Why Pelosi is unlikely to try to impeach Trump

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) will soon have to make one of the biggest decisions of her political career: whether to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE.

Starting impeachment proceedings seems unlikely to end in a Senate conviction given the two-thirds majority needed in a body Republicans control with a 53-47 majority.

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That makes it a tricky political proposition, especially as Democrats eye a 2020 election they think could end the Trump era and leave Democrats in control of Congress and the White House. That scenario would leave Pelosi with the chance at scoring some sweeping policy achievements on health care and climate change in her last years in Washington.

People who have worked closely with Pelosi believe she will take the more pragmatic approach and not move to impeach Trump — barring a bombshell finding from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.

They say the Speaker is focused on the Democratic agenda ahead of the 2020 election.

“Democrats like to govern,” a former leadership aide said.

The risk of impeachment is that it could backfire.

If the public turns on Pelosi’s party for focusing on Trump and impeachment instead of legislating and governing, it could give new political momentum to Trump — just as an impeachment push by a Republican, Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), did for Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonOvernight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' Biden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines Amanda Knox blasts 'Stillwater' movie: 'Does my name belong to me? MORE in 1998.

It’s not unimaginable that Trump could win four more years with the Senate staying in GOP hands and the House flipping, though for Pelosi and Democrats that’s the nightmare scenario.

Trump late last year said he believes impeachment would play to his advantage.

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump said, adding “the people would revolt if that happened.”

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There are plenty of signals that Pelosi is leaning against impeachment despite intense pressure from parts of the liberal base who see it as the party’s duty to impeach Trump — and who aren’t interested in waiting.

Democrats didn’t campaign on impeachment last fall. Instead, they talked about their agenda, with health care, voting rights and campaign finance reform at the top of the list.

Pelosi and her deputies also have repeatedly said they want to see the results of Mueller’s probe, which is reportedly in its final stages, even as they have repeatedly cautioned against any rush to judgment.

And Democratic leaders put centrist-left freshmen on the House Judiciary Committee, the key panel for impeachment, instead of outspoken liberals such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarProgressives camp outside Capitol to protest evictions Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (Minn.) or Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators House passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy MORE (Mich.) — who drew rebukes from both sides of the aisle after she said that “we’re going to impeach the motherf---er.” Tlaib subsequently apologized.

Pelosi, who cut deals with then-President George W. Bush on energy, education, ethics reform and national security during her previous Speakership, wants to make a compelling argument that voters should keep Democrats in control of the House because of their legislating. But that leaves a very narrow window given a shutdown and government funding fight that ate up January and much of February. The first Democratic presidential debate, which will really usher in the 2020 political cycle, is scheduled for June.

The next six to nine months present the best opportunity to move bills and strike deals on infrastructure or prescription drug pricing before politics make that virtually impossible.

An impeachment push would make that legislating more difficult while giving Trump and his allies the chance to fight back.

“Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said, “but she is a student of history. The impeachment of Bill Clinton blew up in Republicans’ faces ... impeachment would probably kill any hope of bipartisanship with Trump.”

Democrats picked up five House seats in the 1998 midterms, a stunning result that led to Gingrich’s resignation.

“We probably underestimated the need to really aggressively push a much stronger message about cutting taxes and saving Social Security, winning the war on drugs, reforming education and national defense,” Gingrich said at the time.

Pelosi’s remarks during the Clinton impeachment over Monica Lewinsky — which officially took five months — also point to her taking a different tack.

In the fall of 1998, Pelosi said “this is all about the election.” She also said Republicans are “bankrupt in the world of ideas and so they have to resort to this smear campaign.”

Trump could use those same arguments against Democrats if they embrace impeachment.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-N.Y.) closely consults with Pelosi on the Democratic agenda. He had a similar message to Pelosi’s during Clinton’s impeachment: “It’s time to move on and solve the problems facing the American people like health care, education and protecting seniors’ retirement.”

There’s no doubt Pelosi faces some blowback if she is seen as putting impeachment on the back burner.

Sixty-six House Democrats voted last year to move forward on impeachment. The number today might be bigger given a Democratic Caucus that has grown by 42 members.

With Trump controversies a near daily occurrence in the media and spectacles like Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenMichael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip Why the Trump Organization indictment may be far less consequential than the media think Michael Cohen: Weisselberg indictment 'the tip of the iceberg' MORE’s public hearing on Wednesday attracting national attention, impeachment calls from the likes of billionaire activist Tom Steyer are only going to continue.

But Pelosi has downplayed impeachment for the last two years. In January she said any impeachment path “would have to be so clearly bipartisan in terms of acceptance of it. “

During the spring of 2018, Pelosi went so far as to say impeachment would be “a gift to the Republicans,” adding that Democrats want to talk about solving problems facing working families.

Top lieutenants are echoing Pelosi.

In a Hill.TV interview last month, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) said he expects Trump will be voted out of office.

“Where it ends I don’t know,” Schiff stated. “I presume it ends with Donald Trump being voted out of office.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Britney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator MORE (D-N.Y.) has also thrown cold water on impeachment, telling CNN late last year that “you don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense. There are several things you have to look at.”

In order to quell the Democratic base, Pelosi could have Schiff and other committee chairs continue to investigate Trump in the wake of the special counsel’s final report.

Pelosi has previously taken on members of her caucus on impeachment. Soon after winning the House in 2006, Pelosi said House Democrats would not move to impeach Bush from office.

“Impeachment is off the table,” she said at the time.