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Nancy Pelosi tells Dems to focus on investigating, not impeaching Trump
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Nancy Pelosi was never a fan of impeachment, and Robert Mueller’s report hasn’t changed her tune.
The House speaker is replacing Democrats’ impeachment obsession with a new strategy: In a “dear colleague” letter and conference call with Democrats on Monday, Pelosi said that impeachment is not the only way to hold Trump “accountable.” Instead, Pelosi is urging her colleagues to focus on their investigations of the president.
Pelosi pushes back on impeachment
The release of Robert Mueller’s report Thursday confirmed that Trump did not collude with Russia, and circumstantial evidence of obstruction of justice that fell short of a criminal charge did little to strengthen the Democrats’ case. Some House Democrats responded to the release of the report with calls for impeachment, but Pelosi pushed back.
In a conference call with Democrats to discuss the way forward, Pelosi urged her colleagues to focus on Democrats’ investigations of Trump, which include an ongoing hunt for his tax returns: “We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.”
In a letter to her colleagues before the call, Pelosi acknowledged the disunity in her caucus on how to proceed and reminded her colleagues that there are alternatives to impeachment. Pelosi said that Democrats can find the facts to hold Trump “accountable” by exercising their oversight powers in Congress.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi wrote. “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”
She went on: “As to the President’s conduct, we will scrupulously assert Congress’ constitutional duty to honor our oath of office to support and defend the Constitution and our democracy. That includes honoring the Article I responsibility of the legislative branch to conduct oversight over the other branches of government, unified in our search for the truth and in upholding the security of our elections.”
Not ruling it out
Still, some Democrats, like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (MN) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), have responded to Mueller’s report with calls for impeachment, insisting that the report’s findings provide enough to consider charges. Mueller’s report established that Trump did not collude with Russia, but Democrats immediately shifted their focus to circumstantial evidence that Trump obstructed the investigation.
In an interview Tuesday, Pelosi did not rule out impeachment but said “we’re not there yet” before suggesting that Democrats should focus on investigations instead: “I do believe that impeachment is one of the most divisive forces, paths that we could go down to in our country. But if the facts, the path of fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”
While she hasn’t taken impeachment off the table, Pelosi is sticking to the tack she’s always been on. Pelosi has long said that impeachment would be “divisive” and a waste of time without bulletproof evidence to compel Republicans’ support.
With Republicans in control of the Senate, any impeachment effort by Pelosi would certainly fail to remove Trump from office, which requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate. And since Mueller’s report fails to establish collusion or obstruction, it’s hard to imagine how the Democrats would persuade their Republican colleagues to support an impeachment effort.
Pelosi’s strategy seems to be to keep impeachment at arms’ length while keeping a cloud of suspicion around Trump with partisan investigations. It might work. As the last two years of the Russia hoax have shown, the Democrats don’t need to pursue impeachment to damage Trump’s presidency.
Democrats now seem intent on pursuing Trump over vague, non-criminal wrongdoing outlined in Mueller’s report while leaving impeachment on the table. Committee chairmen including House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) aren’t ruling out impeachment either, as they continue pursuing their own investigations.
Many Democrats have responded to Mueller’s failure to find collusion with the talking point that Mueller intended to make an “impeachment referral” rather than investigate crimes, opening the door for Democrats to pursue their own investigations with Mueller’s report as a guide book.
Nadler, who called Mueller’s report a “roadmap” for Congress to follow, has issued subpoenas for Mueller’s full, unredacted report, and he has called on Mueller, Attorney General William Barr, and former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to testify. Nadler also said that obstruction, if proven, would be impeachable.
Without pursuing impeachment, Democrats can keep a suggestion of vague criminality surrounding Trump alive with investigations and subpoenas, without taking on the full risk of an impeachment proceeding. Is “presidential harassment” the new “impeachment?”
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