Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with House Judiciary Committee
Chairman Jerry Nadler to discuss the Democratic strategy against President
Trump yesterday after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grueling day of
testimony. Rep. Nadler (D-N.Y.) reportedly favored pushing forward with impeachment
proceedings against President Trump, but Pelosi continued to resist the move, arguing
that the time was not yet right in later comments to reporters.
Sources speaking to Politico said that Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee asked whether an
impeachment inquiry required a full house vote or could be started by the committee
itself. Nadler answered that the Judiciary Committee has the power to launch
Pelosi continued to argue for a “slow, methodical approach”
even though more than 90 House Democrats have already signed on to the idea of
impeachment hearings. She noted that there are still several Democrat lawsuits
pending against the Trump Administration on matters such as the president’s personal
finances and tax returns. Pelosi also stressed that some support from
Republicans or a shift in public sentiment was necessary. Nadler responded that
public support for impeachment against Richard Nixon was low when the House
began impeachment proceedings against him in 1973 but increased as news of Nixon’s
illegal activities spread.
The Democrats agreed that their next step would be to file a
lawsuit to enforce a congressional subpoena against former White House Counsel
Don McGahn, who was a prime witness to the president’s attempts to obstruct the
Mueller investigation. Per the special
counsel report, the president ordered McGahn to stop Attorney General Jeff
Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia probe, to pressure the DOJ about
Mueller’s alleged conflicts of interest, to fire Mueller, and then told him to
lie about his instructions from the president. House Democrats subpoenaed
McGahn back in May, but he refused to comply after the White House
instructed him not to cooperate, claiming executive privilege.
Although Pelosi is slow-walking the calls for impeachment,
she appears to be considering the idea at the right time. At a press conference
following the Democratic caucus meeting reported by Politico,
Pelosi argued that more evidence was needed before an impeachment inquiry was
“If we have a case for impeachment, that’s the place we will
have to go,” Pelosi told reporters. “Why I’d like it to be a strong case is
because it’s based on the facts — the facts and the law, that’s what matters.” She
said that investigations are “not endless in terms of time.”
“The stronger our case is, the worse the Senate will look
for just letting the president off the hook,” Pelosi added, hinting that she
might allow impeachment to proceed even without the support of Republicans in
“If it comes to a point where the cone of silence and the
obstruction of justice and the coverup in the White House prevents us from
getting that information, that will not prevent us from going forward and in
fact, it’s even more grounds to go forward,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s calculations on impeachment are political as well
as legal. The 2020 presidential campaign is heating up and Republicans are
showing no sign of abandoning Donald Trump. Any impeachment inquiry would
extend into the election season and distract from other issues. There is also
the possibility that surviving impeachment would give the president enough of a
boost to win re-election. So far, most Democratic presidential candidates have
steered clear of the impeachment issue.
The likely reason why is that voters show little enthusiasm
for impeaching Donald Trump. A recent NBC
News/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 21 percent of registered
voters wanted to begin impeachment hearings. Tellingly, 51 percent of independents
oppose impeachment and think that Trump should finish his term.
Speaker Pelosi’s cautious approach seems to be the best plan
for Democrats, who must both on reining in the current Trump Administration and
preventing the president from winning re-election. Democratic overreach on
impeachment could alienate the independents and moderates whose votes are needed
to usher in a Democratic victory next year.
Under Pelosi’s strategy, President Trump will be the subject
of more investigations and a continual dribble of unflattering information throughout
the campaign. If support for impeachment builds, Pelosi will be positioned to
capitalize on it. If not, she will have been building the case to voters that Donald
Trump should be fired.