Pelosi: Trump 'crying out' for impeachment

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE of begging for Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against him as a strategy for distracting the public from the many scandals dogging his administration.

Pelosi said Trump's decision to break off infrastructure talks with Democratic leaders at the White House the previous day was based on his frustration that the Speaker has no intention of starting the impeachment process.

"There's no question: the White House is just crying out for impeachment. That's why he flipped yesterday, because he was just hoping," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

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Pelosi said Trump began forecasting a breakdown in the infrastructure talks on Tuesday when he sent Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles 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.) a letter arguing that any infrastructure package should wait until a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico is finalized. 

"That was a strange juxtaposition," she said. 

When that failed to dissuade the Democrats seeking an infrastructure deal, Pelosi said the president leaned on comments she'd made shortly before a scuttled meeting at the White House on Wednesday – when she accused him of a "cover-up" – to blow up the infrastructure talks.

"He's a master of distraction. ... That's something he does well; to distract from problems that he has he tries to change the subject," she said. "And while he tried to say it's because I said 'cover-up' — we've been saying 'cover-up' for a while."

Pelosi said Trump has also been frustrated with a series of recent court cases that have come down in favor of the Democrats seeking information from the administration to guide their investigations.

"I think what really got to him was ... these court cases and the fact that the House Democratic Caucus is not on a path to impeachment, and that's where he wants us to be," she said. "And when he saw that that was not happening, that — again, with the cover-up, which he understands is true — just struck a chord." 

Trump walked out of the meeting on Wednesday and blasted Pelosi for her comments alleging a "cover-up." The president told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that "I don't do cover-ups." He later took to Twitter to accuse Pelosi of lying when she said he had a "temper tantrum."

The meeting had been planned three weeks ago following a decidedly more cordial sit-down between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer, during which the three powerbrokers agreed to begin work on a massive $2 trillion infrastructure package with hopes of moving it this year.

The second meeting was scheduled with the idea that Trump would propose different ways to cover the enormous tab — offsets that have long been the highest barrier to a major infrastructure expansion.

Pelosi argued that Trump's threat not to work with Democrats on infrastructure — or anything else — until Democrats end their probes into his administration was made because he simply hadn't found the offsets he'd promised.

"It's never been partisan; we don't want it to be partisan now," she said. "But I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost."

Pelosi also rejected the idea that Democrats will abandon their investigations based on Trump's insistence that they come to an end.

"I do not intend not to honor my oath of office, nor do my colleagues in the House of Representatives ... to protect and defend the Constitution," she said. 

"We can walk and chew gum at the same time; I hope he can, too." 

Pelosi has long sought to defuse talk of impeaching Trump, even as a small but growing number of liberals in her caucus have urged a formal launch of impeachment proceedings.

Instead, Pelosi is advocating an aggressive series of investigations into potential administrative wrongdoing. Those probes include examinations of Russia's 2016 election meddling, and as well as looking at instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump as 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.

Pelosi has said that Trump's refusal to cooperate with the Democratic probes "could be impeachable." But she wants the investigations to continue, to see what more they find — and how the public reacts — before taking such a divisive step.

"It may take us to a place that is unavoidable, in terms of impeachment — or not," she said. "But we're not at that place." 

Pelosi said she is open to having future meetings with Trump, on infrastructure and other issues. But she also said she's concerned about his very well-being.

"I actually, ardently pray for the president," she said.

Updated: 1:15 p.m.