Why Pelosi is unlikely to try to impeach Trump

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiRisk-averse Republicans are failing the republic The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight Trump, Saturday Night Live and why autocrats can't take a joke MORE (D-Calif.) will soon have to make one of the biggest decisions of her political career: whether to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 ClintonHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides A Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice History teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez fires back at Jamie Dimon after CEO dismisses Green New Deal Inslee: We want world to know 'there is still intelligent life in the US' The importance of moderate voters MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar controversy has not shifted Jews away from Dem Party, left-leaning Jewish advocate says Jewish voters share Dem values, says left-leaning Jewish advocate Omar slams U.S. war in Iraq on anniversary of invasion MORE (Minn.) or Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDems concerned impeachment will make Trump 'appear like a victim,' says pollster Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack Tlaib: Trump needs to send a 'very loud and clear' signal against domestic terrorism, white supremacy 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Why we need to build gateway now 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 Cohen’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 SchiffDems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 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 Nadler (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.