Pelosi on impeachment crowd: 'I respect their impatience'

Pelosi on impeachment crowd: 'I respect their impatience'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.) has fought for months to tamp down talk of impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE. But on Wednesday she hailed the liberal impeachment supporters for bringing vital energy to the party's oversight efforts.

The comments were intended both to downplay Democratic disagreements over how aggressively to pursue Trump's alleged misconduct while in office, and to hit the press for focusing so intently on divisions she considers to be blown far out of proportion.

"I see in some metropolitan journals, and on some TV, that we are trying to find our way or are unsure about [our direction]," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "Make no mistake, we know exactly what path we're on. We know exactly what actions we need to take. And while that may take more time than some people want it to take, I respect their impatience."

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"It's a beautiful thing, and it's important to our country," she continued, "because there is great grief and sadness and pain in our country about the behavior of this president of the United States."

Pelosi went on to outline some of Trump's behavior she deems offensive.

"Calling a Russian assault on our elections a hoax, treating Mexico like an enemy, attacking a woman's right to choose — the list goes on and on," she said.

At least 55 House Democrats are on record endorsing the launch of an impeachment inquiry into Trump's conduct.

Some of those lawmakers think Trump has already committed offenses serious enough to remove him from office; a larger group believes launching a formal impeachment process would simply lend Democrats more legal tools to secure documents and testimony to guide their investigations, which have faced strong resistance from an uncooperative administration.

Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders have urged a more cautious approach to White House oversight, a strategy featuring a slew of committee investigations, subpoena submissions, court battles and, mostly recently, threats to hold top administration officials in contempt of Congress.

Along those lines, the House is scheduled to vote next Tuesday on a contempt resolution targeting Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrArizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Feehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision MORE and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate New storm rises over Kavanaugh MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday that other figures who refuse to cooperate in Democrats' probes might see their names added to the resolution.

"I see every name who's either refused to respond to a congressional subpoena or request for documents — or who has been instructed by the president not to respond — is subject to being on that list" he said.

The Democrats' resolution is one of civil contempt — which seeks to compel cooperation with subpoena requests — in contrast to criminal contempt, which would apply legal penalties for noncompliance.

Pelosi on Wednesday suggested next week's contempt votes are just a first step in an evolving process, one that could grow sharper teeth as time moves on.

"It's about taking it one step at a time," she said. "We can move more expeditiously to do civil contempt; it doesn't mean we couldn't go to inherent contempt at some other point. But you have to get started."

As part of their investigations, Democrats are negotiating to bring special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE to Capitol Hill to clarify lingering questions surrounding his marathon investigation into Moscow's interference in the 2016 elections.

Those talks are being led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerLewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media Katie Pavlich: The Democrats' desperate do-overs Lewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon MORE (D-N.Y.), who is pressing the reluctant special counsel to appear in public.

Pelosi is deferring all questions about the status of those talks — including whether Democrats might subpoena Mueller — to Nadler.

"That's up to the committee. … They're doing the negotiation," she said. "Take it one step at a time. Hopefully he would accept an invitation to come. Hopefully, if there is a subpoena, it would be friendly, and he would come.

"But we'll see."

The topics of oversight and impeachment have made their way to the 2020 presidential race, where a number of Democratic primary hopefuls are calling on House Democratic leaders to launch an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi, for her part, said those calls won't sway her decisionmaking.

"I'm not feeling any pressure," she said.