Pelosi says there's no confusion in Democrats' impeachment message

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday defended Democrats' investigative approach to the White House, dismissing confusion surrounding the party's oversight message as a media construct and vowing to pursue impeachment only if more damning evidence emerges.

"Legislate, investigate, litigate. That's the path that we've been on, and that's the path we continue to be on," Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

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Pelosi chided reporters as "the only ones who are sowing" the idea that Democrats are in disagreement over the nature of the party's ongoing investigations into alleged presidential wrongdoing. She invited reporters to join her outside the Beltway, where they could "hear what the American people are saying."

"They understand that impeachment is a very divisive measure, but if we have to go there, we'll have to go there. But we can't go there unless we have the facts, and we will follow the facts ... and make our decision when we're ready."

"That's all I'm going to say about this subject," she continued. "There's nothing different from one day to the next. We're still on our same path."

Almost 140 House Democrats are on record endorsing the impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE in some form. But Pelosi and her top lieutenants have resisted that route, citing a lack of support from both the public and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi is also fighting to protect vulnerable moderate Democrats in 2020 — lawmakers who could face a backlash if Democrats launch a full-throated impeachment effort before more voters jump on board.

Seeking a balance, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' What this 'impeachment' is really about — and it's not the Constitution MORE (D-N.Y.) has increasingly framed his investigations in the context of impeachment, without staging votes to launch a formal inquiry.

Logistically, the strategy is clear: Democratic leaders want to continue their ongoing investigations into the White House to determine if Trump behaved in ways that merit impeachment — in which case they'll introduce articles.

But rhetorically, the Democrats' message has been all over the board, with lawmakers making variable references to an impeachment inquiry, an impeachment investigation and an impeachment process, while Nadler has characterized the probe as "formal impeachment proceedings."

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerCongress hunts for path out of spending stalemate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington braces for public impeachment hearings This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Md.) further muddied the message on Wednesday, when he suggested Democrats were not in the midst of an impeachment inquiry — a direct contradiction to Nadler's assessment. Hoyer quickly issued a statement clarifying that he fully backs the Judiciary chairman.

Nadler on Thursday sought to put the issue to bed.

"This Committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump," Nadler said during a Judiciary hearing, where Democrats approved new powers governing their investigations.

"Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature."

Nadler is hardly alone in voicing his impatience with the media's focus on the Democrats' confused oversight message. Pelosi is also making clear she thinks the topic is getting undue attention, at the expense of more important legislative endeavors.  

"I have said what I'm going to say on the subject. That's it. We are legislating, we are focusing on the work that we are here to do for the American people. And part of our responsibility is to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And in doing so, we are seeking the facts," she said.

"I'm not answering any more questions on this subject. That is what we have said all along; that is what we continue to do."