
"Some continue to argue that holding this President accountable for his illegal, immoral behavior would be too divisive. They are avoiding the truth," Steyer said. "Mr. Trump has made division the centerpiece of his presidency. He does not govern. He creates crises to remain in power. As he did last night: Mr. Trump gave a nationally televised address where he once again lied to the American people, repeatedly, for his own political skin."
This is not the first time Steyer has flirted with a political run only to back out.
The billionaire announced in January of 2018 that he would not challenge his fellow California Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and would instead plow millions into helping his party seize the House majority that year. And he announced that he was considering running against Hillary Clinton in 2016 before declining to do so and supporting the eventual presidential nominee.
Steyer declined to answer whether voters should take him seriously when he speculates about a future run, given his history.
But he did tell reporters that he sees trying to impeach the President as equally difficult as running for president.
"There is no way to say that trying to move the American people to impeach and remove a president is a step down in difficultly," he said, joking that pushing impeachment is no "layup."
Steyer, according to people close to the billionaire, including his spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier, had seriously considered running for president, including by courting possible staffers in key states and homing in on a campaign manager for a potential bid.
Steyer told CNN last week that he would run only if he believed he offered something new to the field of candidates.
"I'm thinking about it in terms of what I can bring that isn't already available," he said. "Unless I believe that my background and my beliefs and my priorities are different from the other people who are running, there's really no point in being one of a very large group of contestants."
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