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

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing White House, Democrats strike tentative deal to create Space Force in exchange for federal parental leave benefits: report Trump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP 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) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump 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 WatersDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week What are not criteria for impeachment? Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties 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 CohenThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point 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 LofgrenDemocrats express confidence in case as impeachment speeds forward Sunday shows — Nadler: A jury would convict Trump in 'three minutes flat' Judiciary Democrat says House should focus on Ukraine, avoid Mueller report in articles of impeachment 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 NadlerLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Trump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests Democrats express confidence in case as impeachment speeds forward 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 SarbanesHouse to vote this month on legislation to combat foreign interference in elections Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference 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.