Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket
Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday suggested that House Democrats should refrain from pushing for President Trump's impeachment, warning that a premature effort to oust the president could undermine her case for doing so down the road.
"The public isn't there on impeachment. It's your voice and constituency, but give me the leverage I need to make sure that we're ready and it is as strong as it can be," Pelosi told Democrats during a caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, according to a source on the call.
Pelosi made the comments in response to Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), who shared how people in her district wanted to talk about impeachment.
While advocating for a cautious approach, Pelosi didn't rule out the possibility of impeachment. The Democratic leader has faced continued pressure on the issue as the number of Democrats who have come out in support for impeachment in some form has swelled to at least 130.
"The equities we have to weigh are our responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution and to be unifying and not dividing. But if and when we act, people will know he gave us no choice. If he cannot respect the Constitution, we'll have to deal with that. It's about patriotism, not partisanship," Pelosi said Friday.
Pelosi quipped at one point that "I myself have a night guard, 'cause I find it very hard not to grind my teeth all night about what's going on in the White House."
The number of Democrats who have announced their support for impeaching Trump has ticked up over the long summer recess, with several coming out each week to call for Congress to open a formal inquiry.
At the start of the month, the number of Democratic endorsers reached 118 - constituting a majority of the caucus and energizing grassroots impeachment advocates who have long pressed Pelosi and her leadership team to launch an inquiry.
While several senior Democrats have backed calls for impeachment, top Democratic leaders have pushed back against holding any impeachment votes, favoring the more methodical approach of pursuing a series of ongoing investigations on a number of committees.
Blurring the lines between the leadership's strategy and that of impeachment advocates, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who heads the Judiciary Committee, has said his panel has already launched "formal impeachment proceedings" - a designation that has satisfied a number of the Democrats who've announced their support for impeachment.
Polling suggests that the public isn't yet sold on impeachment. A Monmouth University poll released Thursday found that 59 percent of voters say Trump should not be impeached, even though a majority of voters want to see a new president in the White House. Only 35 percent said that they think Trump should be impeached.
The House is still in the midst of its lengthy August recess - which began July 25 - and won't be back in session until Sept. 9.
But the Judiciary Committee will return a few days early on Sept. 4 to mark up legislation to combat gun violence, including bills to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and stop people considered to be a safety risk or convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from having guns. The panel also plans to hold a hearing on an assault weapons ban on Sept. 25.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who chairs the Democrats' Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, announced on the call that there will be a forum on Sept. 10 to press the GOP-controlled Senate to consider bills to prevent gun violence that House Democrats have already passed, including a measure to expand background checks.
Some Democrats earlier this month called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to cut the upper chamber's recess short in order to consider two background check bills in response to a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but the GOP leader declined.
Nadler and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) both briefed Democrats on their panels' efforts to respond to the shootings, including the influence of white supremacist extremism.
Rep. Bennie Thompson announced earlier this month his panel plans to hold a hearing in September with Acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center Director Joseph Maguire on domestic terrorist threats.
Trump this week sent mixed signals about his interest in pursuing enhanced background checks for gun purchases in the wake of the Texas and Ohio mass shootings.
"I have an appetite for background checks," Trump said on Wednesday. "We have a lot of background checks right now."
But the day before, Trump appeared to back off a previous push for tightening background checks after speaking with Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"We have background checks, but there are loopholes in the background checks, and that's what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday," Trump said. "They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don't want to take away people's Second Amendment rights."
Pelosi told Democrats on Friday that "guns is the most urgent issue."
"The pressure is on. We need McConnell to give us a clean vote," she said. "We have to keep our foot on the gas on this issue."