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Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE of being "engaged in a cover-up" following a special meeting of House Democrats focused on ongoing congressional investigations into the Trump administration.

"We do believe that it is important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up, in a cover-up," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill.

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Her broadside came just moments before she, Senate Minority Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats headed to the White House to meet with Trump on a possible $2 trillion infrastructure package. But the meeting quickly went off the rails after Trump learned of Pelosi’s “cover-up” remarks; the president told the Democrats he couldn’t work with them until they halted all of their "phony investigations."

"I don’t do cover-ups," Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden.

Democrats certainly won’t stop their probes into the president. But inside the closed-door Democratic meeting in the Capitol, Pelosi continued to urge caution about rushing down the path of impeachment, pointing to recent court victories in Democrats' fight to obtain testimony and documents from the Trump administration and his business entities.

A district court this week issued a ruling upholding Democrats’ subpoena ordering Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, to hand over financial documents.

Pelosi has been facing rising calls from members of her own party to launch impeachment proceedings to investigate potential obstruction of justice by Trump; 10 examples of possible obstruction were outlined in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report.

Some House Democratic chairmen also have grown more open to impeachment as they deal with the Trump administration stonewalling their probes and issuing a near-blanket refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas.

In the closed-door meeting Wednesday, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Maxine Waters says Biden win is 'dawn of a new progressive America' MORE (D-Calif.) continued to bang the drum for impeachment, saying Congress had a “responsibility” to uphold the Constitution and provide a check on the president.

"We need to stand up for ourselves," said Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDe Blasio mum on whether he'll block sale of Mets to controversial investor Two ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL MORE (D-Tenn.), a Judiciary Committee member who's endorsed launching an impeachment inquiry. He estimated that a half dozen Democrats spoke up in favor of impeachment in the meeting.

But many other speakers in the meeting rushed to Pelosi’s defense. Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: Four major tech issues facing the Biden administration | Pressure grows to reinstate White House cyber czar | Facebook, Google to extend political ad bans House report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Why prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas MORE (D-Calif.), a fellow Bay Area lawmaker who serves on the Judiciary panel, told Pelosi that having a House impeachment inquiry “doesn’t change a darn thing,” according to a source in the room.

“Nothing,” the Speaker agreed.

“We still have to go to court to get our subpoenas enforced. You know, we are winning those battles now,” Lofgren continued, adding that impeachment “just muddies the issue and damages us.”

As he updated members on his panel’s probes into Trump, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win Barr sparks DOJ firestorm with election probes memo Marijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments MORE (D-N.Y.) said the full House should immediately vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress next month when lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess, sources in the meeting said.

Barr has refused to testify before the Judiciary panel over a dispute with Nadler and Democrats who want staff attorneys to be able to question Trump's new attorney general. Nadler also insisted that Mueller's testimony before his committee needs to be public, a response to reports that Mueller and the Justice Department want some of the questioning to take place behind closed doors.

Pelosi's public remarks Wednesday marked her strongest yet on Trump following the release of Mueller's report earlier this year. Pelosi said earlier this month that she agreed with Nadler's assertion that the U.S. was facing a "constitutional crisis" after the panel voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over Mueller's full report to lawmakers.

Pelosi has long viewed impeachment proceedings as a potential political trap heading into the 2020 election, with the potential to alienate swing voters and gin up enthusiasm among the president's base.

That view was echoed by other Pelosi allies in Wednesday’s meeting.

“I, right now, feel that we’re meeting our responsibility to defend the Constitution through the process that we’ve heard about today. I don’t in any way feel like we’re being timid, I don’t stand in front of any crowd and feel weak, but I point to all of the work that’s happening in these various Committees and I think that meets the bar that I set for defending the Constitution,” Rep. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesBottom line Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Congress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe MORE (D-Md.), a Baltimore native like Pelosi, told his colleagues in the room.

“I do worry that if we move to impeachment, it’s going to make it harder, not easier, for us to beat the President for a whole variety of different reasons,” “So, because I believe that the current process — not an impeachment inquiry — is sufficient to put the pressure on, to be strong, on the one hand, and I believe that an impeachment proceeding is not going to help us in terms of defeating the President.”

—Cristina Marcos contributed. Updated at 12:14 p.m.