Jerrold Nadler speaks with Nancy Pelosi during a press conference in March.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Nancy Pelosi has done her best to project a unified front among Democrats on impeachment. “I’m not feeling any pressure,” she told reporters Wednesday. Behind the scenes, of course, the picture is much more fractious. Multiple reports have cited Rep. Jerrold Nadler, head of the House Judiciary Committee, as pushing to launch impeachment proceedings, and a new CNN report indicates he was even more vocal at a meeting with top Democrats this week, campaigning hard to convince Pelosi to sign off on an impeachment inquiry. The schism reflects an internal dispute among Democrats about how best to deal with the abuse of power outlined in Robert Mueller’s report. “He’s been very careful in advocating the view of the committee,” a Judiciary member told CNN. “But he doesn’t want to throw [Pelosi] under the bus.” (Nadler declined CNN’s request for an interview, but a spokesperson told the outlet, “no option is off the table.”)
While many Democrats who’ve called for Trump’s impeachment have framed the move as an ethical imperative, Nadler is reportedly putting his pitch in strategic terms more likely to appeal to Pelosi, who has for months expressed concern that ousting Donald Trump would fail in the Senate, energize his base, and re-up his lease on the White House. She has instead called for Democrats to defeat Trump in 2020 and, in the meantime, to press on with the myriad probes into his conduct.
Per CNN, Nadler argued that an impeachment inquiry—even one that doesn’t result in articles of impeachment—would strengthen those probes, including in court battles with the administration. The White House has openly defied congressional investigators, and Trump has angrily accused Democrats of seeking a “do-over” of Mueller’s investigation, which didn’t find evidence of collusion with Russia, but described several instances that appeared to amount to obstruction of justice. “You can’t investigate and legislate simultaneously,” Trump tweeted last month, grumbling that he would not cooperate with Congress until Democrats dropped their probes. According to CNN, Nadler told Pelosi in this week’s meeting that an impeachment inquiry would centralize all the House investigations into one, and better allow lawmakers to bring attention to Trump’s malfeasances on the House floor. He has also expressed concern about Pelosi’s reliance on the courts, worrying that a string of defeats could kneecap oversight efforts.
But Pelosi and other top Democrats, including Adam Schiff, held the line. Pelosi reportedly said she doesn’t want to see Trump impeached, but tried and sent to prison. Earlier this week, Schiff, whose Intelligence committee is conducting its own multi-prong probe into the president, and Ways and Means chair Richard Neal, reportedly argued that if Democrats do launch an impeachment inquiry, they need to be ready to go all the way—something the party so far seems unwilling to do.
That’s put Nadler in a tough spot, balancing his views and the view of his committee with those of Pelosi. But the ongoing impeachment chatter has also put Pelosi in a sticky position. With Trump thumbing his nose at Congressional oversight and a growing chorus of Democrats calling for accountability, Pelosi is under intensifying pressure to act, even if she publicly says otherwise. It doesn’t mean she’ll fold under that pressure. But she does seem to have adopted a tougher posture toward the president as a result. It was only a few months ago that the House Speaker was more or less ruling out impeachment completely, calling it a waste of time and a “gift to the president.” But her vocabulary has shifted in recent weeks, even as she continues to demur. In the last three weeks, Pelosi accused Trump of engaging in a “cover-up” and committing potentially “impeachable offenses” and a “criminal violation of the Constitution.” Whether that will be enough to appease Nadler and others in her party is the question.
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